Victoria fires: Mallacoota residents awaiting Red Cross relief funding

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It's been three weeks since Liz and Nigel Girvan's mudbrick Mallacoota home burnt to the ground in the New Year's Eve fires, but the couple have only received $1120 in relief money.

The only thing left standing on their charred one-acre property were the walls, surrounded by the cinders of irreplaceable furniture Ms Girvan inherited from her grandmother.

Liz and Nigel Girvan in the ruins of their Mallacoota home. There is no time frame to start the rebuild.

Liz and Nigel Girvan in the ruins of their Mallacoota home. There is no time frame to start the rebuild.Credit:Rachel Mounsey

All they could save were a few boxes of personal belongings.

For the next two weeks they slept in their caravan, or as guests of friends. Finally, last week the couple, both aged 60, were able to secure a 12-month rental in a local holiday home.

But while almost $500 million has been donated for bushfire relief, the Girvans are still in limbo, filling out applications for further help but overwhelmed amid the detritus of the life they had built.

After receiving the initial relief from the state government, Ms Girvan two weeks ago applied for a Red Cross cash grant of up to $10,000. Last week she requested emergency cash relief up to $4500 from the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund, a local charity that has raised $3.88 million.

The Girvans lost almost everything in their home but 'for now, we're going OK'.

The Girvans lost almost everything in their home but 'for now, we're going OK'.Credit:Rachel Mounsey

She's yet to hear back from either, with no clear time frame when she will.

The Red Cross has received more than $95 million, including $30 million allocated to helping people with immediate needs such as a lost home, and is scrambling to get the money to those in crisis.

About 510 cash grants have been approved but a further 1500 remain on the waiting list, with that number rising daily as the organisation processes applications "as fast as we can".

While the Girvans have been able to live comfortably in the meantime, in part due to the generosity of fellow "Mallacootians", it's added to the uncertainty that has overtaken their lives.

Authorities say up to 200 Mallacoota homes were lost in the fires, which turned skies blood red.

Authorities say up to 200 Mallacoota homes were lost in the fires, which turned skies blood red.Credit:Justin McManus

Supply convoys from Eden, NSW, started last week, but public access in and out of Mallacoota remains restricted.

"I've got basics, I've got food, I've got somewhere to live," Ms Girvan, a local ambulance worker, said.

"The money will come in handy when we get out of here to go and buy clothes and things like that, or later when we're building ... but for other people, I'm sure they need it more urgently."

Even now, Ms Girvan doesn't feel "in the head space to be searching out for assistance and help".

"Friends kept bombarding us with links – look at this that's available, look at that. Whilst they were very well meaning, it was a little bit overwhelming," she said.

"But if it wasn't for them, I don't think I would have known about [the relief grants]."

It would have been a lot less stressful, Ms Girvan said, if someone had called explaining what she was eligible for, but she knows "ours is just one of many claims".

The couple saved a few pieces of valuable crockery and other belongings in their ceramic pizza oven, which wasn't destroyed.

The couple saved a few pieces of valuable crockery and other belongings in their ceramic pizza oven, which wasn't destroyed.Credit:Rachel Mounsey

John Mitchell, president of the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund, said grants for those with destroyed homes are transferred within a day of the council approving them, but that approval can take multiple days.

About 940 requests totalling $2.06 million have been approved, but Mr Mitchell said the charity's estimate of 1300 total destroyed homes in East Gippsland already appears conservative.

An insurance assessor was able to access Mallacoota for the first time over the weekend and it's unclear when the Girvans will receive their insurance payment.

When they do, Ms Girvan is expecting a raft of new building regulations such as triple-glazed windows, but she's not sure yet.

"There was a gentleman at a community meeting last week, he was caught up in the Black Saturday fires," Ms Girvan said.

"He lost his home and he said it took three years for him. I’m going 'oh my goodness, three years, you’re kidding'. But who knows, that’s just an unknown too. The whole idea of time is a bit weird at the moment."