Two years on from the Black Summer Bushfires, many are still living in temporary housing all along the NSW South Coast.
ACM spoke to Amanda - made homeless by the bushfires more than two years ago. She is not alone. The bushfires had a detrimental effect on housing.
Bushfires destroyed 501 homes in the Eurobodalla, and damaged 274 more. Further north, 285 houses were destroyed in the Shoalhaven, and 168 damaged.
In the Bega Valley, 467 homes were destroyed as well as upwards of 1000 sheds and outbuildings.
At the time of the Black Summer Bushfires, governments pledged support and money was donated generously by many Australians. Millions of dollars were raised in support for those effected - more than $3 million by the City of Sydney on NYE 2019 alone.
Amanda spends many sleepless nights in her car fearful and angry. She wants to know where all the money went.
In early March 2022, the Red Cross presented their Australian Bushfires Report January 2020 to January 2022, detailing what funds were raised to support the bushfire victims, and where this money was distributed.
According to the report, the Red Cross raised a total of $242 million for bushfire victims all across Australia's east coast, and parts of South Australia.
More than 2400 homes were destroyed by the Black Summer Bushfires nationally. Additionally, 284 facilities and 5,469 outbuildings were destroyed and more than 3000 houses, buildings or facilities were damaged.
A spokesperson for the Red Cross said the numbers spoke for themselves.
The Red Cross had distributed $232 million in bushfire recovery as of the end of 2021. Of this, $205 million was distributed through direct cash grants to more than 6000 people. Australian Red Cross acting director of Australian programs Garry Page said the remaining $30 million was used for ongoing support to affected communities.
The money was spent in nine different ways:
Where these funds were spent is shown in the graph below.
Mr Page said the money for ongoing recovery work was some of the most significant support.
"We know it takes a while for those individuals to work through an event of that scale," he said.
"We are still working within 40 LGAs throughout Australia that were most severely impacted by bushfire events."
He said one third of requests for help came more than six months after the bushfires.
"People think they will be okay and then eventually they realise how expensive it is and reach out for help," Mr Page said.
"Red Cross aims to be there for people when they need it."
He said 100 per cent of the funds donated by the public to the bushfire appeal were being spent on recovery operations in affected areas and bushfire assistance to those directly impacted, and all interest earned on the account was reinvested into bushfire response.
"There has been an independent review by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and the Royal Commission into the Bushfires about usage of appeal funds, each of which has indicated we have managed the appeal funds exceedingly well," he said.
The National Recovery and Resilience Agency (NRRA) estimated the Black Summer Bushfires caused $150.3 million in damage to the Eurobodalla local economy - a further $345 million in damage to the Shoalhaven local economy.
As of January 2021, the NRRA had made more than 2000 payments to residents in the Eurobodalla, totalling more than $20 million. The NRRA has made more than 37,000 payments totalling more than $37 million to residents in the Shoalhaven.
Through the Local Economic Recovery Fund (LERF), the Commonwealth Government has invested more than $15 million into the Eurobodalla on projects such as constructing the Narooma Arts and Community Centre ($3.6 million), Batemans Bay coastal walking trail ($2.62 million) and mountain bike trails at Mogo and Narooma ($4.4 million).
Further north in the Shoalhaven, $13 million has been spent through the LERF on projects such as the Southern Community and Recreation Precinct ($4 million) and upgrading Shoalhaven Showgrounds as a hub for future emergencies ($1.92 million).
The Commonwealth Emergency Response Fund Act 2019 permits the Government to draw upon $150 million each financial year to fund emergency response and recovery following a natural disaster. It was not used following the Black Summer Bushfires.
A statement on the NRRA website said:
"Put simply, the Emergency Respond Fund isn't there to be accessed every time Australia sees a severe weather season, and it isn't the Australian Government's only way to support disaster response and preparedness. For example, after the Black Summer Bushfire, the Government allocated $2 billion to help communities recover. Allocating this money meant the ERF can continue to be set aside to grow and help prepare for and recover from future disasters."
A spokesperson for Minister for National Recovery and Resilience Bridget McKenzie said the Commonwealth Government allocated $2.9 billion to support people impacted by the Black Summer Bushfires for a range of assistance measures - including temporary housing and financial assistance to help clear properties. This was funded through the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements - a joint project between the Commonwealth and state governments. The arrangement relies upon the state government determining the level of assistance required.
A Resilience NSW spokesperson said the NSW Government had paid out more than $1.7 billion to councils, non-government organisations, small businesses and primary producers to assist with the clean-up and recovery processes after the Black Summer Bushfires.
This Federal and State funding supports services such as the Eurobodalla Bushfire Recovery Support Service, providing care on a case-by-case basis.
Amanda said she was frustrated funds were being spent on building infrastructure when so many remained without housing. She would like to see more funds flowing into individual rebuilding projects, so the homeless are not left feeling abandoned as she does.
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