Premature government announcements of financial support drove “anxiety” and even mental illness, a charity leader told a bushfire inquiry this week.

St Vincent de Paul’s regional president Kerry Muir said some non-government “agencies” even refused people help because their home was damaged, not destroyed, by bushfire.

The Glen Innes charity directly assisted 83 bushfire victims after last year’s deadly bushfires, which smashed the communities of Torrington and Wytaliba in November.

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He said the confusion led to anxiety, frustration and ultimately mental illness among bushfire survivors.

The charity leader told the inquiry the first priority for response should be to give people money to let people have their “dignity”.

“In that initial stage people need to get their dignity restored to them as quickly as possible,” he said.

“(They need money) to go and buy up those personal things you need without having to rely on what might come in by the material appeals.”

A series of victims told the inquiry in Glen Innes earlier this week that the fire would not have been as severe but for policy decisions by and lack of resources in the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

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Andrew Messenger

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