Regional Development VictoriaRegional Development Victoria

State Government of Victoria

Fire Recovery Unit Update - Edition 3


September 2011 Edition 3



New building regulations to improve bushfire safety

The Victorian Government has introduced the Building Amendment (Bushfire Construction) Regulations 2011 to improve bushfire protection for new homes built in bushfire prone areas.

Following the February 2009 bushfires, the whole of Victoria was declared as bushfire prone – a short-term measure to allow sufficient time to properly consider the recommendations of the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission (VBRC).

The new Regulations give effect to a new bushfire prone area map of Victoria for the purposes of the building control system. This new standardised approach to mapping bushfire risk will provide greater certainty and protection for Victoria’s bushfire-prone communities.

From 8 September 2011, specific bushfire construction conditions apply that will require all new homes and major extensions in bushfire prone areas to be built to a minimum bushfire attack level (BAL) of 12.5 as recommended by the VBRC. Higher construction levels may be required as determined by the site BAL assessment.

The new Regulations retain the integration of the planning and building system introduced in March 2010 by continuing the requirement for building surveyors to accept a (BAL) assessment obtained in the planning system.

The Building Amendment (Bushfire Construction) Regulations 2011 form part of new Planning and Building System Improvements being delivered in response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations 37 and 49.3.

The new bushfire prone area map can be viewed online at

An interactive map service will soon be available at

Information about the new Regulations can be obtained from the Building Commission website or by phoning Information Victoria on 1300 366 356 between 8.30am to 5.00pm on Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays.

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Community Advisory Committee Update

Public consultation on the $16 million Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund (VBAF) allocation for the medium and long-term recovery of fire-affected communities has now been completed. Hundreds of residents attended the many public forums held by the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) around the state over the past two months, while others who could not attend the forums submitted their ideas online.

The CAC is now considering the many suggestions proposed, and will make recommendations to VBAF’s independent advisory panel who will make final determinations about which projects should receive funding in fire-affected communities.

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Housing Assistance Gift

Applications for the VBAF Further Housing Assistance Gift are now open. Under this new gift allocation, eligible households can receive up to $20,000 to help them finalise the rebuilding of their homes, obtain a certificate of occupancy, and move in.

The money can be used to purchase materials, connect essential services, or pay remaining building bills. The Gift is open to those who lost their principal place of residence in the 2009 Victorian bushfires; are still in need of permanent accommodation; and are currently experiencing financial hardship.

A second stage of assistance – for people with more complex housing circumstances – is currently being finalised by VBAF and will be announced soon.

Applications for the Further Housing Gift are available online through the VBAF website at or can be obtained by phoning the VBAF Hotline on 1800 180 213.

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Bereaved Community Advisory Group

The Bereaved Community Advisory Group was established to advocate for the needs of those bereaved as a result of the Victorian bushfires.

They provide input to Government and other organisations providing bushfire related services on existing and potential issues that may impact or enhance all aspects of the recovery process.

The group has also helped plan and participate in statewide bushfire anniversary commemoration events, Community Recovery Forums and social gatherings. To contribute, raise concerns or become a member, please contact Karen Howell on 03 9459 5165 or email

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New Emergency Services Commissioner for Victoria

Mr Michael Hallowes has been appointed as Victoria’s Emergency Services Commissioner. Mr Hallowes has vast experience in emergency management through 30 years of policing in the United Kingdom and was responsible for helping set national standards for emergency management, harm reduction and community safety. Mr Hallowes began his new role as Emergency Services Commissioner on 1 September 2011.

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Farewell to John Joyce

John Joyce, Regional Development Victoria’s (RDV) Head of the Fire Recovery Unit has announced his retirement. John, who retired on 9 September for family reasons, will be greatly missed for his dedication, achievements and extensive support to his community, local businesses and work colleagues. He will be replaced in the interim by RDV’s Business Manager Daniel Rodger until the completion of the recruitment process.

During the 2009 bushfires, John was Regional Manager for the Hume region and provided coordination and direct support to the regional and statewide response. He worked tirelessly to respond to community and business needs across the region. John was instrumental in managing the transition of the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority (VBRRA) to the new Fire Recovery Unit (FRU) in July this year.

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Victorian Bushfire Case Management Service Evaluation

The Victorian Bushfire Case Management Service (VBCMS) was established in February 2009 as a joint initiative of the Australian and Victorian Governments. Working in partnership with local government authorities and health and community service organisations, the case management service provided support to over 5,500 fire-affected individuals and families.

The Department of Human Services commissioned an independent evaluation of the VBCMS in late 2009 which elicited the views of bushfire-affected people and those who helped deliver the case management service. Overall, the evaluation identified that the VBCMS was valued by the majority of people who used the service. Most people would recommend a case management service to others in an emergency.

The VBCMS evaluation is available for download from the Department of Human Services’ website at

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The Bushfire Communities Support Program

The Bushfire Communities Support Program continues to provide assistance to people affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires. The program provides a range of flexible services people can tap into when they need a hand with their personal recovery. The program includes a statewide help line, as well as support workers and drop-in centres in bushfire-affected communities. For more information, contact the Bushfire Communities Support Helpline on 1800 050 400 or visit the Department of Human Services website at

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More time to apply for Victorian Fire Ready Communities Grants

Victoria’s bushfire-prone communities now have until 23 September to apply for grants that will boost preparedness against fires.

The Government is providing $5 million over the next four years for the Fire Ready Communities program to support local councils and groups to fund practical and commonsense projects to increase bushfire safety in the state’s most at-risk communities. Grants of up to $30,000 are available under the program for community safety projects and up to $100,000 for community network projects. Funding could be used, for example, for the establishment of reliable alternative communication options such as a UHF network which does not depend on power supply, landline telephone services or mobile phone coverage.

Local communities are encouraged to find innovative local solutions to make their communities safer, more informed and better prepared.

The first round of projects to be funded under the Fire Ready Communities program will be announced during Fire Action Week from 13 – 20 November.

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Responses in the Third Year after a Disaster

In his essay Responses in the Third Year after a Disaster, clinical psychologist Dr Rob Gordon says it is important to remember that even when there is no longer evidence of the fires and losses, those impacted are still dealing with the personal, socai and financial consequences.

He warns it is hard for friends, family and other community members to understand that certain emotions are being experienced into the third year after the disaster, and there are still moments when those affected feel misunderstood by those from who they seek support.

Dr Gordon says there is an expectation that affected members of the community will move on emotionally after a period of time or when they are in new, permanent accommodation and this isn't the case.

He also says it has been estimated that it takes communities up to seven years to fully recover from financial consequences of disasters and during this time life will often be harder and more stressful.

Dr Gordon says it is important to look after yourself and your family at this time and offers the following tips:

  • Respect your own and each others' needs even if you don't understand them.
  • Accept emotional and personal recovery can only happen after physical recovery.
  • Assume any unusual change in yourself or loved ones is related to the fire and work out what that connection is.
  • Keep getting plenty of rest and listen to your body, mind and emotions.

A full extract of Dr Gordon’s essay and information about support groups and counselling can be found at

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‘Larking About’ singing workshops

Fiona McGillivray is a classically trained singer with a passion for sharing her love of community singing with people through her occupation as a Community Singing Organiser. Fiona is offering to conduct discounted one day, ‘a capella’ (singing without accompaniment) events for interested groups and organisations impacted by the 2009 bushfires. No formal musical training or ability to read music is required of participants, just a love of singing.

Fiona has a background in Arts and Science and formally trained as an opera singer at the Melba Conservatorium of Music. She has also trained privately as a singing group leader through Community Music Victoria. Her events are usually a lot of fun, involve shared lunches and create new friendships, bring neighbours together and can also assist community organisations with fundraising.

The discounted fee for each event is $15.00 per participant. Events can be tailored to suit the needs of your community. For further details or to register your interest, phone Ian Colquhoun on 0412 000 508.

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Kids’ books by Kate Wilson

Kate Wilson, with the support of SHARE Community Appeal (part of the Uniting Church Bushfire Disaster Fund), has recently published two children’s books about Black Saturday. Viewed through the eyes of Kate’s son, Black Saturday was my dad’s birthday is about the rapid approach of bushfire and the family’s hasty escape from Chum Creek. Can we go home now? is a touching account of the family’s physical and psychological frustrations over a 12 month period while they wait for their home to be rebuilt. Kate now spends time travelling to schools to deliver bushfire awareness messages and is also developing workshops around the theme. The books are well illustrated by local artist Christine Cafarella Pearce and can be ordered online from or from the local Healesville Living and Learning Centre.

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2011 Fire Awareness Awards now open

Nominations are now open for the 2011 Fire Awareness Awards. The awards provide an important opportunity to recognise and thank people who are making a difference to fire awareness in Victoria.

Co-ordinated jointly by the Department of Sustainability and Environment, Metropolitan Fire Brigade and the Country Fire Authority, the awards are open to anyone who has been involved in a project that helps to make Victorians safer from any kind of fire, whether bushfire or building fire. Nominations can be made for individuals, groups and organisations and entries close Friday 30 September.

For further information please visit or phone 03 9412 4465.

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Governor-General’s Bravery Council Honours List

On 22 August, the Governor-General, Ms Quentin Bryce AC, announced the recipients of the Bravery Council Meeting 75 Honours List. There were 30 names directly connected to the 2009 Victorian Bushfires. The list of recipients can be found at

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GippsTAFE Bushfire Skills Broker Program

The Skills Broker Program provides support, assistance and advice to Gippsland residents affected by the 2009 bushfires by providing residents with access to a free advisory service and funding support in an effort to improve the employment and study opportunities within affected communities. Assistance is also provided to facilitate training and up-skilling within communities and organisations to address existing needs which includes the Business Planning for Artists workshops to be held at the Switchroom, arc Yinnar, Main Street, Yinnar. The dates are:

  • 20 September 10.00am – 4.00pm. Market Research, Funding and Exhibitions
  • 27 September 11.30am – 4.00pm. Marketing your Art on the Web
  • 4 October 10.00am – 4.00pm. Development of your Artist’s business plan

For further information about this and other programs, please contact Ami Summers on 03 5120 4576, 0488 233226 or visit

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Emergency Management Green Paper

The Victorian Government is interested in your views on how Victoria can better prevent, mitigate, respond to and recover from emergencies. You can share your opinion on the questions and options contained in the discussion paper Towards a More Disaster Resilient and Safer Victoria.

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Women’s beach retreat

A women’s retreat for women who have been affected by the Victorian bushfires has been organised for 14-16 October in Lorne. The weekend is run by local women and is planned to be a fun weekend for all filled with laughter, music, inspiration and lots more. For more information contact: or phone: 0417 521 172.

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Diary notes

  • 9 October. Coach trip from Whittlesea to Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne, phone 03 9716 0045 or email
  • 22 October. Opening of Jeeralang North Community Hall
  • 12 November. Opening of Strath Creek Community Hall
  • 13 – 20 November. Fire Action Week
  • 19 November. Opening of Marysville Community Centre
  • 26 November . Opening of Narbethong Community Hall

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Last Updated: 08 May 2014