Media Release

Employment Program Expands to Assist Bushfire Impacted Communities

An employment program established to provide supplementary income for drought affected farmers has been expanded to support community members impacted by bushfire in Gippsland.

The Gippsland Drought Employment Program, a Victorian Government initiative auspiced by the East, West and North East Catchment Management Authorities (CMA), will expand to provide temporary employment opportunities for individuals in communities including Mallacoota, Buchan, Bruthen and Cann River. The program provides temporary, flexible employment in the local area with works focused on rehabilitation such as fencing, revegetation, and weed management.

Workways Australia, through its environmental division Envite, was reappointed in January as the successful tenderer to manage the project expansion. Workways currently oversees projects in Omeo, Bairnsdale and Sale with around forty participants active in the program. This new expansion will increase capacity beyond eighty participants based on demand.

East Gippsland CMA CEO Graeme Dear emphasised the value of the program to communities in need. “There are many individuals whose jobs and sources of income have been directly impacted by bushfire or drought and it could be years before they can be back to full capacity.

“Whilst we’re not aiming to replace their primary jobs, we want to help lessen the impacts and improve cashflow while the community works to rebuild and restore.” Added Graeme.

The program remains open to individuals impacted by drought in East Gippsland and Wellington Shires. Participants receive training and supervision to carry out their role, and can choose their workdays based on their current commitments. Training includes First Aid, White Card certification and Agricultural Chemical Users Permit (ACUP).

Kieren Kearney, CEO at Workways Australia said there are other benefits of the program beyond financial relief. “While our primary role here is to provide employment and supplementary income, we have been heartened to hear our current participants have gained personally from their experience on the program.

“The opportunity to be actively employed in community recovery efforts and to socialise with teammates that understand the trauma of bushfire and drought, has had a big impact on the mental health of our participants.“ said Kieren.

“Businesses in these communities need local patronage to survive, and we hope that this will help put more money back into local pockets and boost spending and confidence where it’s needed most.” Said Graeme.