It's time to legally prepare for bushfire season

It's time to legally prepare for bushfire season

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

With bushfire season here, Disaster Legal Help Victoria is urging Victorians to include legal preparation as part of their bushfire planning.

Disaster Legal Help Victoria is a legal sector collaboration that responds to disasters by providing free legal information, advice and referrals to affected Victorians.

It was originally formed 10 years ago to provide free legal assistance to those affected by the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

Program Manager of Economic and Social Rights at Victoria Legal Aid, Joel Townsend, said the main legal problems people face after a disaster such as a bushfire include insurance, tenancy, credit and debt, government grants, property damage and accommodation.

‘It’s not something anyone wants to think about, but if you lose your home and belongings, you’ll need to be prepared to handle some legal issues,’ Joel said. 

‘Preparing and planning before a disaster happens are really important to help you work through the aftermath as smoothly and as quickly as possible.’

Things you should do to legally prepare:

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

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

‘Lawyers are available from 8am until 6pm Monday to Friday on 1800 113 432 and can help with understanding your legal options after a disaster and next steps with issues such as insurance or tenancy,’ Joel said.

‘They can also refer you to specialist support services if they’re not able to help in your situation.’

After a disaster, Disaster Legal Help representatives from community legal centres or Victoria Legal Aid attend recovery centres or community meetings to help people with legal questions. In the event of large-scale disasters, lawyers from across the legal profession are called on to provide legal assistance to the affected community.

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

Disaster Legal Help is a collaboration between Victoria Legal Aid, the Federation of Community Legal Centres, the Law Institute of Victoria, Justice Connect and the Victorian Bar.

More information

Visit the Disaster Legal Help Victoria website.

Media enquiries

For media enquiries, contact Amanda Bennett, Communications Advisor on (03) 9280 3949.

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