Disaster Legal Help Victoria

Emergency and crises assistance

Types of crisis assistance

The Commonwealth and Victorian Governments occasionally provide limited one-off financial assistance to people impacted by disasters. You may be able to apply for an immediate income support payment even if you are not already receiving a Centrelink benefit. The type of payment or assistance that you may be able to receive will depend on your circumstances. This page provides links to relevant schemes run by the federal and state governments for people in Victoria.

Disaster Recovery Allowance

The Commonwealth Government’s Disaster Recovery Allowance assists people who have been adversely affected by disasters in various local government areas. More information about help in an emergency is available at Services AustraliaExternal Link .

Advance lump-sum payment for people on benefits

You may receive part of your Centrelink income support payment or Family Tax Benefit (Part A) early. You are required to pay it back later out of your payments from Centrelink. To assess your eligibility for an advance payment, visit the Services AustraliaExternal Link website.

Crisis payment for people on benefits

This is a one-off payment. To be eligible to receive this payment you must be eligible for an income support payment or ABSTUDY Living Allowance and be experiencing severe financial hardship. This may include situations where:

  • you're affected by coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • you've experienced family violence
  • you've had to leave your home because of extreme circumstances
  • you've entered Australia as a Humanitarian Entrant for the first time
  • you've been released from prison or psychiatric confinement.

Use the Commonwealth Government’s Payment and Service finderExternal Link to check if you are eligible.

Special benefit

To receive this payment you must be:

  • ineligible for any other income support payment
  • in severe financial hardship for reasons beyond your control.

Find out more about the Special BenefitExternal Link on the Services Australia website.

Carer adjustment payment

This is a one-off payment if your child under 7 years of age contracts a severe illness or has a major disability. To receive this one-off payment you must:

  • provide full-time care for a child under 7 years of age who has either a severe medical condition or a severe disability
  • receive Carer Allowance for the child
  • have a very strong need for financial help
  • not be receiving the Carer Payment through yourself or your partner
  • unable to receive another income support payment from the Commonwealth Government.

Additionally, your child must:

  • need this care for at least 2 months
  • have the severe medical condition or disability because of a catastrophic event.

Find out more about the Carer adjustment paymentExternal Link on the Services Australia website.

Additional Child Care Subsidy Temporary Financial Hardship

To be eligible for this temporary subsidy, you must:

  • be eligible for the Child Care Subsidy
  • have experienced temporary financial hardship due to an event that happened in the last 6 months (including COVID-19)
  • have a substantially reduced ability to pay child care fees.

Find out more about the Additional Child Care Subsidy Temporary Financial HardshipExternal Link on the Services Australia website.

Pension loan schemes

This scheme allows older Australians to receive a voluntary non-taxable fortnightly loan from the Commonwealth. You and your partner may use this to supplement your retirement income.

You must meet all of the following criteria:

  • you or your partner are of Age Pension age
  • you receive or are eligible to receive a qualifying pension
  • you or your partner owns real estate in Australia that you can use as security for the loan
  • you have adequate and appropriate insurance covering the real estate offered as security
  • you are not bankrupt or subject to a personal insolvency agreement
  • you agree to the terms and conditions of the Pension Loan Scheme.

Find out more about the Pension Loan SchemeExternal Link on the Department of Social Services website.

Early release of superannuation

You may be able to obtain an early release of your superannuation to help with unpaid expenses. You can apply based on compassionate grounds to the Australian Taxation Office or apply on severe financial hardship grounds to your super fund.

For more information, see our page on Superannuation – Early Access.

DFFH Personal Hardship Assistance Program

The Victorian Government Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) websiteExternal Link has information on how you and your family can access financial and material support if you are caught in a major emergency such as a bushfire, severe storm, flood or earthquake.

In the aftermath of an emergency, you and your household might be eligible for emergency funds from thePersonal Hardship Assistance ProgramExternal Link run by Victoria’s DFFH.

The Personal Hardship Assistance Program offers two different types of funds:

  • emergency relief assistance
  • emergency re-establishment assistance.

The DFFH can provide you with a one-off emergency relief payment after a house fire or any other natural emergency, provided that you meet eligibility requirements. This payment is provided to help meet immediate needs, including food, shelter, clothing, medication and accommodation. This assistance is not currently available for a major emergency.

Emergency relief payments are paid to recipients using prepaid debit cards. To read more about what the card can be used for, please visit the Victorian State Government websiteExternal Link .

In order to be able to receive emergency relief assistance, you must discuss your circumstances with a DFFH officer – usually within seven days of the emergency. Please call 1300 475 170 for more information (local calls free within Victoria, except mobile phones).

You can apply for Emergency Re-establishment Assistance if your main residence has been destroyed or has been so badly damaged that you cannot live in it without major repairs. Assistance can also be paid if you cannot return home for more than a week after an emergency.

To receive Emergency Re-establishment Assistance you must meet the following eligibility conditions:

  • your home must be uninhabitable or inaccessible for more than 7 days because of a natural disaster
  • the losses or damage must not be covered in part or in whole by your insurance
  • you meet certain income tests.

If you require this type of assistance, you can contact DFFH on 1300 475 170.

Other free and voluntary services

The Commonwealth Government's social workersExternal Link provide short-term counselling, information, and can refer you to other services, including mental health support services.

The Commonwealth Government's Community Engagement OfficersExternal Link help you access payments and services and can connect you with other forms of support.

You can use CentrepayExternal Link to pay bills and expenses as regular deductions from your Centrelink payments. This can make it easy for you to budget. Centrepay also provides a range of other services and information to help you manage your payments or get extra support.

The Financial Information Service (FIS)External Link can help you when you need to make decisions about your current and future financial needs. To speak to the FIS, call on 132 300 or visit the Commonwealth website.

MoneySmartExternal Link is an initiative of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to help people with their financial matters. Their guide to managing insurance issues after an emergency covers:

  • tips for handling your insurance claim after an emergency
  • tips for buying the right insurance
  • the risk of under-insuring.

Where to get help

Call Disaster Legal Help Victoria on 1800 113 432 (weekdays 8am to 6pm) for legal information and referrals or contact your closestcommunity legal centreExternal Link to get advice from a local lawyer. For alternative contact options, visit our homepage.

For additional support options and a directory of other services, visit Other organisations that can help.

Reviewed 10 October 2022