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Australia's Bushfires

The recent Australian bushfires have been of incredible scale and intensity. Bushfires can result in the loss of life, home, and history with devastating impacts across our community. This webpage provides key information and resources for the general community that may be useful, including:

  • AASW Statement
  • Resources
  • How to get help
  • Find a social worker - Accredited Mental Health Social Workers
  • Bushfires and climate change
  • Key contacts and links

Read our information for the community.

AASW Statement

3 January 2019

Like everyone else, the AASW is aware of the devastating bushfires raging around the country, including the recent fatalities. The fires are highly distressing to many people and will continue to have long term impacts. The AASW recognises and pays tribute to those combating fires and those individuals and groups on the front lines of disaster recovery, including social workers.

We also want to acknowledge the devastating loss of animal, bird and plant life.

The fires affect us all as a larger community and it is completely normal to experience a range of emotions, whether directly affected by the fires or not. Talking to someone and feeling connected can be incredibly important during times like these. We encourage all members of the community to reach out and look after themselves and each other.

There are a wide range of support services out there, including:

  • Lifeline - 13 11 14
  • Kids Helpline - 1800 55 1800
  • Beyondblue - 1300 22 4636

If you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger call 000.

You can also visit your GP to access Medicare funded mental health supports provided by Accredited Mental Health Social Workers or visit our Find a Social Worker webpage.

Given the fires there is limited access to phones and electricity in some areas so if you need help, visit your local Disaster Assistance Point.

There is also a lot that family, friends, volunteers and community members are doing to help those affected.

If you wish to assist with the recovery effort, Volunteering Australia is taking registrations: https://register.emergencyvolunteering.com.au

In the face of this national emergency, we need to look more broadly around the larger factors that are contributing to its existence. Climate change is real and the increase in extreme weather events will continue to have devastating consequences. We need real political leadership on the issue and immediate climate action to assure the safety of individuals, groups and communities. The AASW has and will continue to advocate for urgent policy action.

For further information, visit the NSW Rural Fire Service survival plan guide.

Originally published here.

Resources

Bushfires affect the whole community and it is normal to be impacted mentally and emotionally, whether you’ve been directly impacted by the fires or not. Practical support following a bushfire is important, as is talking to someone and feeling connected as this can help make sense of what is happening. Here are some important resources that can help:

How to get help

If you or any of the people in your communities are affected by the bushfires, there are disaster recovery payments available, which you can access by calling 1802266. You can find out more information by going to https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/help-emergency/bushfires

Centrelink payments available for people affected by the bushfires

Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment – a one-off lump sum payments for people affected by the bushfires from August 2019 through to January 2020.

Disaster Recovery Allowance – income support payment for up to 13 weeks for people who have lost income because of they were affected by the bushfires

For details about eligibility and payment rates, please go to: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/help-emergency/bushfires and click on your relevant state.

For Social Workers

The AASW has reached out to key groups (including the Red Cross) offering assistance and volunteer social workers to support in the short and long term recovery. We are in discussions and we will update members of any opportunities.

In the meantime you can contribute through the existing channels by visiting:

- https://www.volunteeringaustralia.org/

- https://www.redcross.org.au/

Find a social worker

The impact of the current bushfires is widespread and devastating having a range of emotional, mental health, relational and social impacts, whether directly affected by the fires or not.

If you need support, you can access Medicare funded counselling sessions through your GP from Accredited Mental Health Social Workers. AMHSWs work with people across the lifespan (including children, adults, and older persons) and provide a unique contribution in their holistic approach to working with a person. AMHSWs have significant expertise in assessment and providing supports with a wide range of complex mental health needs, including grief, loss, trauma, and bereavement.

Visit https://www.aasw.asn.au/find-a-social-worker/search/ to find your local social worker and click here to learn more about how AMHSW can help you.

13 January announcement

The Federal Government has announced extra funding to address the mental health needs of people directly affected by the bushfires.

From 17 January, people in bushfire-affected areas will have access to 10 immediate counselling sessions and access to more sessions without requiring a GP referral among other initiatives.

For an explanation of the Medicare changes visit: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/subjects/bushfire-recovery-access-program

The fires affect us all as a larger community and it is completely normal to experience a range of emotions, whether directly affected by the fires or not. Talking to someone and feeling connected can be incredibly important during times like these.

If you need support, you can access Medicare funded counselling sessions through your GP from Accredited Mental Health Social Workers. AMHSWs work with people across the lifespan (including children, adults, and older persons) and provide a unique contribution in their holistic approach to working with a person. AMHSWs have significant expertise in assessment and providing supports with a wide range of complex mental health needs, including grief, loss, trauma, and bereavement.

Visit https://www.aasw.asn.au/find-a-social-worker/search/ to find your local social worker and click here to learn more about how AMHSW can help you.

Medicare Bushfire Recovery item numbers

Social worker item numbers for face-to-face sessions include: 91150, 91155, 91160, 91165 and social worker item numbers for telehealth are: 91151 and 91161.

https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/organisations/health-professionals/news/new-medicare-items-health-professionals-support-those-affected-bushfires

Bushfires and climate change

Climate change is the greatest challenge that we face and as social workers, and we are united in our call for immediate action from governments in Australia, and across the world.

The changes confronting our environment because of global warming (including bushfires) are already profound and extensive, making climate policy an urgent responsibility for governments. Climate change is real and the increase in extreme weather events will continue to have devastating consequences.

The AASW has and will continue to advocate for greater climate action, learn more about our efforts including our Climate Emergency statement and the AASW’s & Climate and Health Alliance Declaration on Climate Change. https://www.aasw.asn.au/social-policy-advocacy/climate-action

Key contacts and links

Emergency situations

Locate missing friends and relatives contact the Red Cross’s Register.Find.Reunite program on 1800 733 276

Mental health concerns

Financial assistance

Report scams

How to help

  • If you wish to assist with the recovery effort, Volunteering Australia is taking registrations: https://register.emergencyvolunteering.com.au
  • There are also several charities and organisations people can donate to and we encourage you to visit these organisation’s individual website for details.

Last updated 12 February 2020.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers