After living through the fires that tore through Kangaroo Valley, Andi Csontos, EY Partner in Climate Change & Sustainability Services set up a drop-in centre, where locals could get practical help at no cost. The centres helped people apply for grants, make sense of the support systems available and find a new way forward.

Working with the Dept of Regional NSW, EY scaled up the concept and launched a network of virtual business support drop-in centres for the communities of Eurobodalla, Bega Valley, Snowy Monaro and Kangaroo Valley.

EY senior manager leading the Eurobodalla centre Daniel Harris said: “Blending EY’s skills with local knowledge on the ground made all the difference. Understanding the individual nuances of each place was essential to providing practical help. The local Community Leads also helped us build trust.’’

The centres have helped 536 small businesses, boosted local morale and assisted the economic recovery of each community. Through these drop-in centres local businesses have accessed tangible support, enabling them to rebuild operations by securing $1,381,700 in COVID-19 and bushfire grants. 197 businesses have been able to access JobKeeper and 212 have accessed other schemes with EY’s assistance.

Tony Johnson, CEO, EY Oceania

It was a privilege for EY to be able to play a role and support communities devastated by the bushfires and later COVID-19. Every member of the Bushfire Recovery Team went above and beyond to proactively support people who faced unimaginable challenges and hardship. They acted with integrity, compassion and dedication while using their expertise to add real value, rebuild businesses and help restart local economies. There is no better example of our purpose - building a better working world.

Malcolm and Sue Rixon, Owners, Rixons Bus Company

Thanks so much for contacting us and organizing a meeting with us to express the difficulties that we have had over the past 8 months and to give us advice on potential assistance to help us through an 8 month crisis which included road closures, bush fires, longer distance travel causing additional cost to our small business, robbery, floods and now the Covid virus, It was very reassuring as a small business that there are organisations out there which can maybe assist us in our recovery of a service that is much needed in our area. Thank you so much for your follow up on our needs, we appreciate everything that you have done for us.

Rachel Donnelly, A/Deputy Director, Illawarra-Shoalhaven, Department of Regional NSW

The Drop-In Centre project is a very successful initiative that has been driven by Ernst & Young since its inception in Kangaroo Valley in the immediate aftermath of the 19/20 bushfires.

EY developed a unique model that ensures service delivery is locally led, proactive and agile in responding to business needs. Through leveraging their networks, EY also secured additional pro-bono services and funding for community organisations and facilitated better coordination across state and federal government business support services.

The Drop-In Centres have delivered significant social and economic outcomes across the Shoalhaven, Eurobodalla, Bega Valley and Snowy Monaro: 

  • To date, the Drop-In Centres have supported 563 businesses to access over $1.381 million in financial assistance.
  • The value of the emotional support and referrals to mental health services is much harder to quantify. Anecdotal evidence from businesses suggest this is significant.
  • The underlying emphasis of this project is to support communities to help themselves – giving them the skills and confidence to navigate their recovery.

 EY’s substantial pro-bono commitment to this project is to be commended.

EY’s practical support comforted fire victims

This article first appeared in The Australian newspaper on Monday 22 February 2021.

One of Australia’s most successful private sector bushfire relief initiatives, which assisted more than 500 small business owners, started with a round of drinks.

When fire tore through Kangaroo Valley, a community of 800 people on NSW’s south coast, local resident and EY partner Andi Csontos leapt into action. She posted an offer on the local community Facebook group to shout beers to the Rural Fire Service in the local pub. It started a chain reaction that led to the creation of a grassroots emergency response network, connecting neighbour to neighbour like never before.

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