Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Extra help for drought affected communities and individuals

The Federal Government is today announcing specific measures to help people and communities affected by the drought.

These measures are designed to assist individuals through the personal impact of the drought, as well as the rural communities that rely on the agricultural sector.

Farm hands, small business owners, contractors and workers in support industries like abattoirs and canneries, all feel the flow effects of the drought too.

A special hotline has also been established from today for those affected by the drought.

Customers seeking information or assistance can phone 13 23 16 between 8am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

People who lose work or income as a consequence of the drought, will now have simpler access to income support, such as Newstart and Youth Allowance, through Centrelink.

From today, flexibility will also be applied to activity test requirements for Newstart Allowance for people in this situation.

This means for example, a farm hand who is stood down because of the drought, will find it simpler to qualify for Newstart and Youth Allowance. Employees in support industries who lose their jobs or have their hours reduced will receive the same flexibility, as will small business owners who are forced to scale down their business because of the drought.

These arrangements mean individuals will be able to remain in their communities, maintaining the skills-base of rural areas.

I urge anyone in this situation to phone the hotline. Centrelink staff are ready to offer all available assistance. It is important that anyone considering applying for assistance registers with Centrelink as soon as possible. By doing so, payments can, subject to eligibility criteria, apply from the date of registration.

Centrelink also has a range of social support services available, such as social workers and financial counsellors who can provide information and assistance to help individuals and families deal with the impact of drought.