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.

 

Banks:

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

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

 

Telecommunications:

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.

Telstra

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

Optus

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

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.

 

Energy: 

AGL

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

AirBnb

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

Virgin

•      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.

 

Other:

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

Wildlife:

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital

WIRES Wildlife Rescue

WWF

Wildlife Victoria

Other:

Red Cross Blood Donations 

Sewing neckties for firefighters

Volunteer:

Samaritan’s Purse

BlazeAid

  

- with contributions from Mark Bristow and Alex Ritchie

 

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Learn more about bank accounts

What do you need to open bank accounts?

Opening a bank account is one of the simplest online tasks you could perform. The hard part is deciding which type of bank account you want to open.

All banking institutions have a website where you hit ‘apply’ on the account of your choice and step through an application in less than 10 minutes.

Here’s a list of information that is generally required for applications.

  • Identification (driver’s licence, passport, proof of age card, proof of citizenship and/or birth certificate)
  • Tax file number (so you don’t get charged the highest tax rate)
  • Address, contact email and phone number

If you decide to open a new account at the branch, make sure you ask beforehand what information you need to take with you, or take all of the above to be safe.

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.

How do you transfer money from PayPal to a bank account?

Transferring money from PayPal to an Australian bank account is simple. Just follow these three steps:

  • Go to your Wallet
  • Click ‘Transfer Money’
  • Follow the instructions

The money will take three to seven business days to reach your bank account.

Once you’ve made the transfer request, it can’t be withdrawn.

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.

Can I have a PayPal account without a bank account?

You don’t need a bank account to send or receive money through PayPal. However, you do need a bank account if you want to withdraw money from your PayPal account.

Can I open a bank account in another country?

Despite having a bad rap for facilitating tax evasion, it is possible and legal to open a bank account in another country, also known as an ‘offshore account’.

Some people choose to open a bank account in another country to invest overseas, for higher interest-earning potential or to access foreign banking services.

The process for opening an offshore bank account differs depending on the financial institution and country in which you’re opening the account.

Typically, you will need to provide identification such as a passport, a local bank statement and a signed declaration proving the source of the money being used to open your account. Usually, deposits into offshore accounts can be made by international money transfer.

How do I open a bank account if I'm under 18?

The good news for savvy young folks like you wanting to take charge of your finances is that there are many bank accounts available for under-18s.

For bank accounts that require you to be 18 or older, you’ll have to rope in a parent or guardian to open the account for you.

Otherwise, you can apply by yourself online or at the branch of the bank, credit union or building society that has the account you would like to open. 

If applying online, you might be asked for a form of identification. For under-18s, this could be a Medicare card you’re listed on, your birth certificate and/or your current home address.

In most cases, you can verify your identity online (at the time of applying) or at the branch afterwards.

How can I check my bank account balance online?

Checking your bank account balance online is a simple process. Once you’ve logged in to your online banking, clock on the relevant account and the balance should be visible.

How do I transfer money from Paypal to my bank account?

Transferring cash from Paypal into your bank account is simple…if you have a Paypal account that is.

Once you’re logged into your Paypal account, the account balance will appear on your home page. Below your balance are two options:

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Choose option two if you want to transfer money from your Paypal account to your personal bank account.

The next screen will prompt you to either enter new bank account details or choose a bank account that’s connected to Paypal. You can always add more bank accounts to your Paypal profile.

Another way to transfer out of Paypal is by jumping to the wallet tab on the top menu, and clicking ‘transfer money’. Both options will give you the same result.

Can I start a bank account online?

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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.

Do I need to open a business bank account?

Just because you’re in business doesn’t necessarily mean you need a business bank account. You could be a sole trader not registered for GST, and use your personal bank account for business.

If you do want a business account, there are plenty of benefits attached to business transaction and savings accounts, as well as business term deposits.

There are business bank accounts designed for businesses with a high volume of transactions, and those for start-ups with a small amount of trade. You could also include an EFTPOS service with your account.

Some business bank accounts charge for the number of transactions per month, while others offer a pay-as-you-go fee structure, where you only pay fees for transactions you make.

It’s up to you whether your priority is mainly transactions, or earning the maximum amount of interest on your principal. There’s a business banking solution for you if you need one.

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:

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