By TOM GANNON
WITH the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund (GERF) closing their largest ever flood appeal on Friday, the organisation has been nominated for an Awards Australia Community Group Award to recognise the fund’s contributions to the community during the June storm and floods.
GERF announced they would be closing the appeal based on confirmation that most of the property impact assessments had been completed by Municipal Recovery Managers in affected regions.
GERF was instrumental in providing targeted relief to storm and flood victims in Gippsland when severe storm and flood damage caused fallen trees, damaged roads, substantial power outages, landslips and restricted access to towns, leaving residents isolated.
At the closure of the appeal, GERF raised and distributed $627,000 to 268 families across five impacted municipalities, which means it is the organisation’s largest flood-related fundraising event in its history.
GERF president Andy Tegart has thanked those who donated for their efforts.
“This record would not have been possible without the generosity of individuals, families, community groups and corporate donors in Gippsland and other parts of Victoria,” Mr Tegart said.
GERF’s award nomination highlights the time at which this event took place, hitting a region still recovering from the Black Summer bushfires of 2019/2020, during an active pandemic which has caused significant financial strain to members of the community.
The nomination gives this fitting summary of the group: “It’s all about Gippslanders helping Gippslanders. It is only possible because of the generous and kind spirit of so many individuals, community groups and businesses to help others in their time of need.”
Mr Tegart said the organisation was extremely humbled to have received a nomination for the award.
He told The Express that the award should be a point of personal pride for all those that have volunteered or supported the organisation throughout its history and said he hoped the recognition would inspire future volunteers.
“I hope that being nominated for this award, the many people who have put in so much across all those years can recognise that’s credit for their efforts,” he said.
“There’s been an enormous effort, even on this appeal, by the committee to make that happen so I hope they feel some recognition for that and I also hope that it would attract people to continue to support and volunteer for GERF in the future.
“Having some independent recognition for community groups makes a difference.”
Mr Tegart acknowledged the important role GERF played in the community, but said more work would be needed in the future as the effects of climate change become more prevalent.
“It’s been a really important instrument to support Gippsland over all this time and it’s probably going to be more needed if climate change continues and we get more natural disasters more frequently,” he said.
“I hope that it gives some recognition to volunteers and encourages people to make those efforts.”
GERF has been active for more than 43 years, coming to fruition in response to the 1977/78 bushfires in Gippsland focusing on personal losses such as food, clothing, utensils, furniture, bedding, children’s educational needs as opposed to capital items covered by insurance or government grants.
GERF successfully raised their highest sum of donations for victims of the 2019/20 bushfires when more than $9 million was distributed to 2100 East Gippsland residents.