Department program

Bushfires 2020

This page includes updates on the 2020 bushfires.

As the impact on services is known, we will update this page. Check emergency closures to see if your local early childhood service, school or TAFE is closed. The page also lists school bus route cancellations and changes.

If you're a school principal or teacher, see our dedicated bushfire information for schools.

If you're a parent or carer, see our dedicated bushfire information for parents.

Department hotline

For information on affected schools, call the Department hotline:

Emergency information

For the most up to date emergency information, visit Emergency Vic.

Emergency Vic has information on:

You can also find information on:

Air quality and water supply advice

As a result of the ongoing bushfires, there are community health concerns that schools and early childhood centres need to be aware of.

The Department is working with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), which provides advice about the community health concerns in affected communities, including poor air quality, and possible contamination of private water supply. 

Health considerations about air quality

Most healthy people can tolerate brief smoke exposure, but bushfire smoke can affect anyone, particularly:

  • people over 65
  • children 14 years and younger
  • pregnant women
  • people with existing heart or lung conditions, including asthma.

Common symptoms due to smoke exposure include itchy eyes, sore throat, runny nose and coughing.

Schools and services should ensure all students and staff who have respiratory issues, including asthma, have an up-to-date health plan completed by their medical practitioner.

Employees who have respiratory issues including asthma, or health issues such as cardiovascular disease, should initiate their personal treatment plans.

If you have health concerns for staff or students:

  • seek medical advice or call NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 606 024 for assistance
  • call an ambulance for anyone who is experiencing chest tightness or breathing difficulties.

What schools and early childhood services can do to help

If air quality is affected, schools and services can take actions to limit the impact of smoke, including keeping windows and doors closed, switching air conditioners to ‘recirculate’, and establishing a clean room sealed from smoke.

Further advice on how to modify activities and limit the impact of smoke is outlined in the Air quality and activity guide for schools and early childhood centres (pdf - 129 (pdf - 129.42kb)

Schools do not generally close due to poor air quality. However, under emergency circumstances, schools may contact their Regional Director to consider appropriate actions.

The decision to close any school will be made on a case-by-case basis. Considerations will include forecast of length of smoke impact, any surrounding fire risk and road closures.

To keep up to date, subscribe to VicEmergency for fire activity information, and the EPA AirWatch site, for air quality information.

Water supplies in schools

If your school is in a bushfire-affected area and is without drinking and domestic water supply due to tank contamination, contact the Department's Security and Emergency Management Division. The division will support with coordinating emergency water relief. Email:

Schools in non-affected bushfire areas who rely on rainwater tanks are advised that smoke taint alone is unlikely to be a health concern. However, if you are concerned, contact Make Safe, phone: 1300 133 486.

For more information about water quality visit Bushfires and private drinking supplies

More information

Resources for...

Parents and carers

Schools, principals and teachers

Early childhood services and staff

Service closures

In accordance with legislation, early childhood services concerned about any emergency hazard may decide to close their services to protect the health, safety and well-being of children, and advise the Department.

In addition, in accordance with the Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010 (Vic) and under delegation from the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary ECS and the Executive Director QARD may close services where their continued operation poses, or is likely to pose, an immediate risk to the health, safety or wellbeing of children.

The Delegates will only issue directions to close following consultation with appropriate emergency management agencies.

Check the emergency closures page to see if your service is closed.

The Quality Assurance and Regulation Division (QARD) will be in regular contact with all service managers regarding the safety of assessing your early childhood service. Contact your approved provider or service manager in the first instance.

If you are the approved provider and are unsure, contact QARD on 1300 307 415.

Emergency procedures

Familiarise yourself with emergency procedures:

Support for you

See the Emergency Vic website for relief and recovery services, including financial assistance.

Financial support for your service

Your service may be eligible for a Business Continuity Payment. This is administered by the Australian Government Department of Education. Call 1300 667 276 for more information.

Supporting children and their families

See mental health support after an emergency for guidance on how you can support children. It includes a guide to managing trauma.

The bushfire information for parents and carers page includes a list of counselling services you can refer children and their families to.

The VCAA's Bushfire Education website includes teaching resources and lesson plans on bushfires, including preparing for, responding to, and recovering from fires.

Early Childhood Australia's blog, The Spoke, examines how to support vulnerable children through traumatic experiences like bushfires.

Talking Matters has a range of resources with social story examples to help children understand the bushfire situation.   

The Royal Children's Hospital has a blog and video to assist parents and carers with talking to children about the bushfires.

Families, children and staff in kindergarten services who have been affected by the ongoing bushfires will get additional support as they start kindergarten in 2020:

Bushfire kindergarten fees subsidy

$650,000 in kindergarten fee subsidies is available to help families access a free or low-cost Four-Year-Old Kindergarten program.

This will apply to families of children who are residents of or attending a funded kindergarten service in the areas of:

  • Alpine
  • East Gippsland
  • Towong.

The Bushfire Kindergarten Fee Subsidy (Bushfire KFS) will support all children that live in those areas to access a free or low-cost funded kindergarten program for 15 hours per week in the year before school in 2020, based on a clear and targeted eligibility criteria.

This initiative also includes the Kindergarten Fee Subsidy- ratio supplement (an additional $260 per child) for eligible children.

Trauma recovery support

$3.8 million will go towards a Trauma Recovery Team. The team will provide trauma response support to affected schools and kindergarten services.

Functions will include:

  • training and coaching for staff
  • providing evidence-based resources
  • developing bushfire and trauma curriculum
  • establishing cross-sectoral communities of practice to facilitate ongoing support and training for professionals.

The trauma recovery team is currently supporting bushfire-affected ECEC services and schools in Alpine, East Gippsland and Towong.

Where need is identified in the remaining 12 local government areas (LGAs) on a per school basis, support will be provided based on clear and targeted eligibility criteria, for Term 1 and throughout 2020.

The 12 LGAs are:

  • Ararat
  • Ballarat
  • Glenelg
  • Golden Plains
  • Indigo
  • Mansfield
  • Northern Grampians
  • Pyrenees
  • Southern Grampians
  • Wangaratta
  • Wellington
  • Wodonga.

TAFEs and Learn Locals

Check the emergency closures page to see if your service is closed.

Contact your TAFE or Learn Local directly for information on operations.

Further information for training services will be added to this page as it becomes available.

Donations to affected areas

Right now we kindly ask you to not donate goods. Relief centres in the area are overwhelmed with goods donations and this is affecting critical tasks.

The best way you can help is by donating money. Donate through the Bushfire Disaster Appeal, or through any Bendigo Bank.

At this stage, offers from volunteers are not required. As affected areas work through their needs, more information on opportunities will become available.