The Emergency Relief Program allows Waltja to support people in times of financial crisis and hardship. Heavy rains, cold weather, family violence, illness and homelessness are some of the reasons that people get stranded, feel unsafe and become vulnerable. Some of these difficulties can be solved immediately with practical help. Some difficulties need help over a longer time.
Last year, Waltja helped many people and families living in remote communities to keep them safe. Waltja receives support for these programs from the Commonwealth Department of Social Services. This funding is supplemented with income Waltja earns through our social enterprise Tjukurpa Tjutangku. Iria Kuen is Waltja’s ERF and Vulnerable Groups worker.
People call or visit Waltja’s office in Alice Springs and let us know what sort of help they need and why. Sometimes they are able to help themselves and only need to use the phone. Waltja always encourages people to help themselves and assists them in finding a way to do so.
If people have to come into town for medical, court or other appointments it often takes longer than expected, for example if a court hearing is adjourned. They then don’t have enough resources for the full length of their stay. Emergency accommodation, food and fuel vouchers are some ways Waltja can help with if people get stranded. Heavy rains and closed roads also mean that people cannot return to community when they want to.
The Emergency Relief Program refers clients to other Emergency Relief Programs in Alice Springs or to other Waltja programs for money management and other assistance. People do need support to manage challenges and get control back so they can make positive changes to their lives.
A young couple with a newborn baby came to Waltja to ask for help in getting IDs and open a bank account. Waltja provided transport to Medicare, Tangentyere Council for ID and Centrelink for a Basics Card. The mother was advised to apply for parenting allowance. Waltja helped them working with the teller to apply for a bank account, because the couple had limited English language skills. The couple was very grateful for the help and asked for more help with reading and completing Centrelink forms until he was confident in filling them out on his own.
A family was unable to return to their community via Bush Bus (a private bus service) because heavy rains had closed the roads. Waltja helped the family with accommodation and food until the bus service re-started.
Rising fuel costs and food costs especially in remote communities has led to the increase in requests for vouchers.
Rising costs of electricity this year have had a big impact on people in remote communities. This is a major issue especially for elderly people who don’t have enough credit on their power cards for air-conditioning or heating. There has been a large increase in power card requests.
A number of clients are dialysis patients and must move to Alice Springs. They lose connection to country and family. Sometimes, their family members rely on their financial support. This leaves the client with nothing left for food and accommodation for themselves, so they seek help from Waltja.