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Support services for the Australian bushfire crisis – information for PACFA members

New Government funding for bushfire recovery mental health supports

As many members will be aware, the Australian Government recently announced $76 million for immediate community assistance under the Supporting the Mental Health of Australians Affected by Bushfires package.

The new Bushfire Recovery Access Program will provide ten initial free counselling sessions, extra Medicare funded consultations, an expansion of headspace services and support for ongoing community recovery initiatives.

The additional $10.5 million funding to provide ten free counselling sessions to affected communities has raised interest among PACFA members.

Primary Health Networks (PHNs) are coordinating service provision for these initial free counselling sessions. People seeking counselling will be able to access sessions through mental health services commissioned by their local PHN in bushfire affected regions.

Members of fire-affected communities will also be able to access counselling via social workers employed through Services Australia, either at existing sites or by contacting Mobile Service Teams.

The Department of Health has published a Briefing Paper which explains in detail how these sessions will be delivered. The Government is advising anyone seeking counselling  or access to other support services, to phone Services Australia on 180 22 66, or visit the Primary Health Networks website.

If you are a PACFA member employed in a mental health service which is funded through your local PHN, or if you are a sole practitioner who is already involved in mental health service coordination and referral pathways through your local PHN, you may have the opportunity to provide free counselling.

PACFA will liaise with PHNs at the local and national level to ensure that PHNs are aware of the skilled Counsellor and Psychotherapist workforce in their local area, and ask PHNs to consider incorporating Counsellors and Psychotherapists, wherever possible, in their coordinated response. PACFA will also collaborate wherever possible with PHNs to assist them with coordination between state and territory funded initiatives and federal initiatives in their local area.

PACFA response to the Australian Bushfires – new resources for members and call for volunteers

PACFA has recently updated its Disaster Response Strategy. There is also a new Disaster Response and Recovery page on the PACFA website.

We encourage all PACFA members who are:

  • interested in participating in providing immediate or ongoing mental health support for communities impacted by the current Australian bushfires, or
  • interested in developing skills in Psychological First Aid and Disaster Recovery

to read through the new Strategy and to follow links to useful external resources provided in the Strategy and on our new resources page.

Counsellors and Psychotherapists hold unique skills which will enable them to provide immediate, medium and long term supports for individuals, couples and families, including relationship counselling, support for decision making during bushfire recovery, and trauma informed approaches to assist anyone experiencing the long-term residual effects of trauma.

PACFA is inviting Expressions of Interest from members who are suitably qualified and experienced and who wish to volunteer their time in person or via telehealth to assist in bushfire recovery. PACFA will forward the information provided by members to any government or non-government agencies that advise us they are seeking volunteers. We will also keep registered volunteers informed of any opportunities through PHNs to provide bushfire recovery services.

We have already received responses from many of our members wishing to volunteer time and skills and we thank our members for this show of empathy and support for affected communities. Members providing counselling in the wake of the bushfires are reminded of the importance of ensuring you have appropriate supervision to ensure that you feel supported to manage risks of secondary trauma through your work.

We also encourage members to go to the PACFA Disaster Response and Recovery page to find links to useful external resources which will support your practice and self-care.

Please click here to download the expression of interest template and return the completed form to admin@pacfa.org.au.