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Help for bushfire-affected communities in northern NSW

2 Oct 2019

Legal Aid NSW lawyers have been on the road, offering advice and information to bushfire-affected communities in northern NSW.

Lismore-based civil lawyer April Blair last month visited the towns of Tenterfield and Drake, where homes and livestock have been lost and properties isolated after a fire began burning on September 5 and scorched almost 65,000 hectares of land before it was contained.
 
“It is so difficult to describe just how dry it is up there, and dusty – there was still so much smoke in the air,” Ms Blair said.
 
She attended packed community meetings alongside representatives of other agencies and organisations providing disaster assistance, including Local Land Services, the Office of Emergency Management and the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program, and provided referrals and information about accessing legal assistance.
 
Coffs Harbour-based lawyer Karen Fox travelled to Dorrigo and Dundurrabin, two townships under threat from the Bees Nest bushfire, a 100,000-hectare blaze that continues to burn.
 
Legal Aid NSW has a dedicated disaster response service and provides free, independent information and advice to help communities recover after natural disasters.
 
“Typically, we provide advice about insurance claims, Centrelink benefits, NSW government grants, financial hardship, tenancy law and workers’ rights and entitlements,” Ms Blair said.
 
“We are providing advice to some locals already, especially those affected by the Drake bushfire.”
 
“Legal issues that might arise following a bushfire, for example insurance-related disputes, won’t always be obvious in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. That’s why we will continue to provide advice to these communities in the months to come.”
 
Anyone who has been affected by the bushfires and needs advice about their rights in relation to insurance, time off work, or temporary accommodation can call the LawAccess NSW Disaster Response Hotline on 1800 801 529.