Bushfire Response

Country SA PHN’s role as part of the Australian Government’s comprehensive bushfire recovery package will be to provide immediate, short-term and medium-term mental health support for individuals, families and communities, including emergency services personnel, impacted by the ongoing bushfire emergency.

The Bushfire Recovery Access Program is aimed to support individuals and communities affected by the 2019-20 bushfires. CSAPHN is one of 12 PHNs funded to offer supports and services to targeted regions that have suffered severe damage and loss.

This Program will:

  • Provide emergency and ongoing mental health care for people affected by bushfires including up to ten free mental health supports sessions for individuals, families and emergency services personnel;
  • Support engagement of a Bushfire Trauma Response Coordinator by PHNs in the severely impacted bushfire regions whose role will be as a single point of contact for individuals and communities to ensure that the right mental supports are offered in the right place at the right time;
  • Expand mental health services in bushfire-affected PHNs to meet local need;
  • Support the commissioning of small community grants that fund activities that help mental health and healing activities following the bushfires; and
  • Assist with managing increased demand at specified headspace services in areas significantly impacted by bush fires to ensure support for young people aged 12 to 25.

CSAPHN has already commissioned local providers to ensure affected communities have access to the coordinated and tailored support and specialised services to give people the best chance of full mental health recovery from highly traumatic bushfire events. We are also committed to planning beyond the initial emergency response phase and working towards the longer term recovery and wellbeing of our communities and regions.

Community Grants to help communities recover

Country SA PHN, via the Australian Government mental health response to bushfire trauma, is offering Bushfire Community Recovery Grants of up to $10,000 to deliver grassroots activities to 2019-20 bushfire affected areas that will strengthen social connectedness and support mental health and healing. The funding grants provide the opportunity for communities to come together to foster resilience, healing and capacity building.

GPs and health professionals wanting to know more about mental health support through Medicare

For health professionals wanting to find out more about the changes to MBS items and who is eligible, they can refer to the January 2020 MBS Online factsheet at: http://www.mbsonline.gov.au/internet/mbsonline/publishing.nsf/Content/Factsheet-AmendedMentalHealth

Frontline Distress and Trauma Counselling

CSAPHN has commissioned local established service providers to provide immediate counselling and other mental health services to support the needs of people experiencing distress or trauma as a result of the South Australian bushfires, including emergency response personnel.

These services will be:

  • Free of charge, offering up to ten mental health services to individuals, families and emergency personnel affected by bushfires.
  • Delivered by appropriately qualified and trained service provider organisations and clinicians.
  • Made accessible to individuals in those locations most impacted by the bushfires, including through pop up centres and recovery centres; and
  • Provided on an outreach basis in the short to medium term to ensure access by communities most impacted by the bushfires.

Regions and providers for Frontline Distress and Trauma Counselling

Youth Mental Health supports

Expansion of headspace services to meet the increase demand for young people aged 12-25 impacted by bushfires and support for parents to ensure they know how to support children. Additional clinical supports are now available in the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island via telephone, Screen to screen and or face to face.

Self-referrals are welcome or can be provided by a GP, school and or other service providers (No Mental Health Treatment Plan is required).

CSAPHN also continues to fund Regional Access which provides 24/7 non-emergency counselling services for people in rural settings, particularly those affected by the bushfires non-emergencies. https://saregionalaccess.org.au/

Better Access Bushfire Recovery Inititative

From 17 January, you’ll be able to get Medicare benefits for up to 10 mental health treatment services if:

  • your patient or their family have been impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires
  • you’re a first responder or emergency management employee or volunteer who worked during the 2019-20 bushfires.

To make it as simple and fast as possible to access the new items, individuals do not need to have a GP referral or mental health treatment plan, but can seek appointments directly with suitable GPs, psychologists, and other eligible mental health professionals.

Sessions are available between 17 January 2020 and 31 December 2021. They’re in addition to the 10 psychological therapy sessions currently available under the existing Better Access Program. If you need support before 17 January, talk to your GP about your existing mental health treatment options.

Better Access Bushfire Recovery Telehealth Initiative

The new Bushfire Recovery and telehealth Medicare items will apply to all Australians, including children, young people, adults, seniors, and frontline emergency personnel who were residents of, working in, or visiting a bushfire affected region.

The expanded telehealth Initiative will allow people in rural and remote areas affected by bushfires to receive Medicare rebated counselling and psychological support through video telehealth services. This will also allow eligible GPs to deliver mental health and wellbeing support via telehealth.

Services can be accessed from now until 31 December 2021.

Telehealth services are available by contacting your local GP or psychologist.

All information about the mental health supports, and how to access these in fire affected communities can be found on the Human Services website which is updated regularly: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/subjects/bushfire-recovery-access-program.

Individuals wanting to access the immediate free counselling and additional supports (telehealth and Medicare sessions)

For people wanting to know how they can access the free counselling in bushfire affected communities (without the need for a referral or mental health plan), there are several avenues:

  • On the ground, you can access free counselling sessions by visiting your nearest recovery centre (Lobethal Recovery Centre or Parndana Recovery Centre), Mobile Services Centre and mental health services commissioned by Primary Health Networks (you can view these here: www.health.gov.au/phn)
  • Contact Services Australia 180 22 66 to either speak with a social worker or find out how to locate and access support in your community
  • All information about the mental health supports, and how to access these in fire affected communities can be found on the Human Services website which is updated regularly: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/subjects/bushfire-recovery-access-program. I would recommend sharing this website and the Services Australia phone number across social channels and in communications to those needing support

About the bushfire response more broadly

The National Bushfire Recovery Agency (https://pmc.gov.au/domestic-policy/national-bushfire-recovery-agency) will oversee a National Bushfire Recovery Fund which will support all recovery efforts across Australia over the next two years. The agency is based out of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Its website includes fact sheets with more details on the recovery efforts, where people can go to for support and key contacts for emergency assistance.


Offers of support

As an organisation we have felt the generosity of our community as we have been inundated with various offers of support including clinicians offering their services.

CSAPHN has an important role in coordination of the mental health response through the role of Bushfire Trauma Response Coordinators and through working with other state, local and non-government agencies to ensure complementarity and integration of services.

We are collecting volunteer information for emergency situations, including bushfires for temporary workforce and vacancies in field primary care clinics to be shared with the relevant government authorities in times of need.

To help coordinate these offers we have set up a register here.

We thank you for your generosity and patience and we will be in touch.


Bushfire Recovery Centres

Cudlee Creek Recovery Centre
Fabrik Arts and Heritage in the Old Woollen Mill
1 Lobethal Road, Lobethal
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Saturday, Sunday and public holidays: Closed
Monday – Friday outside of hours can be arranged by request if you are not able to visit during business hours.
Phone (during opening hours only) 0418 213 269

Department of Human Services information page: https://dhs.sa.gov.au/services/disaster-recovery/cudleecreek

Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island Recovery Centre
Community Health Centre
12 Jubilee Avenue
Phone: 0438 861 215
Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 9.00 am - 5.00 pm
Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays: closed
Department of Human Services information page: https://dhs.sa.gov.au/services/disaster-recovery/kangaroo-island-fire-recovery

For information and support, phone 1800 302 787
Department of Human Services information page: https://dhs.sa.gov.au/services/disaster-recovery/keilira-fire-recovery

For information and support, you can phone 8852 1820 or go to:
SYP Community Hub33
Stansbury Road, Yorketown
9.00 am to 2.00 pm, Monday to Friday

Department of Human Services information page:  https://dhs.sa.gov.au/services/disaster-recovery/yorketown

Consolidated Mental Health Information Webpage – Helplines, Resources, Disaster Toolkits and Fact Sheets

Some people may be enquiring about where to access all the current supports and resources available across the mental health sector. There have been incredible resources and toolkits developed by organisations and agencies (including yourself) to assist in responding to distress during and after the bushfires.

The Commission has engaged with the Life In Mind team at Everymind, and the mental health sector, to develop a webpage where existing helplines, disaster toolkits, resources and information can be found in the one location. This will be updated on an ongoing basis to ensure the information remains relevant to each phase and meets community needs. We welcome and encourage you using and sharing this link with your stakeholders: https://lifeinmind.org.au/communities/support-for-those-impacted-by-adverse-events/mental-health-support-for-bushfire-affected-communities


Phoenix Australia: Resources for Health Practitioners https://www.phoenixaustralia.org/resources/bushfires/

Doctors Health SA: https://www.doctorshealthsa.com.au/

RACGP Support Program: https://www.racgp.org.au/racgp-membership/member-offers/the-gp-support-program

Phoenix Australia: Australian Bushfires Resources for GP’s https://www.phoenixaustralia.org/resources/bushfires/resources-for-general-practitioners/

Mental Health First Aid Training for Pharmacists : https://my.psa.org.au/s/training-plan/a110o00000A62EM/mental-health-first-aid-bushfire-affected-australians

Emotional Recovery

Beyond Blue has guidance around self-care after a natural disaster

The Black Dog Institute focuses on empowering everyone to live the most mentally healthy life possible and also has information on suicide prevention http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/

SA Government ‘Physical and Mental Health after a disaster’

SA Government: Emotional Recovery Fact Sheets in four different languages: https://dhs.sa.gov.au/services/disaster-recovery/emotional-recovery/emotional-recovery-translations

Red Cross: Advice on managing distress (available in 7 different languages)

Financial Recovery

National Bushfire Recovery Agency

Support for First Responders

Black Dog Institute provide tailored mental health support to fire fighters and other emergency service workers after the 2019/2020 bushfires : https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/when-the-fire-wont-go-out/

Phoenix Australia: Resources for Emergency Service Worker s and First Responders: https://www.phoenixaustralia.org/resources/bushfires/


Support for Children

Parenting SA “Coping Skills for Children’


Raisingchildren.net.au – Trauma: supporting your child in the days and weeks after (suitable for 3-15 years of age) https://raisingchildren.net.au/preschoolers/connecting-communicating/coping-with-trauma/trauma-support-for-children

Department of Education: Mental Health and Education (children and teenagers) https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/education-and-learning/health-wellbeing-and-special-needs/mental-health-and-education-children-up-to-18


Emerging Minds Community Recovery Toolkit https://emergingminds.com.au/resources/toolkits/community-trauma-toolkit/

R U Ok? – The Mateship  Manual

Resources for educators https://mphn.org.au/s/Be-You-resource-pack_bushfires-response_January-2020.pdf

Red Cross has made a book that is easy to read Coping with a Major Personal Crisis:   https://dhs.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/86456/Easy-English-Coping-Booklet-Red-Cross.pdf


Beckwith Park, 30 Tanunda Road Nuriootpa SA 5355
PO Box 868 Nuriootpa SA 5355
T 08 8565 8900 F 08 8311 1723
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While the Australian Government Department of Health has contributed to the funding of this website, the information on this website does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government and is not advice that is provided, or information that is endorsed, by the Australian Government. The Australian Government is not responsible in negligence or otherwise for any injury, loss or damage however arising from the use of or reliance on the information provided on this website.

Country SA PHN gratefully acknowledge the financial and other support from the Australian Government Department of Health