But while almost $500 million has been donated for bushfire relief, the Girvans are still in limbo, filling out applications for further help but overwhelmed amid the detritus of the life they had built.
After receiving the initial relief from the state government, Ms Girvan two weeks ago applied for a Red Cross cash grant of up to $10,000. Last week she requested emergency cash relief up to $4500 from the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund, a local charity that has raised $3.88 million.
She’s grateful for the help but is yet to hear back from either, with no clear time frame originally given on when she would.
The Red Cross has received more than $95 million, including $30 million allocated to helping people with immediate needs such as a lost home, and is fighting to get the money to those in crisis.
About 559 cash grants have been approved but a further 1500 remain on the waiting list, with that number rising daily as the organisation processes applications “as fast as we can”.
While the Girvans have been able to live comfortably in the meantime, in part due to the generosity of fellow “Mallacootians”, it’s added to the uncertainty that has overtaken their lives.
Supply convoys from Eden, NSW, started last week, but public access in and out of Mallacoota remains restricted.
“I’ve got basics, I’ve got food, I’ve got somewhere to live,” Ms Girvan, a local ambulance worker, said.
“The money will come in handy when we get out of here to go and buy clothes and things like that, or later when we’re building … but for other people, I’m sure they need it more urgently.”
Even now, Ms Girvan doesn’t feel “in the head space to be searching out for assistance and help”.
“Friends kept bombarding us with links – look at this that’s available, look at that. Whilst they were very well meaning, it was a little bit overwhelming,” she said.
“But if it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would have known about [the relief grants].”
It would have been a lot less stressful, Ms Girvan said, if someone had called explaining what she was eligible for, but she knows “ours is just one of many claims”.
Late on Tuesday evening, after The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald published a story on the Girvans’ situation, a Red Cross spokeswoman said the couple’s $10,000 payment would be processed on Wednesday. She said it had taken some time to confirm the Girvans’ details partly due to hand-written bank statements.
John Mitchell, president of the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund, said grants for those with destroyed homes are transferred within a day of the council approving them, but that approval can take multiple days.
About 940 requests totalling $2.06 million have been approved, but Mr Mitchell said the charity’s estimate of 1300 total destroyed homes in East Gippsland already appears conservative.
An insurance assessor was able to access Mallacoota for the first time over the weekend and it’s unclear when the Girvans will receive their insurance payment.
When they do, Ms Girvan is expecting a raft of new building regulations such as triple-glazed windows, but she’s not sure yet.
“There was a gentleman at a community meeting last week, he was caught up in the Black Saturday fires,” Ms Girvan said.
“He lost his home and he said it took three years for him. I’m going ‘oh my goodness, three years, you’re kidding’. But who knows, that’s just an unknown too. The whole idea of time is a bit weird at the moment.”
Michael is a reporter for The Age.