For 97 years we have the supported the community through two world wars, several community health crises and economic downturns. The Foundation launched fundraising appeals and made grants to support the bushfires of 1939, 1983 and 2009. This year we have responded to the Black Summer Bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our Disaster Relief Policy is reviewed every few years and covers the provision of immediate relief following a disaster, support for medium term and longer-term community resilience leading to recovery, and also disaster preparedness.
Our recent disaster preparedness work has focused on preparing vulnerable older people for the impacts of heatwaves through supporting people to build a key volunteer support person who will assist in an emergency. We have worked collaboratively with the Brotherhood of St Laurence on the Climate Safe Homes project where affordable housing is retrofitted to increase insulation, solar renewable energy (to enable air conditioning to run during the day) and other energy efficient and weather proofing steps. Our Hot Spots Initiative is bringing three networks of community and health organisations together to prepare for heatwaves in hotter suburbs, which are also socio economically disadvantaged.
The Foundation made five rapid response grants to the Bushfire crisis: FoodBank (food relief) , Salvation Army (food relief and bedding) and Victoria Council of Social Service (VCOSS) who are using software to track the needs to the East Gippsland community so that local charities could advocate for their vulnerable clients, including people with disabilities, about their actual needs to relief programs.
The Foundation worked with Habitat for Humanity which has experience in building low income housing, to pilot an innovative response to the housing crisis caused by the bushfires in Towong Shire. Habitat for Humanity has developed a model of refitting containers into good quality temporary portable housing, enabling families to stay on their land while their homes are rebuilt. The first of three temporary homes has now been delivered to one of Habitat’s partner families to live in while the rebuild their permanent home. The portable housing can be used to support other families in future disasters. While Habitat for Humanity is involved in disaster response overseas, it had not developed this potential here. The Foundation was able to spark an idea and provide funding to them to pilot a new disaster response solution.
COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up many health, social and economic challenges. It has been an unusual disaster because the community has had to respond to the immediate response, a long term response (especially the second lockdown in Victoria), begin to think about recovery, and still be prepared for the possible need for further disaster relief.
The Foundation acted quickly and provided a grant of $250,000 to the Alfred Hospital within two weeks of receiving the application to enable the Infectious Diseases Department to set up a research project studying the effectiveness of various treatment on vulnerable patients, especially those who were older or with immunocompromised health conditions.
Our early funding enabled the Alfred to establish the study and then attract other funders. To quote the Alfred’s Head of Clinical Research, Dr James McMahon: To let you know we have recruited 330 people to the COVID-19 biobank and have disseminated samples to over 10 laboratories in Australia. As an example, the story that was widely covered yesterday across print and TV media from Monash researchers used blood samples and clinical information from patients we recruited into the biobank which would not have been possible without the funding from LMCF. The study made important observations on the duration of protective immunity.
Building on our knowledge of highly effective charities that were facing massively increasing demand for services relating to homelessness, social services and unemployment, we also made rapid response grants to Justice Connect, Infoxchange and Gather My Crew. All were able to expand their online platforms and create new resources to assist people, many who had never required support previously in their lives. Infoxchange’s just released research shows food as the primary reason people contacted Ask Izzy for community and health services information. The level of demand for advice was very high with 55,415 searches in March and 42,261 searches in August. The Foundation supported Infoxchange to scale up Ask Izzy to meet this demand.
We have continued to fund many other projects, to a total of $2.9 million to date. The Foundation’s knowledge about disaster response and charitable organisations enables us to respond quickly in a time of disaster in a thoughtful and effective manner.
Dr Catherine Brown OAM
Chief Executive Officer