For many, the start to 2020 was dominated by bushfires. Some lost homes, while in Clifton Creek, the community lost its treasured primary school. Many spent the summer defending property or evacuating, or working tirelessly with emergency services and other volunteer organisations. Others had to cut short their planned holidays or struggle with the dense smoke haze that enveloped much of Victoria for days on end.
It certainly was not a normal summer break.
The AEU contacted members in affected areas in early January through email or social media, to check on their welfare, ensure they were supported and aware of the AEU bushfire relief fund. This fund is available for members who have lost their home or suffered significant damage. It provides immediate financial assistance of up to $5,000. The AEU can also organise interest-free loans to assist while insurance claims are finalised.
The AEU will also provide the subbranch of schools or workplaces that have burnt down with $5,000 to be used at their discretion to support the school or community and $1,000 for preschools where there is a member. Members can also claim up to $500 to cover the loss of possessions in schools or workplaces that have burnt down.
I recently travelled to Gippsland and heard from many members about their experiences. Many educators missed the opportunity January normally brings for planning and preparing classrooms for the year ahead, while graduate educators are beginning their careers with children who are unsettled.
As always, despite these struggles, members were ready to welcome their students back for the new year.
And remember, we are here to help.