By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Catholic Emergency Relief Australia (CERA) has opened an initial grant application process to support people “continuing the long process of recovery from the summer’s catastrophic bushfire season.” The organization made the announcement in a press release on Monday.
CERA chairperson - Susan Pascoe said while the country is “largely – and understandably – focused on the Covid-19 pandemic,” challenges like social isolation and financial hardship are exacerbating some problems the bushfires caused.
“Some of the people who were deployed to offer material, physical, emotional and pastoral support to affected communities, including people from Church agencies, had to put their efforts on hold as the pandemic took hold,” Ms. Pascoe said.
CERA, launched in February, brings together several key national organizations and Catholic ministries that serve the Australian community. It was founded by the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Catholic Religious Australia, Catholic Social Service Australia and the National Catholic Education Commission.
“Catholic Emergency Relief Australia’s focus is on the journey to recovery, which can take months or years,” remarked Ms. Pascoe.
She pointed out that the initial distribution of funds will be directed towards “the provision of additional grief and trauma counselling” for those affected by the bushfires, as well as “other mental and emotional support.” It will also be used to support “community building initiatives.”
CERA is also supporting the Church’s coronavirus response by playing a coordinating role in an audit of Catholic facilities that could be used to help during the pandemic or in future emergency situations.
“This is not about trying to weigh up if the bushfires or the pandemic are the greater challenge, but about recognizing that there are people who are struggling in various ways following the bushfires and their recovery has, in some ways, been stalled,” Ms. Pascoe said.
Gratitude for donations
CERA has been receiving donations to fund medium- and long-term responses to the bushfires. It announced that once $100,000 had been donated, a first application grant round would open.
“We are grateful for the support of people across Australia and beyond who have donated to CERA, trusting that the work of our Catholic agencies will make a difference in people’s lives,” said Ursula Stephens, the CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia. “We will repay that generosity with support and services that make a difference.”
The deadline for applications is 5 June. All donations received before that date are eligible to be included in this first round of allocations. Successful applications will be announced on 15 June.
Further information can be found on CERA’s website.