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The Business Council of Australia and Equity Trustees provide an update.

Having reached the EOFY we thought it was ideal timing to update you on the progress of the two trusts established in January by the Business Council of Australia and Equity Trustees in response to the devastating impacts of the summer bushfires.

Over the past six months, a combined total of almost $10 million was raised for these trusts from corporate, philanthropic and individual donors, to assist in the long and challenging rebuilding process of these impacted areas, as well as to support the families of those volunteers who died in duty while helping others.

The Australian Volunteers Support Trust, which was established to look after the educational needs of the children of volunteers who die in the course of providing volunteer services during a disaster, has now been set-up and is ready to commence funding impacted families in need, by providing support towards their children’s education and wellbeing until they are 18-21 years of age.

Led by the Hon. Jeff Kennett, the Advisory Panel of this trust met recently to agree the eligibility criteria and application process for this trust, which will exist into perpetuity and be available to provide support for volunteers’ families of future disasters. We have connected with all of the current impacted families and the Panel is in the process of appointing an emergency services representative to join the existing Panel members, Dame Quentin Bryce, David Gonski, Jennifer Westacott and Lisa Paul.

The Community Rebuilding Trust was established to underpin a larger community recovery initiative, BizRebuild, to support the rebuilding of communities affected by a disaster, with a focus on economic recovery and supporting the local businesses these communities rely on.

The broader BizRebuild initiative has been operationally funded by the Business Council of Australia and its members and draws on substantial in-kind business support over and above what has been donated to the trust.

Examples of the practical support that the funds from the Community Rebuilding Trust are enabling include:
BackTrack equipment

With about 85,000 km of fencing damaged or destroyed in Northern NSW during the bushfires, there is overwhelming need for help to support landholders in this rebuilding work.
BackTrack is a not-for-profit based in Armidale, NSW, that enables young people who have lost their way to reconnect with education, become work-ready and secure employment.

Through their BackTrack Works social enterprise, they have been assisting in this fencing work, but were unable to keep up with demand. An equipment grant provided from the trust will now enable them to double their work teams, supporting more fire affected landholders and young people in need. Watch this clip about how this initiative worked for the community of Torrington. 

Retooling voucher program

One of the practical initiatives that was rapidly adopted by BizRebuild, and funded by the Community Rebuilding Trust, is the provision of retooling vouchers. Valued at $2000 each, these helped small businesses and tradespeople replace tools and business equipment lost and destroyed by the fires so they could get back to work and continue to support the rebuilding and recovery efforts within their community. You can watch this clip and hear from one of the voucher recipients.

By the end of the financial year, $800,000 has been committed from the Trust to fund these vouchers. 

In addition, $500,000 was committed to provide vouchers of $500 each for fire affected businesses to receive professional services such as marketing and business planning advice, assistance in seeking insurance and government grant funding, accounting services, website and online marketing and sales assistance and legal advice.
In most cases these vouchers were used to purchase these services from other local businesses, doubling the contribution to the local community economic recovery.
Mogo pop-up mall         
Mogo is a small heritage town in the South Coast region of NSW.  With about 25 percent of businesses in Mogo burned, Mogo businesses faced a 12 to 24-month delay to work through insurance payments and rebuilding of their shops.

Through provision of 13 donated demountables, and $350,000 in trust funds to support the transport, installation and set up costs, Mogo was provided with a pop-up mall that was opened, with much local fanfare, by March.
This not only supported impacted businesses to reopen, including the Mogo Aboriginal Land Council, but also provided funds for local tradies and supply businesses, and provided the community with a very visible, early boost to their recovery and a central focus for celebrations.
Equity Trustees is proud to support these trusts, which are so unique in their nature.  They provide an independently managed charitable fund for donations to help our community recover from disasters, backed by a trustee with more than a century of experience making sure money does what donors intend; reaching people in need.

We were proud to provide our services pro bono to establish these trusts with the Business Council of Australia. Our employees have contributed countless hours to ensure the trusts are structured and managed to the highest standards – and have themselves made donations (matched dollar for dollar by Equity Trustees).

Both trusts can receive donations at any time and are designed to exist into perpetuity, so they can fundraise in advance of emergencies ensuring funds are ready to be deployed when disaster strikes.

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