• Annemarie Taylor

Bushfire recovery support services in the Hawkesbury extended for another year

The Step by Step Recovery Support Service will be extended for another year, helping support Hawkesbury residents to recover from last summer’s bushfires, but Macquarie MP Susan Templeman says all the evidence points to a minimum five year recovery period after a major fire.

Step by Step Manager Anne Crestani and colleague with Resilience NSW Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons AFSM at the Bell RFS Shed at the crossroads to the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury

The Step by Step service links residents to their own personalised recovery support worker, who can help them navigate and access services and disaster assistance packages.

Hawkesbury MP, Robyn Preston, welcomed the funding extension.

“Over the past 12 months I have seen Hawkesbury people who were impacted by the Black Summer bushfires recovering at different rates and to know that support services will continue is very reassuring,” Ms Preston said.

“People deal with major trauma in many ways and it is important that the safety net of support continues to assist on the road to recovery.”

Federal Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, the Hon David Littleproud MP, said the extension would ensure long-term support is available for impacted communities throughout their recovery.

“The Australian and NSW governments are pleased to extend this funding for another 12 months as these locally based services provide an important link between survivors and the support they need as they recover,” Minister Littleproud said.

Macquarie MP, Susan Templeman, welcomed the extension but said all the evidence showed recovery from a major fire is a minimum five year journey.

"I welcome the decision about funding," said Ms Templeman, "but there should never have been any question as to whether it continued for another year. It is a crucial program to support people on their journey.

"This Step by Step program is modelled on something developed out of the 2013 Winmalee fires [in which Ms Templeman lost her own home]. In January, I first raised with the Federal Government the urgent need to implement the program but it was disappointing to see that it took months before contracts were finally signed, meaning it was nearly mid-year before Gateway could really role out services.

"All the evidence shows that recovery from major fire is a minimum of a five year journey, and only now, at the first anniversary, are some of the effects being felt. I am still hearing of new people coming forward in the community, recognising that they could do with some psychological help.

"The Prime Minister promised bushfire affected communities that the government would do “whatever it takes”. Well it takes more than 12 months and they should be committing to funding Step by Step and other support services until they’re no longer needed," Ms Templeman said.

Liberal Senator for Western Sydney, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, said the government was working with the Hawkesbury community on the road to recovery.

“Our government is delivering this funding extension because we understand that every person is recovering at their own pace” Senator Payne said.

“Led by Anne Crestani, who recently received the prestigious NSW Premier's Community Services Award, the team at Step by Step have been diligently crisscrossing the Hawkesbury, calling in at community events, promoting local supports and providing tailored resilience programs for locals.

“I encourage anyone who needs advice, assistance or guidance on the next steps in their recovery to make contact with the Step by Step team.”

Gregory Lazarus, CEO of Gateway Family Services which operates Step by Step, said the Hawkesbury recovery effort was ongoing.

“Gateway Family Services, along with the rest of the community are delighted to hear that the Australian and NSW Governments have extended the funding for the seven Bushfire Recovery Support Services operating in the state until the end of December 2021,” Mr Lazarus said.

“The ‘Steppers’ and those they have worked with have found imaginative ways of doing the work they needed to do while keeping each other safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Blue Mountains/Hawkesbury residents can access the free Step by Step Recovery Support Service by contacting Gateway Family Services on 1300 316 746 or by visiting gatewayfamilyservices.org.au.

Recovery Support Services are funded under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangement (DFRA) which is jointly funded with the Australian Government. The extension takes the total funding for the services to almost $17 million.

Further details are available at: https://www.emergency.nsw.gov.au/Documents/factsheets/nsw-recovery-support-services.pdf

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