Disaster Legal Help Victoria

Emergency and crises assistance

The Commonwealth and Victorian Governments occasionally provide limited one-off financial help to people who suffered loss as a result of declared natural, environmental or other disasters. This page provides links to relevant schemes run by the Commonwealth and Victorian governments for people based in Victoria.

Commonwealth Government

The Commonwealth Government’s Disaster Recovery Allowance assists people who have been adversely affected by natural disasters in various local government areas. 

More information about help in an emergency is available on the Commonwealth's Department of Human Services website

Other payments to help you in a crisis

You may be able to apply for an immediate income support payment. This is available 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. Examples include:

Advance lump-sum payment for people on benefits

You may receive part of your income support payment or Family Tax Benefit (Part A) early. This is an advance payment of your existing entitlement, and not an extra payment. To assess your eligibility for an advance payment, visit the Services Australia website.

Crisis payment, for people on benefits

This is a one-off  payment. To be eligible to receive this payment you must be:

  • in severe financial hardship. This may include situations where:
    • you're affected by coronavirus (COVID-19)
    • you've experienced a family and domestic violence incident
    • you've had to leave your usual home because of extreme circumstances
    • you've entered Australia as a Humanitarian Entrant for the first time; or
    • you've been released from prison or psychiatric confinement; and
  • eligible for an income support payment or ABSTUDY Living Allowance.

Use the Commonwealth Government's Payment and Service finder to check if you are eligible.

Special benefit

To receive this  payment you must be:

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

If you are not eligible for any other income support, please read the rules to see if you can receive the Special Benefit.

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 illness;
    • a severe medical condition; or
    • a major disability
  • you must receive Carer Allowance for the child;
  • you must have a very strong need for financial help;
  • the child must need this care for at least 2 months;
  • the child must have the severe illness, medical condition or major disability because of a catastrophic event; and
  • you and your partner cannot be getting the Carer Payment or be able to get another income support payment from the Commonwealth Government.

For more information on the time limit to apply and examples of Catastrophic events, visit the Time limit to apply and Catastrophic events page.

Additional Child Care Subsidy Temporary Financial Hardship

To be eligible for this temporary subsidy, you must:

  • Be eligible for Child Care Subsidy;
  • have experienced temporary financial hardship due to an event that happened in the last 6 months; and
  • have a substantially reduced ability to pay child care fees.

You can find out about the Temporary financial hardship events on the Commonwealth 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 own, 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 also need to agree to the terms and conditions of the Pension Loan Scheme to get a loan.

Early release of your superannuation

You can obtain an early release of your super to help with unpaid expenses. You can apply based on compassionate grounds from the Australian Taxation Office. If you are in severe financial hardship, you can make an application to your super fund.

For more information, call the Commonwealth Department of Human Services:

  • Help in an Emergency 132 850, Monday to Friday, 8:00am to 5:00pm.
  • Farmer assistance 132 316, Monday to Friday, 8:00am to 5:00pm.

Other free and voluntary services to help you in a crisis

The Commonwealth Government has a range of services to help you in a crisis.

The Commonwealth Government's social workers provide short-term counselling, support and can refer you to other services.

The Commonwealth Government's Community Engagement Officers help you access payments and services if you find it hard to access them.

You can use  Centrepay to pay bills and expenses as regular deductions from your Centrelink payments. This can make it easy for you to budget.

The Financial Information Service (FIS) 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 to find out more, visit the Commonwealth  Website.

Victorian Government Department of Fairness, Families and Housing

The Victorian Government Department of Fairness, Families and Housing  website has information on how it can give financial crisis support to you and your family if you are caught in a major emergency – such as a bushfire, severe storm, flood or earthquake.

Other financial support to help you in a crisis

Personal Hardship Assistance Program

In the aftermath of an emergency, you and your household might be eligible for emergency funds from the Personal Hardship Assistance Program run by Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHS).

The Personal Hardship Assistance Program offers two different types of funds: emergency relief assistance, and emergency re-establishment assistance. If you qualify, you could receive money from either or both of these schemes, depending on your situation.

Emergency Relief Assistance

The Department of Health and Human Services can provide you with a one-off emergency relief payment after a house fire or any other natural emergency, provided that you and your needs meet eligibility requirements.  This payment is provided to help meet immediate needs, including emergency food, shelter, clothing, medication and accommodation.

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 Website.

In order to be able to receive emergency relief assistance, you must discuss your circumstances with a Department of Health and Human Services officer – usually within seven days of the emergency. Please call on 1300 650 172 (local calls free within Victoria, except mobile phones).

Emergency Re-establishment Assistance

You can apply for Emergency Re-establishment Assistance if your main residence has been destroyed or has been so badly damaged that you can’t live in it without major repairs. Assistance can also be paid if you can’t return home for more than a week after an emergency. Be aware though, that this isn’t a substitute for taking out insurance.

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.

You must meet income-tests.

The losses or damage must not be covered in part or in whole by your insurance.

If you require this type of assistance, contact your local Department of Health and Human Services office, and make an appointment to discuss your needs.


MoneySmart 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.

Other support from the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments to help you further in a crisis

In some circumstances, the Victorian and Australian Governments may offer other personal hardship assistance or support. Information will be available at relief centres.

Further information

If you need more information about getting emergency relief assistance from the Victorian Government, you can either visit their website and click the relief & recovery tab; or download the VicEmergency App; or call the VicEmergency hotline on 1800 226 226.


Reviewed 01 December 2021