Establishing a permanent disaster fund for future events in the North East has been suggested at a bushfire forum in Beechworth.
Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund chair Patrick McNamara was a speaker at the event organised by Susan Benedyka and the Alpine Valleys Community Leadership Program.
Mr McNamara said creating a group similar to that of the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund established 40 years ago could help direct support in future disasters.
"They had all six councils in Gippsland as part of that, and a lot of major businesses," he said.
"They do a whole range of things, and it's not just for fires, it's for every disaster.
"We have storms, floods, and a lot of things Gippsland has, and it would have been really terrific if we had a similar organisation here [in the North East] that we could have gone to as a fund.
"I think if the community would like to form that foundation, many councils would be receptive."
Mr McNamara said the state appeal had raised $30 million for the 2020 fires.
"We've committed initial funding of $4.5 million between the North East and Gippsland," he said.
"More has gone to Gippsland because more homes have been lost, and the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund has distributed that money making allocations of between $1000 and $4500 for the loss of primary residences.
"And we handed money over to the Salvation Army a couple weeks ago and asked them to do the same in the North East of Victoria."
For Ken Lay, the recent fires that have destroyed 1.56 million hectares of land in Victoria feel different to those that hit the North East when he was a local police boss.
"I was Superintendent at Wangaratta during the North East in 2003," he told a recovery forum on Sunday.
"Many spoke about those fires as being as big as we had seen for many years.
"But looking at what we've gone through in the last couple months, those fires have been absolutely dwarfed.
"We've lost 405 residences and 653 non-residential premises [in Victoria].
"I'm hearing estimates of over one billion native animals lost and we may well have lost a number of species in these fires.
"Perhaps we're seeing the new normal, I really hope not, but certainly in the last decade the strength and fierceness of fires has been very, very worrying."
Indi MP Helen Haines also discussed the severity of the 2019-20 bushfire crisis.
"This has been a disaster of a national proportion and I think that's stating the obvious, but it needs to be said, because that's what's contributing to these feelings of bewilderment," she said.
"We haven't had to face a bushfire disaster that has started in August and continued right through until the end of January and we don't confidently know it's over yet.
"We live in a region where our peak season was traditionally February, and we know we're in an increasingly dry environment.
"Part of this bewilderment is the lack of certainty of the beginning and the end."
Dr Haines said people on the ground had relayed their anger at the federal government response but spoke of the level of impact being relayed strongly to ministers.
A description of a "brittle skeleton exposed during national disaster" to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on January 2 made an impact, Dr Haines said.
"We hold our communities together with all our intelligence and capability," she said.
"But the skeleton that underpins that is rather brittle, because we struggle doing our usual work, with problems with communication .... with our ongoing issues with rural roads which have to be funded by small rural councils.
"With our rural health services that struggle in good times ... and layer upon that a major disaster, and it's all very exposed.
"He was kind of shocked to hear it ... he came to me later when Parliament resumed and said 'That really had an impact on me to hear it that way'.
"The bushfire suddenly exposed to him some of the things we talk about as regional MPs on a regular basis."
More than 170 people attended the forum, which included a series of workshops with people experienced in recovery including Jolie Wills, Malcolm Hackett, Jill Hanlon and Rob Gordon.
"Community-based organisations are the only way we can get enough feedback to government with enough sensitivity," Dr Gordon said.
IN OTHER NEWS:
"We don't do well if the government tells us what we need."
Anne Leadbeater said there was a sense of "shared survival" immediately following a disaster event.
"The first three weeks, you'll find there is that sense of everyone pulling together and little while later the wheels fall off," she said.
"Sit with people in their pain and move through their stages of grief."