No matter how much we think ourselves in control of our lives, there’s always the possibility of getting blindsided by an emergency or a disaster. Whether it’s a typhoon, a bushfire, a terrorist attack, or even violence at home, there are simply some things that can rob you of shelter, good health, and/or your dignity.
Fortunately, if you are an Australian citizen, you won’t have to face these things on your own. In cases of emergencies or natural disasters, the Australian government can provide you with considerable assistance, as you’ll see in the cases below:
1. Natural/national disasters.
If a super typhoon or a brush fire happens to hit the area in which you and your family live, you can avail of the following services:
a.) Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.
This was established by the Australian government to facilitate the initial provision of assistance to communities who have been hit with disasters. It’s meant mainly to help out with immediate expenses such as food and temporary lodgings but is in no way intended to compensate for losses or to restore victims to their lifestyles prior to the disaster.
For more information and/or to avail of disaster recovery assistance, you can call the assigned hotline: 180 2266. As an alternative, there is also the 24-hour international incident emergency hotline: 1300 555 135.
Australian citizens who encounter natural disasters overseas and find themselves in need of assistance can call +61 2 6261 3305.
b.) Disaster Recovery Payment.
A one-time payment, non-means tested payment, this can be provided to eligible adults and children (Australian citizens, mostly) who have been devastated by a major natural disaster whether in Australia or abroad.
c.) National Registration and Inquiry System (NRIS).
One of the most devastating things about natural disasters is being cut off from your loved ones and having no clue about how and where they are. The NRIS, which is operated by the Australian Red Cross, was established to help you find and reunite with friends and family members in the event of a catastrophe.
If you have been evacuated from your area and/or are looking for friends and family members, you can call the Red Cross Inquiry Centre at 1800 727 077. Relatives residing in abroad who wish to check on their kin in Australia can call +61 393 283 991.
2. Terrorist attacks.
You are eligible for a one-time Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payment if you are either an Australian citizen or permanent resident at the time of the declared terrorist attack and you were directly harmed during so or if you are an Australian citizen who was closely related (i.e., parent, sibling, or spouse) to the Australian citizen who died as a result of the said attack. In both cases, none of your immediate family members should have been involved in the terrorist attack for your eligibility to be complete.
You can claim up to AUD$75,000 by way of the Victim of Terrorsim Overseas Payment. The amount you actually receive depends on factors like the severity of the injury in question, whether you acted cautiously or recklessly during the terrorist attack, if you were in the location of the attack for humanitarian reasons or in official capacity as a representative of the Commonwealth.
If you are eligible as a Secondary Victim or as an immediate relative of the Australian citizen who died, you may have to share the one-time payment with other eligible claimants.
If you were the deceased’s partner or spouse and no child of yours has made a claim, you are entitled to the entire amount. The same goes for a child, parent, or sibling of the deceased in case there are no other claimants.
If there are two parents claiming the benefit, it is to be split between them equally, as with multiple siblings or children of the deceased. If the deceased’s spouse and children submit a claim, the spouse is entitled to half of the payment while the other half is to be split equally among the children.
3. Domestic violence.
Family and domestic violence, particularly against women, is completely unacceptable in Australia. It is defined as violent, coercive and/or controlling behavior that makes a family member fearful of the person carrying out the act.
This definition covers intimate relationships between people who are living together regardless of their gender or marital status, carers and patients, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander extended families, among others.
If, as a citizen, you are in financial hardship because of domestic violence, are barred from seeking employment due to injuries or illness that was a direct result of the violent incidents, are under the age of 22 and cannot live at home because of the situation or have recently moved to Australia and cannot be supported because of it, you can avail of counseling, support, information, and pending eligibility, financial assistance in the form of a crisis payment (a one off immediate payment for people in extreme circumstances), child support/income support payments, or exemptions from seeking employment.
1800RESPECT is the country’s foremost service for family violence and sexual assault. It is free and available to all citizens, and you can call 1800 737 732 to get in touch with a professional counselor 24/7.
4. Extreme financial difficulties.
If you are experiencing severe financial hardship, such as being on the verge of losing a home, you can avail of a crisis payment (as discussed in the previous item) as well as rent assistance.
Special Benefits can be availed by citizens who are unable to support themselves and/or their dependents and are also incapable of receiving other forms of financial assistance.
Lastly, if you are a parent with a child under seven years of age who recently had a sudden accident and thus requires the services of a carer, you may be eligible for a one off Carer Adjustment Payment to help you deal with the added cost.