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Disaster Nesponse Network News

August 2011

  1. Welcome
  2. Emergency Service Leave Arrangements
  3. Queensland Disaster Training for psychologists
  4. Extension of the Victorian Bushfire Psychological Counselling Voucher Program
  5. Senate inquiry into the capacity of communication networks and emergency warning systems to deal with emergencies and natural disasters
  6. Mentoring and peer supervision update
  7. New resources on the disaster portal
  8. Contact us


Dear [firstname,fallback=Sir/Madam],

A break from extreme weather events in our region has been a welcome respite over the last few months, but the recovery journey of course continues for flood, cyclone, bushfire, earthquake and tsunami survivors.  Many of our Disaster Response Network members are also hard at work in their own communities. 

This newsletter follows on the heels of the tragic bombing and shooting in Norway which has recently rocked Scandinavia. The APS has been in contact with the Norwegian Psychological Society, offering our sympathy and support, and we will help in whatever way we can.  

Below, we bring your attention to some new resources that have been added to the disaster portal, some information about emergency services leave arrangements, as well as local updates for Victorian and Queensland psychologists working with disaster-affected people.  If you have useful information that you would like us to include in DRN News, please send it to drn@psychology.org.au.

Dr Susie Burke
Public Interest, Environment and Disaster Response

Emergency Service Leave Arrangements

Many psychologists are interested in volunteering with other organisations to provide psychosocial care following disasters.  It is worthwhile exploring your workplace’s emergency service leave arrangements to understand the conditions that apply to you.   

Emergency service leave arrangements is a national obligation for every workplace. However the specific terms and conditions do vary, including the amount of days allowed and whether such leave is paid or unpaid.

Emergency Service Leave, often called Community Service Leave, is a national obligation under Division 8 of the National Employment Standards (NES) of the Fair Work Act. This is leave to provide employees with a right to be absent from work to engage in prescribed community activities such as emergency services duties and jury service.

However, while workplaces seem generally prepared to grant UNPAID leave, only some automatically grant PAID leave for emergency service duties. For example, PAID leave is provided to many government agencies in NSW and WA, and to Victorian and Queensland education workers. However, for many other workplaces, leave can be unpaid, although in some places (like some QLD government agencies) workers can apply for special paid leave.

Queensland Disaster Training for psychologists

Queensland Health are rolling out training for allied health professionals working with disaster affected people in that state. The first wave of training workshops will be in Level 2 Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR).  SPR is a skills-training model of working with people affected by a disaster.  It is an approach that is designed to accelerate recovery and increase self-efficacy for the majority of disaster survivors.  This approach does not assume pathology; the emphasis is on helping the survivor regain a sense of control that the disaster may have stripped away, by teaching a range of useful skills including problem solving, emotion management, positive activities, social connections, and helpful thinking. 

The Australian Centre for Post-Traumatic Health, together with the APS, recently ran a couple of train-the-trainer workshops to teach SPR to a group of QLD therapists/trainers.  These trainers are now preparing to run a series of workshops throughout Queensland. 

SPR workshops are planned for all disaster affected regions in Queensland.  The first workshops will take place on the following dates:

  • 11 August 2011 - Dalby
  • 23 August 2011 - Cairns
  • 30 August 2011 - Innisfail
  • 10 September 2011 – Toowoomba

Other sessions are planned to take place across the state in late August and all of September.  If you are interested in attending these workshops, see the attachment at the end of this newsletter for details. 

Coming soon: Queensland Health Level 3 workshops - Treating significant mental health issues

Queensland Health will also be rolling out a series of Level 3 workshops to train health professionals in treating significant mental health issues following a disaster. These are likely to be 2-day workshops (with a 3rd day follow up), and will be targeted at areas where there are likely to be higher rates of significant mental health problems following the floods and cyclones. All of these workshops will be delivered via Queensland Health by experts in disaster-related trauma.

We will let you know about these workshops when more information is available.

Extension of the Victorian Bushfire Psychological Counselling Voucher Program

The Victorian Department of Health has provided us with a recent update to the Bushfire Psychological Counselling Voucher Program. This program was developed through the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund. The program assists people directly affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires to access psychological counselling support. The program provides up to twelve counselling sessions to each individual (including dependent children over five years of age) who have been directly affected by the fires. To date over 2,200 people have applied for vouchers and over 14,000 vouchers have been issued.

In response to ongoing demand for the program the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund Advisory Panel have: 

  • Extended the program. People can apply for vouchers until 1 June 2012 and they will be redeemable until 31 August 2012
  • Increased the value of the vouchers. From 1 August 2011 the value of the psychological counseling vouchers will be increased from $100 to up to $150 to reflect the increased cost of counselling sessions.

Vouchers issued after 1st August 2011 will reflect these changes; however it is important to note that any vouchers issued before 1 August 2011 are also valid for the new value and can be used until 31 August 2012.

This information is also available on the APS website, where you can find an updated information sheet for applicants and for service providers. http://www.psychology.org.au/medicare/bushfire_program/

If you have any further questions about the program, you can contact the Bushfire Appeals Funds hot line on 1800-180-213.

Senate inquiry into the capacity of communication networks and emergency warning systems to deal with emergencies and natural disasters

The APS prepared a submission to the Senate Inquiry into the capacity of communication networks and emergency warning systems to deal with emergencies and natural disasters. 

In our submission we made the point that good disaster preparedness, both physical and psychological, has an important part to play in ensuring effective communication of imminent threat warnings. Then, emergency messages themselves must be specific, consistent, certain, accurate and clear, should identify the risk, location and time, and should provide precise guidance.

We further discussed the factors that will encourage people and organisations to prepare adequately for disasters, such as:

  • Plans are more likely to be made when organisations and structures within a community regularly include the need for such planning in their communications.
  • Disaster plans should communicate information about how people can remain psychologically strong in the face of threatening events.
  • Post-disaster or emergency communication is also important as it can help maximise the recovery of affected people and communities, as well as validate planning for the next disaster or emergency.

The submission can be viewed at the APS website at: http://www.psychology.org.au/community/topics/disasters/

On August 6th, Professor Kevin Ronan and Dr Susie Burke were invited to give evidence at a public hearing for the Senate Inquiry in Canberra.

Mentoring and peer supervision update

Several members of the DRN indicated an interest in participating in disaster supervision and mentoring.  We have made contact with each of these members to find out more about their needs, and to match them up with other psychologists.  Interest has been sought not just by psychologists working with people affected by natural disasters, but also by psychologists working with other traumatized populations, such as asylum seekers in detention.  If you are interested in peer supervision or peer consultation with other psychologists working in these areas, please let us know and we will see how we can assist you. 

New resources on the disaster portal

We continue to provide links to new disaster resources through the disaster portal www.psid.org.au.  Below you will find several recent additions to the site.

Quick guide to Skills for Psychological Recovery
This guide was developed by the Australian Centre for Post Traumatic Mental Health
http://www.psid.org.au/recovery  under moderate distress

Psychological First Aid: An Australian Guide
This document was developed following roundtable discussions on 15 December 2009, co-hosted by Australian Red Cross and the Australian Psychological Society. The purpose of the guide is to provide an overview for people working in disaster preparedness, response and recovery about best-practice in psychological first aid following disasters and traumatic events.
http://www.psid.org.au/response under psychological first aid
Copies of this Guide can be ordered through the APS. 

Psychological First Aid Guide for Field Workers
The World Health Organization (WHO), the War Trauma Foundation (WTF) and World Vision International (WVI) have developed a Psychological First Aid Guide for Fieldworkers. This guide was developed in order to have widely agreed upon psychological first aid materials for use in low and middle income countries. Endorsed by many international agencies it reflects the emerging science and international consensus on how to support people in the immediate aftermath of extremely stressful events. The guide is available in different languages.
http://www.psid.org.au/response under psychological first aid

Post-disaster school resources
Teachers are in a unique position to identify children who are experiencing difficulties following a natural disaster or traumatic event, because of their role, expertise, and extended contact with children. Teachers need to be able to identify emotional and behavioural difficulties in their students following such events, and also to be well informed about what they can do to prevent the likelihood of children developing long-term adverse reactions.

These resources were developed by the University of Queensland Centre of National Research on Disability and Rehabilitation Medicine.  
http://www.psid.org.au/recovery/ under moderate distress, post-disaster school resources

Contact us

If you have feedback on DRN News, or useful information or suggestions that you would like us to include in DRN News, please contact us at drn@psychology.org.au.

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