One of the world’s leading experts on the mental health and social impacts of disaster will help lead long term recovery in the aftermath of NSW’s devastating bushfires. Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor and Bega MP Andrew Constance were joined by Professor Alexander McFarlane AO on Friday, 21 February as they led a meeting with stakeholders working to deliver recovery efforts across NSW.
Mrs Taylor said the experience of Professor McFarlane will be invaluable, especially as the diverse needs of communities change over time. “The mental health of the people in fire ravaged communities is incredibly important, we want to make sure that as people rebuild their lives, they also rebuild their sense of wellbeing,” Mrs Taylor said.
“Bushfire recovery is well underway across the state, with different communities at different stages, but each will need access to mental health support for a long time into the future. “Health experts, agencies, local community leaders, and everyone involved in the critical bushfire recovery process have come together to ensure ongoing, unified and co-ordinated support is provided to make sure no one slips through the cracks.”
Professor McFarlane has guided bushfire recovery efforts for decades, working on the Ash Wednesday and Black Saturday fires, as well as international disasters. Mr Constance said it is important that we get this part of our recovery right.
“I don’t want to see tragedy follow tragedy, I want anyone affected in any way, shape or form to seek out support, either through their own community group or privately through one of our amazing networks,” Mr Constance said.
“We all need fire care of some description and it may not be now or next week, but we will all need it, I don’t want anyone to be afraid to ask for it.”
The NSW Government has previously announced a recovery package that includes $11.25 million for additional clinical positions which will boost the capacity of mental health teams in fire-affected communities to support people experiencing mental health consequences as result of the bushfires.
An additional deployment of 76 existing health and mental health staff to bushfire affected areas commenced on 6th January, and continue to provide support to affected communities as needed.
Mrs Taylor has urged anyone suffering from trauma or stress as a result of the State’s bushfire crisis to contact their local health service.