Extra $39m to help disaster victims

A $39 million disaster relief package will fund services for the emotional and psychological well-being of Queenslanders affected by cyclone Yasi and the recent floods.

“We want them to know they’re not alone,” Premier Anna Bligh said in Parliament today.

Ms Bligh announced another $10 million for mental health services, $20 million for community recovery, $5.8 million for financial counselling services and a $2 million disability care plan.

The use of the $20 million over two years will assist in community engagement including support for community groups and events, particularly ceremonies and memorials to “offer closure”.

Ms Bligh said the coming Easter break would be difficult for those living in temporary accommodation and who are financially distressed.

She urged people who are doing it tough to take heed of the funding available for them.

“It is important that people make themselves familiar with these grants, because they will make a difference in local communities.”

She said the package would include $20 million to support community planning and engagement activities in the worst affected communities.

“Part of the healing process for some of those very traumatised communities will be ceremonies and memorials that mark the event and allow people some closure and an opportunity to move on in their lives,” Ms Bligh said.

Over the next two years $5.8 million will be used to provide financial counselling to, “ensure that financial pressure does not become financial crisis.”

In addition, $2 million will be distributed to non-government organisations to provide crisis accommodation and respite care for people with a disability.

“We need to always remember that bricks and mortar are only part of the equation. Right at the heart of our recovery and rebuilding effort is people. It is people who will put us back on our feet and we need to support them in that process,” she said.

Minister for Community Services Karen Struthers emphasised the concern for the mental well-being of disaster affected Queenslanders, particularly on top of regular financial stress such as household bills.

“We’re here to help, and we’re here for the long haul”, Ms Struthers said.

In the quest to “Make Queensland stronger”, mental well-being must be accounted for, she said.

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