Volunteer lawyers on hand to assist Victorian bushfire victims— March 2018

Volunteer lawyers representing Disaster Legal Help Victoria will be available to offer on-the-ground advice and assistance to victims of the Victorian bushfires as they recover from the disaster.

Lawyers will be attending the recovery centres at Cobden and Terang this afternoon, and victims can also call Disaster Legal Help Victoria on 1800 113 432 or visit the website at www.disasterlegalhelp.org.au

We will also attend a community meeting at Cobden this afternoon.

Program Manager of Economic and Social Rights at Victoria Legal Aid, Joel Townsend said the problems people encounter after a bushfire can include the rejection of insurance claims, tenancy or accommodation issues, and debt and other financial difficulties.

“Legal problems can quickly surface after a natural disaster and our lawyers are in the field to help people get back on their feet as soon as possible,” Mr Townsend said. 

“It is important that people know about their rights, and how to exercise them, in the event of a rejected insurance claim or other issue.”

The volunteer lawyers from Disaster Legal Help can offer preliminary advice, or point people in the right direction to more comprehensive services.

Mr Townsend said such a stressful event could also exacerbate other legal problems relating to areas such as family law or employment disputes.

“Getting help quickly in these circumstances is crucial to resolving your legal problems.

“Our lawyers can refer you to specialist support services if we are not able to help in your situation,” Mr Townsend said.

Disaster Legal Help is a volunteer collaboration that responds to bushfire, flood and other disasters in Victoria.

Our lawyers are trained in insurance law and dispute resolution, and aim to resolve insurance disputes as quickly as possible.

Disaster Legal Help Victoria partners include the Federation of Community Legal Centres, Justice Connect, Law Institute of Victoria, Victoria Law Foundation, Victoria Legal Aid and the Victorian Bar.


Does your bushfire plan include a checklist to help in the aftermath? — December 2017

With summer here, Victoria Legal Aid says it is time to look at your bushfire or disaster plan and ensure it includes a checklist to help you work through the aftermath.

Joel Townsend is a volunteer for Disaster Legal Help Victoria, a legal sector collaboration that responds to bushfire, flood and other disasters in Victoria. He has had a lot of experience working with victims of disasters, including the Black Saturday fires.

‘It’s not a pleasant thought but if you do lose your home and belongings, you’ll need to be prepared to answer some legal questions – and that’s where we come in,’ Mr Townsend said.

‘The main legal problems people encounter are around insurance claims, property damage and accommodation issues.’

Things you should do:

  • make sure your insurance is up to date, and includes the right level of cover for fire and flood
  • be prepared to lodge a claim soon after the event
  • get advice on accommodation or tenancy issues
  • keep a list of key contacts you may need for dealing with recovery from a disaster
  • prepare an important documents kit. Include a description of your home and a list of your valuable belongings.

Mr Townsend said people should include the Disaster Legal Help Victoria 1800 113 432 number in their emergency contact list, along with numbers for their insurance company, bank, doctor, Centrelink, local council and power company.

‘It makes things easier when you are dealing with companies and governments after a disaster if all of your important documents and account numbers, as well as wills and passports, are together in your kit,’ he said.

‘We try to be in the field as early as possible after an event. That’s when problems tend to surface with insurance claims. And that’s when it really helps to have a lawyer on hand.’

Mr Townsend said people should look out for notices in local recovery publications for details about how to get help through Disaster Legal Help Victoria.

Volunteer lawyers help in recovery centres and at follow-up sessions 6 to 8 weeks after a disaster. They are trained in insurance law and dispute resolution, and aim to resolve insurance disputes as quickly as possible.

For more information, including a list of important documents to include in your kit, visit www.disasterlegalhelp.org.au

Disaster Legal Help Victoria partners include the Federation of Community Legal Centres, Justice Connect, Law Institute of Victoria, Victoria Law Foundation, Victoria Legal Aid and the Victorian Bar.


Geelong floods public information session — March 2016

Geelong Council is running a public information session for people affected by the Geelong floods in January. Disaster Legal Help lawyers will be there offering free legal assistance. 

Date: Tuesday 22 March, 2016
Venue: Geelong West Town Hall
153 Pakington Street, Geelong West
RSVP: emergencyrecovery@geelongcity.vic.gov.au


Disaster assistance: Ballarat and Mornington Peninsula bushfires — February 2016

Minister for Justice Michael Keenan and Victorian Minister for Emergency Services Jane Garrett today announced disaster assistance in response to the Mount Bolton and Somerville bushfires, which occurred on 23 February 2016.

More information about the assistance can be found on the Australian Government’s Disaster Assist website at www.disasterassist.gov.au and the Emergency Relief and Recovery Victoria website at www.recovery.vic.gov.au.

Emergency payments for individuals and households

Eligible individuals in the local government area of Ballarat affected by the Mount Bolton Bushfire can now access the following emergency grants to relieve personal hardship and distress:

  • Emergency Relief Assistance payments of up to $520 per adult and $260 per child (up to a maximum of $1,300 per household) to help meet immediate needs, including emergency food, shelter, clothing and personal items.
  • Emergency Re-establishment Payments up to $32,500 per eligible household for clean-up, emergency accommodation, repairs, rebuilding a principal residence, and replacing some damaged contents.

In addition, individuals and families affected by the Mount Bolton and Somerville bushfires can access personal and financial counselling.

Assistance for local councils and state agencies

Ballarat City Council, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council and state agencies can seek assistance with the costs of clean-up operations and the restoration of essential public assets.

The disaster assistance is being provided through the jointly-funded Commonwealth-State Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA).


Free legal assistance for Wye River and Separation Creek communities  January 2016

20 January 2016

Two of Disaster Legal Help’s lawyers will attend the Wye River and Separation Creek community forum on Thursday 21 January, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. The forum will be held at Treasury Theatre, Lower Plaza, 1 Macarthur Street, East Melbourne.

Lawyers will provide free legal information and referrals in relation to a number of legal issues including insurance, fencing, emergency and crisis assistance payments, and replacing lost or destroyed documents.

If you are unable to attend the meeting and are in need of legal assistance, call Disaster Legal Help Victoria’s free helpline on 1800 113 432. The phone line is open Monday to Friday 8:45 am to 5:15 pm. You can also access Victoria’s bushfire recovery planning information here.


Disaster Legal Help assistance for those affected by the Docklands fire  November 2014

If you were affected by the November 2014 apartment block fire in central Melbourne's Docklands, we can provide you with legal advice and information. This includes information about whether or not you need to pay rent, what to do if you want to break your lease and what insurance rights you have if your contents are insured. Call us on 1800 113 432. You can read more about the work of Disaster Legal Help Victoria following the fire here