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The organisations helping Australian bushfire victims and volunteers

The organisations helping Australian bushfire victims and volunteers

Australia is suffering from one of the worst bushfire seasons firefighters have seen in the country.

Across Australia, six million hectares have been burnt in the ongoing blazes, which is roughly two times the size of Belgium.

While the footage, photos and stories seen in the media leave imprints on minds around the country, the bushfire is a reality for those living and working in affected areas.

If you or someone you know have been affected by the ongoing fires, here are some of the resources that are available to victims and volunteers now.


CommBank Emergency Assistance Package

•      Emergency accommodation assistance, payments waived for month following emergency event and waived fees and charges, early access to term deposits, expediting claims to CommInsure and hardship assistance for loan and credit card repayments.  

NAB $5 Million Disaster Relief Fund

•      $1 million to Red Cross and local organisations in impacted communities.
•      Customers who lost homes have access to immediate $2,000 grant. •      Evacuated NAB employees can access $1,000 grant.
•      Up to 3-year deferral of interest and repayments on NAB loans.
•      Financial relief for customers, dedicated hardship bankers, counselling support available.

Westpac Disaster Relief Packages

Westpac Group has established a $1.5 million Bushfire Fund to help support rural fire services, Westpac customers, and organisations assisting with the recovery process. Westpac customers include those with St George, BankSA and Bank of Melbourne.

Additionally, Westpac customers affected by bushfires may be able to access to following:

•      Deferred home loan payments for up to 3 months.

•      Business loan restructuring without establishment fees.

•      Deferred credit card repayments for up to 90 days.

•      Waived term deposit interest rate adjustments for early withdrawal of funds.

•      Discounted interest rate and no establishment fee on personal loans to purchase replacement goods.

•      Halt to all interest accrual on unsecured credit products for up to three months. 

ANZ Bushfire Relief

ANZ has pledged $1 million towards bushfire relief. This includes donations to volunteer fire services, community services, and ANZ home loan customers who have lost their homes and are suffering ongoing financial hardship.

This complements the bushfire relief package that ANZ made available in December 2019, which includes: 

•      Suspended repayments on loans, including credit cards, for up to three months.

•      Temporary interest rate relief for credit card and personal loan customers in extreme financial distress.

•      Waived fees for restructuring business loans.

•      Early access to term deposits without incurring fees.

Suncorp Group

Suncorp Group customers impacted by bushfires can apply for several flexible finance options including:

•      Deferred scheduled loan repayments (granted on a case-by-case basis).

•      Rearranged repayments for existing loans with fees waived.

•      Waived early withdrawal fees for customers wishing to withdraw from term deposits and/or Farm Management Deposits.

•      Relief from credit card payments.

•      Increased emergency credit card limits.

•      No interest rate increases.

•      Working capital assistance.


ING offers the following to customers affected by bushfires or other natural disasters:

•      No ING discharge, loan variation or restructuring fees for affected mortgage customers.

•      Repayment breaks for mortgage customers whose residence or employment has been affected.

•      No early termination penalty for affected term deposit customers.

•      No break costs for fixed rate loans.

•      Emergency cash and goodwill payments for dishonour fees for failed direct debits.

Homestar Finance Financial Care Package
For customers who are volunteer fire fighters and customers that have property damaged or have lost employment due to the bushfires, they may be eligible for:

•      No loan repayments for up to 12 months

•      Interest charges waived for a three-month period


Australia’s telecommunications companies are also offering services to help those Australians fighting and affected by bushfires.

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have all committed to provide unlimited access to emergency service websites for customers in bushfire-affected areas, to help prevent affected Australians from going over mobile data limits. 

Some of these critical sites include:

•      The NSW Rural Fire Service
•      The NSW Office of Emergency Management
•      The Bureau of Meteorology
•      Federal Government Disaster Assistance
•      ABC News
•      The Red Cross

Also, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have all announced they will cover the costs of volunteer firefighters’ mobile services for December and January.


Around Australia (not just in affected areas)

•      Free local, national and standard mobile calls on the Telstra payphone network until further notice. 

•      Free use of the Telstra Air Wi-Fi network in locations where payphones are equipped to provide this until further notice. 

Short-term assistance for bushfire-affected Telstra customers who have experienced temporary faults or evacuation includes: 

•      Free call diversion from an affected fixed home or business phone

•      A one-off credit of $100 inc. GST for affected Telstra mobile customers who do not have a Telstra home phone

The above offers are applicable until network damage in the area due to fire is repaired, or while customers remain evacuated, for a maximum period of three months from the date of the fires. 

Long-term assistance for Telstra customers who have suffered severe damage to or loss of their premises includes: 

•      Free call diversion for a maximum period of 6 months from the date of the fire

•      A one-off credit of $500 inc. GST to help cover the cost of connection of a Telstra fixed phone service at a temporary residence, or reconnection of a Telstra fixed phone service at the customer’s original permanent premises


As well as waiving the mobile phone bills of volunteer firefighters, Optus is also working with local evacuation centres in the affected areas to provide support including pre-paid phones, pre-paid data packs and charging stations.

Optus has in place a financial assistance policy to support customers affected by the bushfires. Optus may offer:

•      free call diversions from an Optus fixed home phone to any mobile or fixed number

•      extended timeframes for bill payments

•      bill waivers in instances of extreme financial hardship; and

•      free suspension, relocation or cancellation of a fixed service

•      free prepaid credit which can be organised at local stores.


Vodafone is waiving mobile phone bills for volunteer firefighters in December and January.

Vodafone also has options available under its hardship policy for any customers who have been directly impacted by the fires. Those customers can apply for financial assistance by contacting Vodafone’s Financial Hardship team on 1300 650 405.



Volunteer firefighters who are AGL customers can get a discount on their next electricity or gas bill by up to $150. To access the bill credit, firefighters can provide their volunteer ID numbers to AGL customer service staff. Customers affected by the bushfires can also ask for their bills to be put on hold.

Energy Australia

Energy Australia has automatically paused the energy bills of their residential and small business customers affected in the area. The company is also prioritising aid to customers who have lost their homes or have been evacuated.

Energy Locals

The Victoria-based company is writing off energy bills in some circumstances for those who have lost their homes, while offering half-price membership for their new homes during the period they stay with Energy Locals. Volunteer firefighters’ membership fees will also be given a 50 per cent discount for as long as they stay with the company. Others who have been affected by the bushfires may also be eligible for other hardship assistance.

Accommodation & Travel:

Oaks Hotels

•      7 nights free accommodation per family unit nationwide


•      Open Homes programme offers free accommodation for NSW & VIC relief workers and evacuated Australians. 


•      Fees waived for changes to existing bookings. 4-week paid leave for employees supporting bushfire response.

•      Transport of community service personnel and equipment. Includes cargo space and excess baggage allowances. 

•      Matching all employee donations to the Salvation Army Emergency Services up to $250,000.


Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

DFAT may provide free passport replacements for Australians whose passports have been lost or damaged in the bushfires.

If you need to apply for a free replacement, you don’t need to fill in any application forms, but you will need to confirm your identity and that you were in an affected area.

For more information, call the Australian Passport Information Service (APIS) on 131 232. 

The Business Council of Australia

•      Setting up $25m fund for children of volunteer firefights

•      Calling in its members to offer 20 days paid leave to staff volunteering

How you can donate

Local state fire services:

NSW Rural Fire Service

VIC Country Fire Authority

SA Country Fire Service

QLD Fire and Rescue 

Western Australia Bushfire

Major campaigns:

First Nations Communities Fire Relief Fund

Celeste Barber National Facebook Donation

Support for Firefighter Families


Port Macquarie Koala Hospital

WIRES Wildlife Rescue


Wildlife Victoria


Red Cross Blood Donations 

Sewing neckties for firefighters


Samaritan’s Purse


- with contributions from Mark Bristow and Alex Ritchie

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This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Alex Ritchie before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.



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Learn more about bank accounts

How to transfer money to another bank account

Transferring money to another bank is often called a bank transfer, and it can be done a few different ways.

Customers generally need three pieces of information to transfer money to another bank account. Customers need the account name, BSB and account number of the account they wish to transfer money to.

One way of transferring money to another bank account is in a branch with the help of a staff member; they will often give you a receipt as well as confirmation of the transfer.

Transfers can be also made via internet banking and phone banking.

Some banks also allow customers to make transfers via partnered ATMs, especially if the account is with the same bank.

How do I close a bank account?

Closing a bank account is one of those tasks that’s easy to put in the too-hard basket. There are quite a few steps involved, some which may require you to hang on the phone for a while.  

Here’s a handy checklist of items to tick off, so the job gets done quicker. If you don’t do your banking online, the following steps can also be done at a branch.   

  • Cancel any scheduled or recurring payments
  • Update your direct debit details (such as loan repayments) with creditors
  • Export your payee address book (to keep a record of saved third-party bank account details)
  • Transfer the balance of your account (to the new bank account)
  • Close your account online, or by calling the bank or visiting a branch

How do I open a bank account for a child?

There are few better ways for a child to learn about money management than through savings. And there’s a plethora of bank accounts designed specifically for young people and children.

A bank account for a child can be opened online, over the phone or in a branch in a few easy steps. The minimum age a child can open a bank account for themselves usually ranges between 12 and 14.

If the child is too young to open the account, you can do it for them as their legal parent or guardian. 

To do this, you would need to be over 18, have an Australian residential address and currently reside in Australia (or have proof of residency).

You would also need to provide:

  • Identification for yourself and the child
  • Your tax file number (TFN) or TFN exemption

Depending on the bank account, you might be able to choose what level of access the child has to their bank account (online and via the phone).

How can I wire money to a bank account?

You can wire money to an Australian bank account either through your own bank or by using a money transfer company such as Western Union or MoneyGram. Either way, you’ll need the other person’s name, BSB number and account number. If you use a money transfer company, you might also need to provide the recipient’s address for large payments.

Can I close my bank account over the phone?

In most cases, you can close a personal or business bank account over the phone. In fact, this is the best way to ensure you’ve closed an account properly.

By speaking to a banking representative, you can capture and close out any pending transactions, or interest owing/payable on the account being closed.

In the instance where the account is a joint account, or you have multiple bank accounts you want to close, your bank may send you a form that you need to fill out and return.

Either way, you would be advised over the phone of the steps you need to take. Calling your bank ahead of closing an account is often a smart course of action.

Which bank is best for business accounts?

Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer to the question of which bank is best for business accounts. That’s because ‘best’ will differ from customer to customer, depending on their unique circumstances. These include not only your company’s financial position, but also its size, its age and the sector in which it operates. Another factor to consider is what features you want in a bank account. Your business may require different features than another business; and your business may require different features tomorrow than it does today.

The best thing to do is to thoroughly research the market before opening a business account. And when you do open an account, you should reassess your options every year or two, because the market moves quickly. A particular bank might offer the best account today, but be surpassed by one or several rivals tomorrow.

Can the government take your money from your bank account?

There are some instances when the government can take money from your bank account. This generally occurs in situations where you have an outstanding government debt.

Before it can take money from your bank account, the government authority owed money would first need to issue a garnishee notice. 

A garnishee notice is issued by the government agency (such as Centrelink or the ATO) to a third party that holds money for you or owes you money.

To take money from your bank account, your bank would be issued with the garnishee notice requiring it to pay ‘your money’ to the requesting agency to satisfy the debt.

Can you get a payday loan without a bank account?

Yes. Some payday lenders are willing to transfer loans to prepaid debit cards instead of bank accounts.

Can I set up a bank account online?

Most Australia-based lenders will allow you to set up a bank account online. Requirements vary from lender to lender, but you will probably need to provide a passport or birth certificate, as well as a driver’s licence, Medicare card or another form of secondary ID.

How long does it take to open a bank account?

The length of time it takes to open a bank account varies, depending on whether you want to open it online or in person.


Most banks and credit unions have simple online applications that usually take no more than 10 minutes to fill out. It can be especially fast if you have your identification documents like your driver’s licence and passport handy. Sometimes you will instantly be approved and the bank account opened. However, depending on the financial institution, it may take a day or so to be processed and your account number issued. Your account information and ATM or debit card will then be mailed to you, which usually takes between five to 10 days.

In person

If you decide to go into a branch or office to open a bank account, it may take about half an hour. Make sure you bring your identification documents with you. Also book an appointment if you can, otherwise you might be forced to wait in line. Sometimes your ATM or debit card will be issued on the spot, otherwise you’ll need to wait for one to arrive by mail, which usually takes between five to 10 days.

How do you delete your bank account from PayPal?

Deleting your bank account from PayPal is a simple three-step process:

  • Go to your Wallet
  • Choose the account you’d like to delete
  • Click ‘Remove bank account’

Can you open another account at the same bank?

Yes, you can open another account at the same bank if you already have an account there, but some banks place a limit on how many specific accounts you can open.

Generally, though, it is possible to have more than one everyday account, one personal account and one joint account, or have different types of accounts – such as a transaction account and a savings account.

Keep in mind that some bank accounts come with fees, so you could be charged twice for having two types of the same account at the same bank.

Also, if you have more than one high-interest transaction account at the same bank, only one account will be able to earn the highest rate of interest.

Can foreigners open bank accounts in Australia?

Many Australian lenders allow foreigners to open bank accounts in Australia. Often, this can be done before you arrive in the country – with no Australian address required. When you get to Australia, you can pick up your debit card, using your passport as identification.

How do you set up a bank account online?

Once you’ve compared bank accounts and found the right one, the process of opening a bank account online is quite simple and can be done in around 10 minutes.

To set up a bank account online, you’ll need to prove your identity and provide an approved form of ID as well as your tax file number (TFN).

If you’re a new customer of the bank, you’ll need to verify your identity and potentially upload documents before you can complete your online application.

Once your ID has been verified and you’ve set up your bank account online, you should receive your bank cards in the mail along with your PIN and any other account details.