Wednesday 28 July 2021
The experience of the recent Yorke Peninsula bushfires has prompted a new Community Resilience and Readiness program for fire affected communities to increase their psychological and practical preparedness for future disasters.
Funded by Country SA PHN, as part of the Australian Government mental health response to bushfire trauma, the program is designed to support Yorke Peninsula communities increase their resilience for future bushfires and other disasters. Community Resilience Officers (CROs) are leading the program - assisting fire impacted community’s recovery by supporting their mental and emotional preparedness. Country SA PHN is now funding seven CROs in four recently affected bushfire communities on the Yorke Peninsula, Kangaroo Island, the Adelaide Hills and the South-East.
“As the emergency response services were wrapping up, we could see the importance of keeping the great work of many in these communities going and continuing that momentum in a capacity building role,” said Country SA PHN, Chief Executive Officer, Kim Hosking.
“We’re very pleased to fund the CROs in such an important initiative to assist communities to face inevitable future challenges with resilience, preparedness and a sense of empowerment.”
Yorke Peninsula communities experienced three significant fires in 2019 at Yorketown, Price and Maitland. While not as densely populated as some of the state’s other bushfire affected areas Yorke Peninsula CROs Kate Martin and Katie Hughes say the fires highlighted many real gaps in the community’s preparedness and exposed other well-being issues that were bubbling beneath the surface.
“The fires were a catalyst for many Yorke Peninsula communities to identify some of the concerns and gaps that they had in their disaster resilience and awareness and well-being more generally,“ said Kate.
“This resilience and preparedness education is the key to improving understanding about natural hazards in the local environment and ways to keep communities safe from harm before, during and after an emergency or disaster.”
While there is a high fire risk on the Yorke Peninsula due to large amounts of dry crops and grasses during Spring, some new residents did not consider that they were moving to a bushfire danger area. Therefore, many were both practically and psychologically unprepared for the 2019 fire season and are still now adapting to this reality.
The idea for the program came from Adelaide Hills CRO, Miranda Hampton’s experience working with hills fire affected communities where she identified gaps in people’s practical and psychological preparedness and education. Miranda could see the potential benefits of building resilient communities that are emotionally and mentally prepared to face future disasters - rather than just react to them.
According to the Australian Psychological Society: “You are more likely to stick with a household plan if you have also prepared psychologically for a bushfire. Being able to manage your emotions in an emergency (that is being psychologically prepared), can save your life and that of others.”
“Traditionally, bushfire preparedness has primarily focused on physical preparedness, but that it is psychological preparation that will reduce and help manage the potential mental and emotional impacts of potential future bushfire events,” said Kate Martin.
To assist with this preparedness the Yorke Peninsula program is focussing on: Empowering the community through psychological and physical preparedness to improve disaster resilience; supporting communities to develop individual and collective strength and resilience and providing a co-ordinated and consistent approach to disaster resilience awareness and education.
Upcoming activities and events planned (COVID restrictions allowing) include: a Community Group Governance information session presented by Community Legal Centres SA and Volunteers SA/NT on August 4, Support for the Yorke Peninsula Indigenous Round on August 7 and Accidental Counsellor training in conjunction with Wellbeing SA on August 10.
To find out more about the Community Resilience Program you can email Kate at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If this story has raised personal concern please contact:
For immediate medical assistance in an emergency always call Triple Zero (000) and ask for the ambulance
For non-life-threatening mental health emergencies, phone the 24/7 Mental Health Triage Service 13 14 65.
Counselling Service Regional Access (24 hours)
Free professional telephone and online counselling for people 15 years and older living or working in regional South Australia.
Lifeline (24 hours)
Phone 13 11 14 for immediate support
Lifeline online counselling (6.30 to 11.30 pm, South Australian time)
Kids Helpline (24 hours)