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Support for our members affected by the fires

In the aftermath of the bushfires, many Australians are struggling to cope with the loss of their property – and in some cases, even the loss of their loved ones.

At this time, we want to support our members in every way we can. On this page, we’ve drawn together a range of resources that we hope can be of some help; as people work to rebuild their lives, and their communities.

Need to access your super early?

Under Government regulations, your accessing you super before retirement or reaching age 65 is quite limited. However, if you’re affected by the bushfires, you might be eligible for early release of some funds.

You can rest assured we’ll do everything we can to support you.

Assessing whether you’re eligible

Fortunately, there’s some flexibility in the rules about early access to super. For example, if you can demonstrate severe financial hardship – or if you believe there are compassionate grounds.

To be eligible, you’ll be assessed by the trustee at Colonial First State, as follows:

Assessment for severe financial hardship

Test 1
You can meet the severe financial hardship condition if you:

  • Have received Commonwealth income support payments continuously for at least 26 weeks, and
  • Are unable to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses.

The amount released from your super in any 12-month period must be a lump sum between $1,000 and $10,000. A super withdrawal due to severe financial hardship is paid and taxed as a super lump sum. [Sourced from ATO website]


Test 2
Alternatively, you can meet the severe financial hardship condition if you:

  • Have reached your preservation age plus 39 weeks, and
  • Have received Commonwealth income support payments for 39 weeks, and
  • Are not employed either part-time or full-time, and

Under Test 2, you can access any amount of super, as there are no restrictions.

How to apply

To apply or to discuss your personal circumstances, please give our team a call on 13 13 36.
What are eligible Government payments?

To meet the requirements of Test 1 or Test 2, you’ll need to be on Commonwealth schemes such as the Newstart Allowance, Disability Support Pension or Age Pension. Certain other payment types aren’t eligible – such as the Youth Allowance for full time study, Austudy or Family Tax Benefits.

Assessment on Compassionate grounds

You will need to apply through the ATO and the ATO must also be satisfied that your application meets the criteria. Once confirmed, the ATO will notify Colonial First State and you application for withdrawal will be processed. We can release a single lump sum – limited to what you reasonable need, to cover one of the following expenses:

  • To pay for medical treatment or medical transport for you or a dependant, that is not readily available through the public health system. 
  • To enable you to make a loan payment to prevent foreclosure of your mortgage, not exceeding three months of repayments plus 12 months of interest.
  • To modify your home or vehicle to accommodate the special needs of you or a dependant, because of severe disability.
  • To pay for your palliative care, or expenses associated with your dependant’s death, funeral or burial. 

This will be taxed as a normal super lump sump.

How to apply
To apply or to discuss your personal circumstances, please give our team a call on 13 13 36.

Transition to retirement pension

You may also access your super once your reach your preservation age. No changes to your employment arrangements are required, and you can opt for a transition to retirement income stream, pension or annuity.

Bushfire recovery information, links and resources

Need financial support from Centrelink?

You may qualify for Centrelink’s special provisions to help people affected by bushfires in disaster declared areas, including:

  • Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment - $1,000 per adult and $400 for each child younger than 16. Claims must be made by 5 July 2020.
  • Disaster Recovery Allowance – up to 13 weeks support if you can show how you lost income because of the bushfires. The maximum rate is the equivalent of Newstart or Youth Allowance (e.g. $504.70 per fortnight for each member of a couple). Claims must be made by 1 July 2020.

The Government will be amending legislation so that the Disaster Recovery Allowance is tax exempt. You may also be able to access the Beneficiary Tax Offset.

To find out more, visit Bushfires - support for people directly affected by bushfires in disaster declared areas.


Government tax exemptions and lodgement deferrals

If you or your business receives any bushfire disaster relief payments, these will be tax exempt. This includes payments made to you as an individual, or as a grant to a small business or primary producer.

To achieve this, special legislation will be introduced in the next sitting of Parliament. For more information please see Tax exemption for disaster relief payments

In addition, the ATO will automatically grant deferrals for lodgements and due payments in impacted postcodes. You or your agent don't need to apply for these deferrals. The ATO will also be providing help to taxpayers by:

  • Allowing extra time to pay their debt or lodge tax forms such as activity statements, and fast tracking any refunds owed.
  • Helping taxpayers find their lost tax file number (TFN) by verifying their identity such as their date of birth, address and bank account details.
  • Re-issuing income tax returns, activity statements and notices of assessment, and helping taxpayers re-construct tax records that are lost or damaged.
  • Setting up a payment plan tailored to the taxpayer’s individual circumstances including interest-free period; and remitting penalties or interest charged during the time a taxpayer has been affected.

For more information please see Bushfires 2019-20 (Australian Taxation Office)

Payment scheme to support volunteer firefighters

Volunteer firefighters will receive financial support from the Government for loss of income, where they have been called out for extended periods of service.

Rural Fire Service Volunteers who are self-employed or work for small and medium businesses, will be able to apply if they have been called out for more than 10 days.

The payments will provide for lost income of up to $300 per day up to a total of up to $6,000 per person, which is tax free and will not be means-tested. For more information please see:

National Bushfire Recovery Agency

To ensure affected families, farmers and business owners get the support they need, the Federal Government will establish a new National Bushfire Recovery Agency.

The new agency will coordinate a national response to help rebuild communities and livelihoods. For more information please see National Bushfire Recovery Agency.


Colonial First State Investments Limited ABN 98 002 348 352, AFSL 232468 (Colonial First State) is the issuer of the FirstChoice range of super and pension products from the Colonial First State FirstChoice Superannuation Trust ABN 26 458 298 557. Colonial First State also issues interests in products made available under FirstChoice Investments and FirstChoice Wholesale Investments. This document may include general advice but does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. You should read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Financial Services Guide (FSG) carefully, assess whether the information is appropriate for you, and consider talking to a financial adviser before making an investment decision. The PDS and FSG can be obtained from or by calling us on 13 13 36.

Taxation considerations are general and based on present taxation laws and may be subject to change. You should seek independent, professional tax advice before making any decision based on this information. Colonial First State is also not a registered tax (financial) adviser under the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 and you should seek tax advice from a registered tax agent or a registered tax (financial) adviser if you intend to rely on this information to satisfy the liabilities or obligations or claim entitlements that arise, or could arise, under a taxation law.