Victoria braces for Bushfire Commission’s final report

By Rob O'Brien

The Victorian State Government and mental health experts have issue warnings ahead of the Royal Commision’s final report into the 2009 bushfires that killed 173 people.

Victorians are being urged to support family and friends affected by the Black Saturday and Gippsland fires.

The State Government’s Minister for Mental Health, Lisa Neville, joined Doctor Rob Gordon, a consultant clinical psychologist who has worked closely with survivors of the bushfires in appealing for community support.

“Reports such as this can aid an individual’s recovery by providing much needed information about the event and can help the community learn from it, which are,” Dr Gordon said.

“They can also open wounds and take people back to the event, causing distress and in turn interfere with recovery.

“Hard as it may sometimes seem, people do survive and flourish again, but it takes time and attention to the details of your own life. If you feel confused, upset, emotional or despondent, check in with someone who has the training and experience to help you get back on track,” he said.

Ms Neville said that over the past 17 months, case managers have assisted more than 5,500 individuals and families and that there were still 110 case managers working with more than 1180 households.

“The fires of February 7 were the worst natural disaster in Australia’s history and so many people endured terrible suffering,” Ms Neville said.

“A key priority for our Government has been providing primary health care, counselling, mental health services, grief counselling and psychological support to those affected by the fires with more than 200 specially trained counsellors working on the ground.

In the weeks and months following Black Saturday an overwhelming outpouring of generosity from Victorians, Australians and people around the world raised $391 million in the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund.

“Some of those funds have gone towards ongoing psychological support through individual counselling sessions, group sessions for families and support for young people,” Ms Neville said.

“In communities across Victoria, we are seeing positive steps in recovery but we cannot underestimate the distress these fires will continue to have on individuals and families.”

This weekend, Community Hubs will be open on Saturday to offer support and provide access to the Royal Commission report and for those directly affected by the bushfires.

The Victorian Bushfire Case Management Service advice line 1800 050 400 will be open Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 4pm.

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