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Bushfire support for farmers and small businesses

20 Nov 2020

Farmers and small businesses in NSW are now eligible for free legal assistance arising from recent bushfires.

The Commonwealth funded Bushfire Legal Aid Scheme launched today and is in addition to legal assistance already available for all individuals after a disaster. 

If you are an eligible small business owner or primary producer, your private solicitor can now apply for funding of $2000 to assist you to resolve your legal matter arising from the bushfires in 2019 and 2020, and up to $5000 for related expenses. Additional funding is available in reasonable circumstances.

If you have more than one bushfire related legal problem your solicitor may receive more than one round of funding for legal services and expenses.

A wide range of legal issues follow bushfires including insurance disputes, commercial leases, contract disputes, banking, planning and employment issues.

 Legal Aid NSW CEO Brendan Thomas said many legal issues typically only become apparent weeks or months after a disaster.

“For more than a decade, our lawyers have given advice and legal assistance to those affected by natural disasters such as bushfires and floods,” Mr Thomas said.

“Until now, farms and small businesses have not been eligible for grants of legal aid. I commend the Commonwealth Government for its decision to support farms and small businesses by providing funding to for this scheme.

Alternatively, assistance is also available from the Financial Rights Legal Service or through the Justice Connect Pro Bono Portal. 

Justice Connect CEO Chris Povey said the organisation had set up an application process on their website and are already connecting small businesses to their network of 10,000 pro bono lawyers for free legal help. 

“We know that the well-being of communities is intrinsically linked with the well-being of the small businesses in those communities,” Mr Povey said. 

“We want to make sure that the legal problems that small businesses and farms are facing now are resolved, and we can support heathy and resilient communities to rebuild.” 

For information on the Bushfire Legal Aid Scheme call the Legal Aid NSW Disaster Response Legal Service on 1800 801 529 or email: disaster.response@legalaid.nsw.gov.au

Media Contact: William Verity (02) 9219 5669 or 0436 610 649

The Local Government Areas (LGAs) covered by the Bushfire Legal Aid Scheme are: Armidale, Ballina, Bega Valley, Bellingen, Blue Mountains, Byron, Central Coast, Cessnock, Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, Eurobodalla, Glenn Innes Severn, Hawkesbury, Inverell, Kempsey, Kyogle, Lismore, Lithgow, Mid-Coast, Mid-Western, Nambucca, Port Macquarie-Hastings, Queanbeyan-Palerang, Richmond Valley, Shoalhaven, Singleton, Snowy Monaro, Snowy Valleys, Tenterfield, Tweed, Walcha, Wingecarribee, Wollondilly.