Emergency Assistance

If you’re facing hardship and can’t afford your rent – or even afford to eat – emergency assistance (often called emergency relief) from government and charities is available to help you in the short term.

There are also special grants to help you pay your utilities, and interest free loans to help with essential goods and services like whitegoods, car repair, rent and utilities.

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COVID-19 Changes: There is additional emergency assistance available due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information see COVID-19 changes: Emergency financial assistance

If you’re struggling with debt and it’s a stretch to afford essential items such as housing and food, emergency assistance (often called emergency relief) from government and charities can help.

This page explains the steps you can take if you need to access emergency relief services.

The National Debt Helpline does not provide emergency relief, but this page tells you who to contact to get it.

It also explains other ways to get help, such as Centrelink advances, charity assistance, the Mortgage Relief Scheme, No Interest Loan Scheme and grants to help pay utility bills.

To get emergency assistance you’ll need to start by gathering your financial documents. Then find your nearest emergency relief service. There’s more information about these steps below.

Emergency relief generally provides help on a one off or short-term basis, until your circumstances become more manageable and you get longer-term support. Though you may be feeling overwhelmed, there are always options to help you get back on track.

What to do if you need emergency help


Gather your financial documents

First of all, get your ID and financial documents together that show how much money you have coming in and out. This information will be required when you apply for any help.


Find your nearest emergency relief service

Use one of the following options:

  1. Use the online DSS Grants Service Directory at serviceproviders.dss.gov.au to identify funded services, including emergency relief. In the search filters, select your state and region from the drop down lists. Under Programme, select “Families and Communities”. Under Service Type, select “Financial Crisis and Material Aid – Emergency Relief”.
  2. See the directories on the Salvation Army website or call their national number on 13 72 58, or see the St Vincent de Paul website or call their Canberra office on (02) 6282 2722.
  3. Contact your local church, community centre or community organisation and find out where emergency relief is provided in your area.
  4. To find services in your area see the Service Seeker website or Ask Izzy website.

When you speak to the provider explain your circumstances. They’ll help you with the process of getting emergency relief.


Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about seeking emergency relief – emergency relief organisations help people from all walks of life. All you need to do is ask for help!

To find emergency relief in your area check the DSS Grants Service Directory.

You can also try:

Salvation Army 1300 371 288

St Vincent de Paul 13 18 12

Anglicare 1300 111 278


Speak to one of our financial counsellors

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some help to deal with your financial hardship, you can speak with one of our financial counsellors.

Financial counsellors aren’t judgmental about your circumstances – they’re here to offer you free, confidential and independent advice and assistance.

To speak to a financial counsellor you can:

  • Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 – open Weekdays from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
  • Use our live chat service by clicking the chat icon in the bottom right corner of your screen. Live chat is available 9:00 am to 8.00 pm weekdays. If you send a message outside these hours a financial counsellor will get back to you.
  • Make an appointment to see a financial counsellor in your local area – Find a local Financial Counsellor.

Other ways to get emergency assistance

Centrelink advances

If you receive an income support payment or Family Tax Benefit Part A and meet the qualification criteria, you may be eligible to receive part of your fortnightly payment in advance as a lump sum.

The amount of advance payment depends on how much you’re paid each fortnight and which payment you’re receiving. If you receive an advance payment, a portion of your regular payment will be deducted each fortnight for 26 weeks until the advance payment has been repaid.

In most cases, you can access a Centrelink advance payment twice a year.

Charity help

Across Australia there are more than 1300 outlets for emergency relief run by charities and community organisations.

If you need help urgently with living expenses, charities can help you with:

  • food, transport or chemist vouchers
  • rent or accommodation
  • part-payment of electricity, gas or water bills
  • food parcels or clothing
  • budgeting or referrals to other programs.

Mortgage Relief Scheme

Most states and territories have some form of mortgage relief scheme that can provide a grant or a loan if you’re having trouble keeping up with your mortgage payments. Different help is available in different parts of Australia.

Read more about mortgage relief on our Home loans page.

No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS)

NILS provides no-interest loans for essential goods and services (such as fridges and washing machines, health-care items, or car repairs).  To be eligible, you must have a Centrelink health-care or pension card (or qualify for one). You must also show that you can, and are willing to, repay the loan within 12 or 18 months.

Family and Domestic Violence – NILS are available to help women who have experienced or are experiencing family and domestic violence (FDV NILS) to move to safety, stay at home securely, and rebuild their lives after family and domestic violence. Loans of up to $2,000 are available to pay for specific things such as rent and bond, utility bills, security items, removalist and transport costs, furniture and whitegoods, and technology e.g., laptop, phone.

More about NILS and FDV NILS

COVID-19 – NILS are offering extra assistance for eligible people adversely impacted by the coronavirus through Household Relief Loans Without Interest. Loans of up to $3,000 are available to assist with rent, utility bills, rental bond, body corporate fees and council rates.

More about Household Relief Loans Without Interest

Utility grants

There are a number of state, territory and federal utility relief schemes if you are struggling to pay your bills.

Each scheme has its own eligibility requirements and is generally only available if you receive a Centrelink payment or hold a health-care or concession card.

To find out what utility relief schemes you may be eligible for, check on the back of your utility bill or with your supplier directly.

More about paying your utility bills