Emergency relief helps people deal with their immediate financial crisis situation in a way that maintains the dignity of the individual and encourages self-reliance.

There are over 700 community and charitable organisations around Australia providing Emergency Relief services.

Emergency relief assistance is generally in the form of:

  • purchase vouchers of a fixed value (for example, food, transport or chemist vouchers)
  • part-payment of an outstanding account (for example rent/accommodation, utility account/s)
  • material assistance such as household goods, food parcels or clothing
  • budgeting assistance
  • information, advocacy and referrals.

Emergency relief activities are also an important gateway to other support services such as:

  • financial counselling, microfinance and matched savings initiatives
  • financial literacy programs
  • drug and alcohol support
  • crisis accommodation
  • mental health services
  • family support services.

In this section you will find current news, resources and other information relevant to those working in emergency situations.

Emergency Relief provides immediate financial and/or material support to people in financial crisis. Emergency Relief services are delivered by community organisations and help people address immediate basic needs in times of financial crisis. Emergency Relief can act as a safety net for people experiencing financial distress or hardship, and who have limited means or resources to help them alleviate their financial crisis. Access to Emergency Relief is free, however, individual service providers may have certain criteria that need to be met in order to access their particular ER service. Your local Emergency Relief provider can be found on the DSS Service Directory.

Disaster relief and other payments

The Australian Government is responsible for administering a range of emergency relief payments and services, from disaster relief to domestic and family violence or crisis support. 

Emergency relief handbook

ACOSS have produced an Emergency Relief Handbook which they regularly update. The most recent edition was published in 2011. The handbook covers topics such as how to administer emergency relief, the role of an emergency relief organisation, workers' responsibilities, clients rights, training and financial management.

Social security

Pensions and allowances are available to permenant residents meeting specific criteria in emergency situations. These are administered by the Department of Human Services through Centrelink Offices.

Immediate hardship assistance

The state and federal government as well as many charities provide emergency relief for people experiencing severe hardship.  This assistance is brokered through local community services. 

Essential household contents grant

Financial assistance is available through the essential household contents grant to help people in activated disaster areas who are uninsured or unable to claim insurance to replace essential household contents.

Structural assistance grant

Those who are uninsured or unable to claim insurance may be eligible for a one-off payment as a contribution towards repairs to their home to make it secure and safe.

Electricity, gas and water bill information

Queensland Council of Social Service has compiled a set of resources to provide information on the cost of living issues associated with essential services, and to assist people experiencing difficulty with an electricity, gas or water bill.

There are also links to information on other essential service costs, such as transport and telecommunications.

People who are uninsured or unable to claim insurance may be eligible for an essential services safety and reconnection grant to hep reconnect essential services that were damaged by a disaster.

Emergency volunteering

Volunteering Queensland have launched the Emergency Volunteering website and app, where you can register to help your local community in times of disaster, as well as checking how prepared you are in your home or business.

Natural disasters and mental health

The aftermath of the trauma associated with natural disasters can be ongoing emotional and mental health issues. Healthdirect provides some resources on how to develop resilience and coping with the stress of natural disasters.

No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS) and microfinance

The No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS®) provides interest-free loans for individuals or families on low income. It is a community-based program that enables people to access fair, safe and equitable credit for the purchase of goods and services. The service is administered nationally by Good Shepherd Youth and Family Service with the support of the National Australia Bank. 

Find out more about NILS and other micro-finance programs.


If you are looking for emergency relief due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic go to the emergency relief pages here.

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