Nearly 30,000 survivors of the the horror Black Summer 2019/20 bushfire season have been supported by a large-scale Red Cross recovery program, but many are still vulnerable and traumatised.
Matt is one of them.
The Victorian from East Gippsland barely escaped with his life before watching his home of 25 years burn to the ground on New Year’s Eve in 2019.
For most of the past year, Matt has had to live in a caravan amongst the rubble that was once his home.
“I’m so depressed, I feel like I just keep falling through the gaps. I don’t even feel like a human,” he said in a statement.
“Pretty much the way I feel, it’s still 1 January, I haven’t moved on at all.”
Red Cross support is what’s keeping him going, he says.
“If I didn’t have Red Cross money, I probably wouldn’t be alive.”
Matt has now saved enough money to buy a little “fixer-upper” house and is on his way to recovery, but Australian Red Cross Director Noel Clement says others had not got that far.
“Communities are recovering at their own pace,” he said.
“The resilience shown by people has been remarkable, but we must remember many people are still traumatised and some are surviving day to day.
“We know many have been unable to even begin rebuilding their homes and are doing their best to cope with consecutive crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In its Australian Bushfires Report released on Wednesday, the Red Cross revealed it had spent $207 million of the $240 million donated to aid recovery from the catastrophic 2019/20 bushfire season.
Four per cent – about $83,000 – of the funds spent had gone towards administrative costs.
Grants totalling $187 million had been handed to 5914 people, to meet urgent needs, make repairs, cover funeral or hospital costs, or find a safe place to live.
Another 21,563 people have received psychosocial support and other help through the organisation’s three-year recovery program, aiding 46 communities across four states.
The funds also helped the Red Cross support 49,718 people in evacuation and relief centres during the fire crisis.
But Mr Clement says there’s still a long way to go.
Another round of financial assistance will open for survivors in the coming weeks.
Of the remaining money in the Red Cross coffers, a further $18 million will go towards more grants, while $15 million will be poured into the recovery program.