Around 1000 members of the $31 billion Emergency Services and State Superannuation fund have been affected by the fires that continue to burn across eastern Australian, either by fighting the blazes or supporting the local communities.

As a response, Australia’s largest remaining opened defined benefit fund has set up a dedicated service that includes a priority phone line and implemented an over-the-phone payment authority for cash withdrawals to avoid the need for paperwork.

Chief executive, Mark Puli, said ESSSuper was looking at ways to provide the most relevant support through disaster for the fund’s members now and in the future. He added that his super fund peers should be “seeking new or innovative ways to directly support” the needs of members.

“People go through different stages as disaster unfolds,” he said. “These fires have drawn in all our emergency services, an effort that will continue long after the fires have burnt out.”

Five months into the worst bush fire season in Australia’s history, more than 100 fires are still burning across the country. At least 29 people have been killed including four fire fighters and around 11 million hectares have been burnt, destroying thousands of homes and killing more than 1 billion animals.

ESSSuper’s members that have been involved in the fires come from a range of emergency response organisations including the Country Fire Authority, the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency services, ambulance offices and the Victorian Police. The Melbourne-based fund also has other public sector members living in affected areas.

In the midst of the bush fire season, Fiona Reynolds, chief executive of the Principle of Responsible Investment, or PRI, has called on assets owners to encourage the government to take action on climate change and confront negative corporate lobby groups.

Sarah Jones is the deputy editor of Investment Magazine. She previously worked for Bloomberg News in London for more than 12 years covering equity markets and global asset management. Prior to moving to the UK, she worked for Australian Associated Press in Sydney covering economics and monetary policy.
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