Australia — The Victorian fires have been extremely devastating and this is an extraordinary natural disaster with high loss of life and property.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those families who are suffering from these cruel and horrific events.
Our gratitude goes out to the fire-fighters and other emergency services workers, many of them volunteers, who have endured the unbearable heat to help defend life and property.
Centrelink family liaison officers will be made available in relief centres in Victoria to provide counselling services.
Given the devastation caused by the bushfires in the state of Victoria, the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment will be made available to those people adversely affected by the fires. It is $1,000 for eligible adults and an addition $400 per child.
The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment will be paid to those seriously injured and hospitalised as well as who have lost their homes, or whose principal place of residence has been destroyed or seriously damaged, as a direct result of the bushfires.
The Payment will also be available to an immediate family member of those who lost their lives in the fire.
It will be paid through Centrelink and available from Monday. The Australian Government Victorian fires hotline 180 2211 has been established to take claims and enquiries.
Centrelink staff will also be in relief centres today to take claims for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment.
The Australian Government will also provide funeral assistance for the immediate family of a person who has lost their life as a direct result of the fires. This assistance will be up to $5,000.
Authorisation has been provided to deploy twelve Army bulldozers and support crews to help fire protection efforts near Yea in north-east Victoria.
The Defence Force personnel will help build containment lines surrounding the town, which is being seriously threatened with fire.
In addition, the Australian Government is also providing 150 portable beds or mattresses to relief centres in the Baw Baw Shire in West Gippsland.
With the extreme conditions throughout Victoria, it is essential that emergency workers are able to get sufficient rest to continue their tireless work.
The bedding is being delivered to Victoria as fast as possible.
The Rudd and Brumby Governments are working closely together to ensure that the people and emergency workers in Victoria have all the support they require during this difficult time.
This assistance is over and above the support that will be provided by the Australian Government under the long standing Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.
Through these arrangements, partial reimbursement is provided to the Victorian Government to provide assistance such as grants for food, clothing, accommodation, emergency housing repairs and for expenditure on public infrastructure restoration.
The Australian Government is currently continuing to monitor the impacts and will be considering what further assistance can be provided to individuals, families and communities, especially through community organisations that are responding so well to this devastating event.
The Australian Government is working with the Victorian Government to establish a Victorian Bushfire Appeal for people to make donation to assist those affected by the fires. More information on how to donate will be made available as soon as possible.