‘Outrageous’: Woman’s fight for $1000
Like most bushfire survivors, Rae Harvey doesn't have time for red tape. But considering her home burned down and she lost everything, she has no choice but to wait for however long it takes to get the help she so desperately needs.
While she waits for government help, she must survive on a property with no electricity, running water or Wi-Fi.
"It's outrageous," she told news.com.au.
Ms Harvey has tried, and failed, twice to get the $1000 one-off emergency payout the Federal Government has allowed for bushfire victims.
She's eligible, but that's not the issue.
"They want me to provide bank account details from when I last received a government assistance payment over 25 years ago," she said.
Ms Harvey also doesn't have a computer, as it was burned in the fire, making things more difficult. She was eventually told she must go to a Centrelink centre in person rather than talk to someone over the phone.
"Seriously, who has the time? We have nothing, and if I find a spare hour to get off the property and away from dealing with our injured wildlife, a shower is my first priority," she said.
Ms Harvey's property in the Mogo State Forest burned down on New Year's Eve. She's only had three showers since then.
Her next attempt to get the emergency payment reaped the same results - this time she showed up in person but the computers were down, so she was sent home.
"It's a hell of a lot of work just to get $1000" she said. "Hopefully, it'll be third time lucky."
Ms Harvey said she was exhausted but the wild animals who need her help were keeping her going. She runs a kangaroo sanctuary, Wild2Free.
"I'm exhausted. Can't even open emails, it's too overwhelming," she said.
"I have survivors here and it's keeping me going, along with an amazing support network of wildlife people supporting me. As for the government? Nothing."
But she is trying to look on the bright side. "I have a driver's licence - at least I'm one step ahead of everyone else. And I've got a roof over my head."
She's staying in her investment property, which was also damaged by fire. Unlike her home, it wasn't totally destroyed.
Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen told news.com.au: "We apologise if Ms Harvey has had difficulties accessing support.
"The majority of claims for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment, $1000 per adult, $400 per child, are finalised and paid over the phone when the customer first contacts.
"We have already processed more than 48,000 claims paying out more than $57 million."
Ms Harvey isn't the only one feeling frustrated at the Government's complicated regulations in helping bushfire victims.
Batemans Bay resident Coral Anderson was helping a disabled pensioner get some supplies at Hanging Rock Evacuation Centre when she came across red tape.
Endless forms and requirements meant she couldn't even get Panadol for the elderly man.
"All this gentleman wanted was a couple of Panadol and some fresh food to eat," she told news.com.au.
"Volunteers (at the evacuation centre) prepared a takeaway meal for his lunch. We were then directed to the 'registration' table.
"While my friend was going through the process of 'registering' I approached the ambulance workers (about five of them milling around) and asked could I please get two Panadol for my friend who was in pain."
They told her that he had to go back down the stairs to be assessed by a doctor.
"I protested, 'But you have heaps of Panadol right here, he is weak and in pain'.
"The response from the government employee was that he should be assessed by a doctor."
The elderly man grew increasingly confused. He said he didn't want to see a doctor, he simply wanted Panadol.
Ms Anderson stepped in. "I then reached into my own bag where I had a couple of Panadol and fetched some water for him," she said.
"All this while answering 20 questions to the government employee. A nurse appears and bombards him with a further 20 questions.
"The government employee says, 'You can come back at 5.30pm and we can give you some dinner'.
"This was to a disabled pensioner with no credit, no mobile phone, little fresh food, no transport. How was he supposed to get back to the evac centre at Hanging Rock?"
HUMAN SURVIVAL KIT
While bushfire victims wait desperately for government help, there are still a few things everyday Australians can do to help, Ms Harvey said.
Ms Harvey has been digging holes in her backyard to go to the bathroom and she's sleeping on a mattress with no sheets. All her linen burned in the fire.
"It's apocalyptic - I can't describe it any other way," she said.
A few items have really helped her out, which she said were crucial to the "human survival kit".
"The most important thing I needed was a generator that already had petrol and oil," she said.
"Solar lighting, lamps or torches with batteries was also really helpful. Lighting was a real problem at the start.
"And clean socks - people gave me clothes but I had no socks.
"Paper plates and knives because I can't wash my dishes. There's no running water.
"A camping gas cooktop.
"I can't use a toaster. The wattage on a toaster is too high for the generator. So I use a fry pan and butter to toast my bread.
"Buckets, buckets, buckets, for water.
"And if you're going to give someone tinned goods then also make sure you give them a tin opener."
And for hygiene, Ms Harvey had other suggestions for what bushfire survivors would need.
"Wet ones, hand sanitiser, toilet paper, fire protective gloves - you're going to be putting out fire for a while," she said.
"People gave me shampoo and conditioner, but it wasn't like I had a shower or anything.
"A nail brush to get out the dirt under my nails.
"Oh, and a shovel," she added with a laugh.
To donate towards Ms Harvey and her kangaroo sanctuary, go here.