Relief for Vicotria’s bushfire-affectedschools

24 January 2007

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Australia: — Extra support for students and staff in bushfire-affectedcommunities across the State as well as a big boost for tourism in EastGippsland are among bushfire recovery measures announced by the BracksGovernment today.

In Lakes Entrance for the Bushfire Recovery Ministerial Taskforce’s firstmeeting and Community Cabinet, Acting Premier John Thwaites said more than 5,700students and staff in Victoria’s in bushfire-affected regions preparing toreturn to school would receive a special relief package.

“While the situation might change rapidly, schools that were directly impactedby the bushfire emergency in Gippsland are scheduled to re-open on Tuesday nextweek, with staff returning on Monday,” Mr Thwaites said.

“It is very important that we provide assistance to teachers and students whowant to resume their normal schooling programs and recover from the bushfireexperience.”

The relief package includes:
· Grants of up $1000 to schools for activities or events that help schoolcommunities recover from the bushfire experience;
· Financial support for schools that employ relief teachers when permanentstaff are called away to help in the fire-fighting effort;
· Classroom resources for teachers to help students work through issuesassociated with bushfire.

Education Minister, John Lenders, said staff at all fire-affected schools hadworked tirelessly to ensure their students were given the best-possible start tothe school year.

“Principals, teachers and other school staff have gone beyond the call of dutyto ensure children are not adversely affected by the disruption and anxiety thatbushfires can cause,” Mr Lenders said.

The Bracks Government Bushfire Recovery Ministerial Taskforce was formed lastweek and is working swiftly to develop a multi-million dollar package to helpcommunities recover, rebuild and move forward after this summer’s bushfires.

Chair of the Bushfire Taskforce, Minister for Regional and Rural Development,John Brumby announced grants of up to $105,000 to help boost economicdevelopment and tourism in East Gippsland and Wellington shires.

“These grants will help support Gippsland communities currently affected bythe worst bushfires and drought in Victoria’s history,” Mr Brumby said.
“This package of initiatives is aimed at providing some immediate support aswell as providing long-term assistance that will help communities build for thefuture.

“Tourism is a major industry in Gippsland, with expenditure worth an estimated$569-million a year and employing 4,500 people.

“Any downturn in visitor numbers has a flow-on effect throughout allbusinesses and ultimately the community. This funding package will help addresssome of these effects.”

Mr Brumby said the Bracks Government support ranged from funding for localevents to help build and sustain community pride, through to funding for a newEast Gippsland tourism website and support for councils to implement a range ofeconomic development initiatives to boost business growth.

The projects in East Gippsland Shire are:
· $25,000 to employ a staff member to ensure infrastructure projects aremanaged to produce desired outcomes within specified timeframes and budgets;
· $20,000 for the development of an Economic Development and Tourism websiteallowing visitors to the region to make online bookings with tourism businesses,and enabling many other businesses in East Gippsland to be profiled and linkedto the site;
· $10,000 to support the East Gippsland Regional Business and TourismAssociation and its member associations in developing leadership, skills andplanning tools in communities across the region
· $15,000 over two years to support the Feast on the East food, wine and artsfestival to be held from March 16-18.

The projects in Wellington Shire are:
· $25,000 to promote economic development by enhancing local businessinformation and marketing capabilities by engaging an economic development andproject management trainee for 12 months.
· $5000 for the Back to Maffra Mardi Gras to be held over four days from March9-12; and
· $5000 to support the 49th Golden Beach Surf Fishing competition onGippsland’s Ninety Mile Beach that will be held from January 25-28.
Mr Thwaites today also announced the government would provide up to $150,000 tosupport the East Gippsland Shire in running the Bairnsdale Municipal EmergencyCo-ordination Centre.

“This one-off allocation of funds recognises this council has had to run itsco-ordination centre for such a long time, given how early the fires started inthis areas,’’ Mr Thwaites said.

“Co-ordination centres are critical to the smooth emergency response by allgovernment agencies and departments involved in bushfires.

“MECC’s have typically not been funded by the State Government. This paymentrecognises that this particular MECC has had to run for an extraordinaryduration.”

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