Charities slammed at bushfire response inquiry

 

 

The "Black Summer" of bushfires has been classified as possibly the worst in NSW history, exacerbated by global weather patterns, a royal commission has been told.

But six months on, with the inquiry searching for answers, a survivor accused slow and stingy charities of standing in the way of recovery.

Professor Sue Townsend, who lost her home in December, described going to the Red Cross - which received more than $200 million in donations - for help.

 

Sue Townsend says the Red Cross asked her for a utility bill to prove her identity. Source: Supplied
Sue Townsend says the Red Cross asked her for a utility bill to prove her identity. Source: Supplied

 

"I spoke to a person on the phone saying this is ridiculous, your house is burning down. The last thing you think is to grab a utility bill," she said in an interview aired at the commission. "And they got really annoyed with me and it wasn't a pleasant conversation. They need to be more helpful and think about what they are asking people to do."

The Red Cross told her it would take two to three weeks for her to be assessed, she said.

"Within a week because the media had hit about the Red Cross not handing out funds and people being desperate, it went into our bank within days and it was $20,000."

 

A fire approaches the property of the Bilpin Fruit Bowl. Photo Jeremy Piper
A fire approaches the property of the Bilpin Fruit Bowl. Photo Jeremy Piper

 

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements heard a report by researchers Risk Frontiers found "Black Summer is expected to be comparable to the most damaging seasons (if not the most damaging) in Australia since 1925".

Earlier the CSIRO's Dr Helen Cleugh told the hearing the fire season was getting longer as a result of oceanic and atmospheric patterns and exacerbated by Australia's climate warming.

BoM's head of climate monitoring Karl Braganza said Australia was experiencing a longer fire season, arriving earlier accompanied by more extreme heatwaves and lower rainfall.

 

Originally published as Charities slammed at bushfire response inquiry



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