Australian bushfires: how to recover key items and access support

Mozo

Wednesday 15 January 2020

The bushfires that have affected parts of New South Wales and Victoria have thrown thousands of Australians’ lives into disarray. And with so many forced from their homes, there’s every likelihood that important documents have been left behind or lost altogether. 

Thankfully, many state services will replace identification or documents for free. Below is an overview of ways to access replacements for items such as passports, driver’s licences and bank account details, as well as some of the support packages that are available to help Australians get back on their feet.

Retrieving your bank details

If you’ve lost your bank details, your bank might be able to help retrieve them. It might require a bit of effort considering banks will be on the lookout for attempted fraud, but they will be willing to offer solutions to customers based on their individual circumstances.

Retrieving these details as soon as possible is especially important considering there are disaster relief funds available, in which those who have lost their homes may be able to access a lump sum assistance payment to access temporary accommodation, food and clothing.

A number of banks and online lenders have also extended support to mortgage holders in light of the bushfires. If you’ve been affected by the fires and require financial assistance, it might be worth looking into the emergency relief packages that are being offered as well.

Passports

What you need to know: The Australian government will replace bushfire victims’ passports for free. 

What you need: Thankfully, the process won’t require filling out the usual application forms — you’ll just need to provide some basic information to confirm your identity and place of residence.

How to do it: Call Australian Passport Information Service (APIS) on 131 232 and they will guide you through the process.

New South Wales driver’s licence

What you need to know: Services NSW will replace lost or damaged driver’s licences for free.

What you need: Basic proof of identity and if your documents were destroyed by bushfire.

How to do it: Go to a Services NSW centre. If you’re unable to access a service centre then you have a few options:

  • Go to an Australia Post and request a replacement licence using a Photo Kit form
  • Request a free interim driver licence receipt over the phone by calling 13 22 13 or 13 77 88
  • Download the Service NSW app to access your digital driver licence

What happens next: You’ll be issued with a receipt that you must carry with you when you drive until your new one arrives. 

Victoria driver’s licence

What you need to know: VicRoads will replace lost or damaged driver’s licences for free.

What you need: Basic proof of identity and if your documents were destroyed by bushfire.

How to do it: You can apply for a replacement licence online, in person, or by calling VicRoads on 13 11 71.

What will happen next: It will be a few days before your new licence arrives. In the meantime, you must carry the receipt you’ll be issued whenever you drive.

Making a claim on your home insurance

If your home has been damaged or lost as a result of the recent bushfires, you should get in contact with your home insurer immediately. Don’t worry if you can’t find your policy number — all your insurance provider will need is the name of the policy holder and address. 

If you can’t remember which provider you’re with, you should get in contact with the Insurance Council of Australia. Contact them on 1800 734 621.

Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment

What you need to know: The government is currently offering two relief packages for those affected by the bushfires. The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment is for those who have suffered personal injury or damage to property as a result of the fires.

How much will you get: Adults will receive $1000 each and children younger than 16 will receive $400 each.

How to claim: Call Human Services 180 22 66 or go to the Human Services website.

What you will need: You will need to show proof of identity to the value of 50 points in order to be eligible.

  • Birth certificate (70 points)
  • Driver’s licence (40 points)
  • Bank card/statement (40 points)
  • Medicare card (20 points)

You will also need to provide some evidence, such as hospital admission forms or damage to residence. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the supporting documents — the government suggests you go ahead and submit the form so processing can commence and provide the necessary documents later.

How to do it: The fastest way to claim is over the phone, so call 180 22 66. Otherwise print your form and lodge it at a service centre (e.g. Medicare, Centrelink).

Australian Government Disaster Recovery Allowance

What you need to know: The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Allowance is for those who have suffered a loss of income from the fires. If you are eligible, you can receive a maximum payment of up to 13 weeks' pay.

How much will you get: This will depend on your circumstances and your income prior to and following the disaster. The maximum payment rate is equivalent to that offered by the Newstart or Youth Allowance programs.

How to Claim: Call Human Services 180 22 66 or go to Human Services website.

What you will need: You will need to show proof of identity to the value of 50 points to qualify.

  • Birth certificate (70 points)
  • Driver’s licence (40 points)
  • Bank card/statement (40 points)
  • Medicare card (20 points)

You'll also need a few things to support your claim of lost income. These include:

  • Pay slips from an employer
  • Bank statements showing previous bank deposits from an employer
  • Letter from your employer
  • Profits and loss statements
  • Income tax return

How to do it: The fastest way to claim is over the phone, call 180 22 66. Otherwise print your form and lodge it at a service centre (e.g. Medicare, Centrelink).

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