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Department of Human Services, Victoria, Australia
Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund

Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund

Permanently Impaired Gift

The Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund has announced a gift to assist people with the most severe permanent impairments (either physical or psychological) sustained as a direct result of the 2009 Victorian bushfires and who continue to experience financial hardship.

What assistance is available?

A total of $3.5 million has been committed to the Permanently Impaired gift. The value of the grants that individuals receive will be determined by both their level of impairment and financial hardship. Successful applicants will receive a minimum payment of $10,000, however based on the eligibility criteria a small number of individuals who are most severely impacted may be eligible for larger gift amounts (which will be capped at a maximum of $150,000).

Any gift amount above the minimum payment will be determined on a case-by-case basis and will be available to individuals, for whom the bushfires have had the most devastating effect, leaving them with a substantial and severe permanent impairment, and with the most extreme level of financial hardship.

Am I eligible?

To be eligible for this gift you must, as a direct result of the 2009 Victorian bushfires:

  • have sustained physical or psychological injuries that have resulted in a permanent impairment; and
  • be experiencing financial hardship.

The application form and supporting documentation for this gift will be used to determine whether you meet the criteria.

What is a permanent impairment?

Physical Injuries

You must meet all of the following criteria to be eligible for this gift in relation to your physical injuries sustained as a direct result of the 2009 Victorian bushfires:

  • You previously received the Severe Injury payment or you were admitted to hospital as an inpatient (defined as that you were admitted to a hospital or clinic for treatment that requires at least one overnight stay) within 12 months of the fires.
  • The injury requires ongoing medical treatment (defined as any treatment or procedures carried out by a medical practitioner in the course of medical or surgical practice and includes the prescription or supply of drugs).
  • The injury has a severe impact on activities of daily living.
  • You are experiencing financial hardship.

Psychological Injuries

You must meet all of the following criteria to be eligible for this gift in relation to your psychological injuries sustained as a direct result of the 2009 Victorian bushfires:

  • You were admitted to hospital as an inpatient (defined as that you were admitted to a hospital or clinic for treatment that requires at least one overnight stay) within 12 months of the fires or required intensive treatment, requiring both prescribed medication and therapy with a psychiatrist or psychologist at least weekly for at least 12 weeks.
  • Treatment requires regular and ongoing prescribed medication and therapy with a psychiatrist or psychologist.
  • The injury has a severe impact on activities of daily living.
  • You are experiencing financial hardship.

Note: For the purposes of this gift a permanent impairment is assessed based on either physical or psychological injuries (it cannot be a combination of both).  

What information do you need to provide to determine whether or not you have a permanent impairment?

As part of your application you will need to provide the following information:

  • supporting documentation regarding your permanent impairment (for example, a hospital invoice/report or a letter from your treating physician), and
  • a completed application form, including signing the statutory declaration.

If you are unsure whether the level of documentation you currently have in relation to your injuries will be sufficient for your application, and you need help obtaining an up to date summary of medical information about the treatment provided to you for your injury/s, you may decide to discuss this with your treating physician or a General Practitioner (GP).

Note: It is not necessary for your treating physician or GP to undertake a medical examination. The decision to perform a medical examination is at the discretion of your treating physician or GP.

In these cases, your treating physician or GP may assist you to complete Part A or Part B of the application form. Alternatively, they may prefer to write a letter containing the relevant information. If so, you should attach this letter to your application.

The Fund has sought advice from the Commonwealth Government which has advised that consultations with a GP can be claimed for this purpose under Medicare. However, the benefits you receive from Medicare are based on a Schedule of fees set by the Australian Government. Your GP may choose to charge more than the Schedule fee.

What is financial hardship?

You will be required to complete the financial hardship section of the application form. Determining your financial hardship involves consideration of a range of factors, including your financial resources and your financial burdens. Your eligibility for this gift will be determined through the answers you have provided in this application.

How will my application be assessed?

When your application is received, your stated injury/s and supporting documentation will be reviewed by a specialist medical assessor. You or your treating physician or GP (if you have provided the necessary consent) may be contacted to clarify information submitted with your application or to obtain further details pertaining to your injury/s.

If it cannot be determined whether or not you have sustained a permanent impairment, you may be required to undertake an independent expert medical assessment. This expert medical assessment will be at no cost to you. However, the assessment may delay the processing of your application. The outcome of the expert medical assessment will assist in making a final determination regarding your permanent impairment.

What other information do I need to provide?

If you have previously claimed assistance from the Fund, your identity will have been confirmed in the earlier application and you will only be required to provide the following information:

  • supporting documentation regarding the injury you sustained,
  • any supporting documentation regarding the financial hardship you are currently suffering, and
  • a completed application form, including signing the statutory declaration.

In addition, if you have not had a previous claim with the Fund, you will be required to provide the following evidence:

  • proof of identity, and
  • proof of permanent address.

If you have previously claimed from the Fund you may have already provided some of this material. However, for some people, their circumstances will have changed, and it is important for the application to reflect your current situation.

Who can witness a statutory declaration?

People authorised to witness statutory declarations include lawyers, police, pharmacists, school principals, ministers of religion, bank managers, doctors, vets and Housing Services Officers.

How long do I have to claim?

Applications for this Gift have now closed.

For further information

For further information or advice on this gift, please contact the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund on 1800 180 213 or via e-mail on vicbushfireappealfund@dhs.vic.gov.au.