The ongoing bushfire crisis across Australia – which has claimed the lives of at least 24 people, decimated wildlife and bushland, destroyed hundreds of properties and displaced thousands of people – heightened over the holiday period, with hundreds of fires still burning in several states and impacting air quality across the nation.
All four major banks have now announced donation packages to support the individuals, communities and organisations affected by the bushfires, as well as extending financial relief to impacted customers, too.
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and National Australia Bank (NAB) have all now announced $1-million packages to support customers and communities affected by the bushfire emergency unfolding across Australia. Westpac has gone a step further, announcing a $1.5-million fund.
These funds are in addition to any previously announced initiatives.
ANZ has pledged half a million dollars to support local community services as well as home loan customers who have lost their homes to bushfires and are suffering ongoing financial hardship; $300,000 to volunteer fire services across NSW, Victoria and South Australia; and a further $100,000 to match employee donations to volunteer fire services.
It is also contributing to Tennis Australia’s “Aces for Bushfire Relief” initiative running throughout the Australian Open and providing mobile ATMs and extra cash provisions for those regions affected by fire.
Michelle Jablko, ANZ’s chief financial officer, said: “This bushfire season is having a devastating impact on the wellbeing and livelihoods of families, customers and communities.
“In releasing this package, we hope to play a role in supporting firefighting efforts as well as the economic recovery and financial wellbeing for those affected, including our customers.
“We also recognise the significant time that will be required for communities to recover from this disaster and we remain committed to helping our customers rebuild,” Ms Jablko said.
CBA bushfire relief package
CBA has said it will donate $1 million towards bushfire disaster relief efforts, including $750,000 worth of grants to help support local communities and replace facilities lost in the fires, as well as a $250,000 donation to the Australian Red Cross.
CBA’s bushfire relief grants will provide:
- Up to $20,000 available to assist with the replacement and repair of lost or damaged community facilities due to bushfires.
- Community organisations, schools and local fire brigades will be able to register for support from Friday, 10 January, with registrations open until Friday, 14 February 2020.
An assessment panel will reportedly review the applications in consultation with “experts” to ensure grants reach community organisations “most in need”.
Commonwealth Bank staff, many of whom live and work in bushfire-impacted communities, can also nominate organisations in need of support.
Matt Comyn, the bank’s chief executive officer, commented: “The current bushfires are amongst the worst in living memory and have devastated many communities across Australia.
“The scenes of destruction, lives lost, property destroyed and wildlife killed have been heartbreaking. At the same time, we have seen the true spirit of Australians with acts of bravery, heroism and dedication by our volunteer firefighters.
“Commonwealth Bank stands ready to help all of those Australians – individuals, businesses and communities – who have suffered as a result. I hope that what we have announced today will support them on the path to recovery.”
NAB Disaster Relief Fund
Likewise, NAB has created a $1-million Disaster Relief Fund to give customers and employees displaced from their homes ready access to cash, as well as support in the months ahead as communities rebuild homes and businesses.
NAB customers who have lost homes this bushfire season can immediately access $2,000 grants to help cover costs such as temporary accommodation, food and clothing, while NAB employees who have had to evacuate their homes can also access a $1,000 grant.
The fund will also be used to provide ongoing support during the rest of the year, as the scale of the impact of these natural disasters on people and businesses becomes clearer, the bank said.
Mike Baird, NAB’s chief customer officer, consumer banking, commented: “I have heard the grief in our bankers’ voices as they grapple with making sure our colleagues are safe and at the same time dealing with the impact more broadly on their own communities.
“There are horrific tales of lost homes, lost livelihoods and, most tragically, the loss of loved ones. Many families and businesses face an uncertain future, and we want to do all we can,” Mr Baird said.
“The Disaster Relief Fund is designed to assist our customers, colleagues and communities as they deal with the personal impact of the bushfires both immediately and throughout 2020.”
Westpac Bushfire Fund
Westpac was the last major bank to announce its package and has said it will provide $1.5 million to its Bushfire Fund.
The Westpac Bushfire Fund will include:
- $500,000 in grants to immediately support customers and employees whose properties have been destroyed or damaged. Like NAB, Westpac is offering grants of up $2,000 to help cover temporary accommodation, food and clothing;
- $300,000 to state-based volunteer fire services to continue to support the emergency workers on the front line;
- $250,000 to the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal to provide grants to impacted communities to support recovery and rebuild efforts; and
- $100,000 to the newly-established Victoria Bushfire Appeal.
The remaining $350,000 funds will be allocated for the rebuilding and recovery support “that will be essential in the months ahead as communities rebuild homes and businesses, as well as for the rescue and rehabilitation of local wildlife,” the bank said.
David Lindberg, chief executive, consumer division, said the $1.5 million Bushfire Fund will offer “practical help on the ground”.
Mr Lindberg said: “Urgent assistance is what is needed as many of our customers and communities are facing unprecedented devastation, uncertain futures for their homes, families, businesses and, for many, their livelihood. We are also committed to helping communities recover over the longer term.”
The big four banks, among with many other lenders, have also recently announced extended relief packages for customers that are bushfire victims in a bid to provide some financial relief during this ongoing crisis.
HOW YOU CAN DONATE
There have been many fundraisers and appeals set up by charities, organisations and individuals to help support victims of the bushfires and support those on the front line.
Some of the major appeals include:
- Red Cross
- Salvation Army
- NSW Rural Fire Service
- QLD Fire and Rescue
- SA Country Fire Service
- VIC Country Fire Authority
- Tasmania Fire Service
- Western Australia
- AFCA bushfire disaster support
Annie Kane is the editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business.
As well as writing about the Australian broking industry, the mortgage market, financial regulation, fintechs and the wider lending landscape – Annie is also the host of the Elite Broker and In Focus podcasts and The Adviser Live webcasts.