10/01/2020 | Stephen Wade MLC

Mental health and wellbeing specialists and service providers will meet today to ensure that South Australians impacted by the bushfires receive appropriate support, in the recovery stage and beyond.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said the Roundtable Discussion for Mental Health and Wellbeing, led by Wellbeing SA, brings together key Government agencies and non-government organisations, to look at opportunities to strengthen South Australia’s natural disaster resilience response.

“As bushfires continue to burn around Australia, it’s critical we act now so that South Australian communities are getting the support they need,” Minister Wade said.

“It’s important that we determine what supports are currently in place and identify what gaps need to be filled.

“These tragic bushfires are likely to have a long-lasting effect on some people’s mental health and wellbeing, and early intervention can reduce the impact.

“The Government’s support will be extensive and ongoing for South Australians in the immediate, medium and longer term.

The Federal Government has pledged $2 billion in funding relief nationally, and we need a coordinated, proactive approach to plan for what projects or programs will have the biggest impact locally.

“Studies show communities come together strongly in the face of disaster and connect with each other over their common experiences, but often find it extremely difficult later as the reality sinks in and the hard work of recovery takes time.

“We want affected communities to know that we will work to ensure that services are available to support their mental health and wellbeing, well beyond the time when firefighting effort is over.”

Chief Executive of Wellbeing SA, Lyn Dean, said a whole-of-community response was needed to ensure support is provided to people living in communities that have been directly affected, as well as South Australians who may be distressed by the impact of fires within Australia on the environment, industry and our communities’ wellbeing.

“We are such a close-knit community and even South Australians not exposed to frontline impacts may benefit from support to strengthen and maintain their mental health wellbeing support” Ms Dean said.

“The work of this roundtable group will support the actions already being undertaken by the State’s recovery coordination teams who are providing practical immediate assistance.

“Organisations such as the Australian Red Cross and the SA Housing Authority have provided exceptional first response support, which has included counselling as well as clothing and food for people displaced by the fires.

“We are aware that over the longer term a sustained response is important to support communities to maintain their wellbeing.

“While there are people on the ground engaging with and supporting locals now, the roundtable discussion today will discuss what type of support and resources will be needed in the longer term to ensure South Australians are able to rebuild and flourish in spite of the recent disasters.”