• Tony Bosworth

Bushfire claims so involved professional grant writers being used - Templeman calls for action

A year on from the devastating bushfires, Macquarie MP Susan Templeman has called on the Federal government to step up and make it easier for people to make claims for bushfire relief and rebuilding grants.

“Now, we really welcome the funding, but what isn’t right is that these communities are being asked to do it having gone through a trauma. This just doesn’t happen to you and you move on, this changes you.

“This is an experience that makes people question a lot of things, and what I am hearing now is that 12 months on, people are only now trying to come to terms with what happened to them and to their communities.”

The MP says grant applications for bushfire relief funding are so complicated professional grant writers are often the last resort try to get financial help for residents, and she says that is an unacceptable situation.

“Twelve months ago my community was going through fires. Right now, they’re being asked to fill in complex grant applications for new facilities in their community.” Ms Templeman bought up the example of Bilpin in an interview this morning outside Parliament House in Canberra as she showed pictures of the ferocious fire that bore down on the small community last December.

“This is what my community was experiencing a year ago, this is from Bilpin just before Christmas, and it didn’t just happen in an afternoon. It went on for days. People have been through an extraordinary trauma yet these same communities are being offered an opportunity by the government to apply for funding to rebuild or improve community assets.

“If their homes burned down, they are still living in largely temporary homes. Some of them are sheds, some of them are a combination of private rental, temporary friends’ places. It’s a really unsettling situation. So that part of the community isn’t in a position to fill in complex grant applications, and that means the rest of the community is trying to step up. Those people, some of them, were the people in this photo. They were the people fighting the fire and they weren’t just volunteer fire fighters, although from behind I recognise several of these, they were people who were trying to protect their own properties or their neighbours’ properties. So they’re the ones now trying to do not just their own jobs but also pull together for the community and put together complex grant applications. They’re doing it without any help. “Now this is a State Government administered program in NSW, but it is a federally-funded program and the Federal Government has a responsibility to step in and support these communities so that they can have a really good shot at getting some funding for their own community.

“It’s a competitive grants process, there’s not an allocation for each community, they’re going to have to compete with other communities and bushfire-affected communities right across NSW. So it isn’t good enough to say, ‘here’s your opportunity, go for it’.

“The Federal Government needs to support these communities to go through this process. I welcome the fact that the deadline has been extended until January, but that isn’t enough. There needs to be much more help given.”

Pic by Jochen Spencer

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