SES Volunteers Association of Western Australia (Incorporated)

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21/09/2011 – Trauma focus in disaster probe

Source: BEN HARVEY STATE POLITICAL EDITOR, The West Australian September 21, 2011

The psychological impact which 16 major disasters since 2001 have had on thousands of emergency response workers will be probed by a powerful parliamentary committee.  The year-long inquiry by the community development and justice standing committee aims to determine whether the State Government is adequately caring for workers and volunteers who have been at the sharp end of catastrophes such as floods, fires and cyclones.  The psychological torment endured by emergency response teams and investigators from WA who were dispatched to Bali after the 2002 bombings will also be investigated.

The committee will focus on the experiences of police, firefighters and ambulance officers but is expected to devote a large amount of time to hearing from volunteers from State Emergency Service, bushfire brigades and marine rescue units.  There will be an investigation into four major floods, starting with the destruction of the Kiwirrkurra community in March 2001 and ending with the evacuation six months ago of the east Kimberley’s Warmun community.  The experiences of firefighters who responded to six catastrophic bushfires that claimed five lives and 134 homes will be a key part of the committee’s work.
The committee has written to dozens of government departments and agencies in order to compile information.

Submissions must be lodged by October 28 and the committee intends to table its report by December 1 next year.  United Firefighters Union acting secretary Lea Anderson said the union had a dedicated welfare officer. “The experience of posttraumatic stress disorder within our membership is very high and the union believes this experience is chronically under reported,” she said.  WA Police spokesman Bill Munnee said the department had 87 “peer support officers” who had received some training in psychology.  Established in April 2007, the program worked on the premise that employees may feel more comfortable seeking support or advice from a familiar face rather than seeking out a person not known to them.

ABC Radio, Perth this morning presenter Geoff Hutchinson, spent about an hour interviewing emergency service representatives and emergency service career and volunteers about the topic this morning. This include our SESVA representative Phillip Petersen.

The SESVA looks forward to contributing to this Parliamentary inquiry. SES volunteers who wish to contribute, should send submissions to the Association to assist with the very important issue.

The SESVA supports the important work of the FESA Chaplaincy Service which is available to all employees, volunteers and their respective families.  This service is provided 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 52 weeks a year.

Information and contact details for the Chaplain can be found in the Chaplaincy Service page in the left hand slider of this website.

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