Fire-affected communities of Ensay and Sarsfield receive federal government funds as part of backflip decision

The federal government has reversed its decision to deny funds to two East Gippsland communities to upgrade vital local firefighting centres.

Last month, the communities of Ensay, Sarsfield and Wairewa, which were affected by the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires, were told they were not eligible for disaster recovery grants. fire due to a technical detail.

The National Recovery and Resilience Agency said grant proposals from Ensay, Sarsfield and Wairewa were rejected because the community group’s Australian Business Number (ABN) was considered a “state government entity”.

The groups have asked for money to repair dilapidated community-run facilities that are essential emergency evacuation points and have become a hub for residents as they recover from devastating fires.

The communities of Sarsfield and Ensay have asked the Commonwealth Ombudsman to review the assessment process.

Residents of Sarsfield were upset when they discovered that a planned room upgrade had been rejected for funding.(Provided: Simon Hof)

But now, $2.3 million will be given to improve Ensay Recreation Reserve and $3.6 million for Sarsfield Recreation Reserve and Hall.

Budget reprieve for some

Gippsland MP Darren Chester said he received a letter from Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce confirming the funding, and he notified communities of the grants last night.

The more than $6 million will come from a separate community development program that will be funded in next week’s federal budget.

However, the Wairewa community, which has also been pushed back for funding under the Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grant program, was not included in the latest funding announcement.

Smoke billowing from a bush behind a house in Ensay
Many properties around Ensay were burnt down during the Black Summer bushfires.(Provided: Kym Skews)

Stressful Competitive Grants for Traumatized Volunteers

Ensay Activation requested $1.8 million to upgrade its facilities, including handicapped access ramps and lights to help the air ambulance land in an emergency.

Group spokeswoman Kym Skews said the group was “over the moon” with the government’s latest decision and praised Mr Chester’s efforts to secure funding for the remote town of High Country.

She said that when the band initially found that her application had been rejected, it “caused a lot of stress, lack of sleep and worry”.

“It was very depressing.”

She said the competitive grant system, run by government bureaucrats, has taken its toll on volunteer groups like theirs advocating for basic critical infrastructure.

“We don’t have a lot,” she said.

“And we’re going back into the fray again to compete with other small communities for money to improve sanitation and lighting so the air ambulance can land in the dark,” he said. she declared.

Mr Chester said the announcement was “great news for the volunteers in these areas who have worked so hard to develop their projects”.

“I will continue to work with Wairewa and other community groups, and all levels of government, to secure grants for other unfunded projects in our area,” he said.

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