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January 2011

  1. Greetings
  2. How the DRN works in the context of floods
  3. Queensland Flood Disaster Recovery Briefing
  4. Resources
  5. Opportunities for psychologists
  6. Support for psychologists
  7. Training


Dear {Name},

Greetings to you all, and welcome to the many new members who have signed up since the extensive flooding throughout many parts of Australia in the last few weeks. Many members have been in touch with us recently to register their interest in being a part of any disaster recovery work in Queensland. Many have also let us know that they are interested in training. Others have been forwarding their ideas for recovery related projects and initiatives, and we have been recording these ideas and will be talking them through with the psychologists working in affected areas. Thank you for all your interest and enthusiasm.

How the DRN works in the context of floods

As with the Victorian bushfires, we are using the APS Disaster Response Network (DRN) to be in touch with members when we get a request from organisations or agencies seeking support. As soon as we are asked for flood assistance, we will forward these requests to the DRN. Because of the current recovery environment, though, we mostly have psychologists offering to help rather than organisations asking for psychologists to help! This is because roles and timelines in disaster recovery have changed in recent years. Formerly, when some form of Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) was routinely offered, there were greater opportunities for psychologists to go out into the field in large numbers immediately following a disaster. We are now in a post CISD landscape, where the emphasis is on the provision of psychological first aid in the first hours and weeks, to restore safety, security, calm, connectedness, help and hope. These tasks are best achieved with minimal intervention from mental health specialists, to give people time and the opportunity to activate their own natural coping mechanisms. There is an emphasis, too, on the importance of building the capacity of local people and resources rather than bringing in outsiders.

It is also internationally recognised that the most effective responses are fully integrated into the official disaster recovery plan and with existing and ongoing services in the regions affected. In Queensland, this means working within the recovery plans developed by the Queensland Department of Communities and Department of Health. So whilst some psychologists may be involved in the field in the hours, days and weeks after the disaster, this is more likely where it naturally falls as part of their occupational role. The majority of psychologists will be involved in clinic-based work in secondary prevention months and years down the track. Others may be involved in consultation or training, before, during or following a disaster. And with any given event there will be more people on the database than can be deployed at any time.

The Red Cross in Queensland will contact us as soon as they have a need for extra help. Queensland Health are also interested in us maintaining a database of interested and experienced psychologists in case they need to supplement their resources, but again, they’ll call us if and when they are ready. We’re also relying on APS Branches to let us know what their members need, and we will use the DRN to pass on any requests.

Many thanks for your interest in the work, and for registering with the DRN. Below you will find some updates, resources and other information that you might find useful. Apologies for cross-postings, as some of you may have received this information via your Branch Chairs over the last few weeks.

Susie Burke PhD
Senior Psychologist, Public Interest, Environment and Disaster Response

Queensland Flood Disaster Recovery Briefing

An invitation to a special 2-hour Briefing for psychologists and other interested professionals

Date: Friday 28th January, 2011
Time: 12noon – 2pm
Fees: No charge
Venue: Bardon Conference Venue, 390 Simpsons Rd, Bardon QLD 4065

Light refreshments will be available after the briefing from 2-2.30pm
APS CPD Hours: Attendance at this briefing entitles you to generalist CPD hours

This briefing on the Flood disaster response is for Queensland psychologists and other interested professionals. The briefing will be presented by members of the APS Disaster Preparedness and Response Reference Group, Queensland Health, and other experts in disaster response and psychological recovery. The briefing is an opportunity to hear from psychologists as well as community and government organisations involved with disaster preparedness, response and recovery, on how to provide the best psychological support following a disasick ter of this scale. There may be other local briefings at a later date, and this briefing will be recorded and available on the APS website.


Psychosocial Support in Disasters website
Much useful information on recovery can be found on the Psychosocial Support in Disasters website, which the APS and other peak mental health organisations developed and launched last year: View Psychosocial Support in Disasters web portal

APS website
The APS website also has several documents for APS members working in communities affected by the floods. View the documents here

APS Pro-bono guidelines: View the guidelines here

Opportunities for psychologists

Lifeline - Queensland
In Queensland, Lifeline has the government-designated role of providing emotional and psychological support to communities affected by natural disasters. Lifeline provides community recovery officers (mostly counsellors/psychologists/social workers) trained in psychological first aid in evacuation and recovery centres, as well as members of outreach teams and providing follow up psychological support and counseling. Lifeline has had this role for more than 20 years covering natural disasters and major critical incidents. Julie Aganoff (MAPS), Director Client Service Development, sent the following message: “If any psychologists are interested in volunteering as community recovery officers they should contact Lifeline Community Care Queensland on 07 3250 1900.”

Red Cross
The APS has an MOU with Australian Red Cross to support them in responding to disasters, and we met several weeks ago to talk with them about how we can help. The Red Cross are interested in having us contribute to their Personal Support program in longer-term outreach in the coming months. We will keep our members informed of any opportunities.
Apart from our joint projects, there are always possibilities for members to register as Red Cross volunteers. Phillip Stacey, APS Brisbane Area Branch Chair, sent out the following notification last week from the Brisbane Red Cross: “The Red Cross has advised that they are able to register new volunteers for the RNA shelter for 2 x 12hr shifts. Please do not rush the line as they only have 2 operators. Phone 07 3367 7227 and leave your name and mobile number and say you are a psychologist.”

Support for psychologists

DRN supervision groups
Several of our members who worked with survivors of the Black Saturday bushfires identified a need for supervision groups for psychologists working with disaster-affected people. We all recognise the immense value of quality supervision for our therapeutic work as well as for our own self-care, but specialist supervision with colleagues experienced in disaster and trauma work can be hard to find. The APS would like to facilitate the establishment of supervision groups for our DRN members who are working with disaster survivors. Such groups could either meet face-to-face if composed of members in a common locality, or else by audioconference or skype. Groups could meet regularly or on an as-needs basis. Some supervision groups would be welcomed now, for people currently working with those affected by disasters. If you would like to be involved, please contact us at drn@psychology.org.au

The University of Southern Queensland Psychology Department in association with the APS Toowoomba Branch is launching a wonderful initiative called Water-Wings. This resource provides a meeting and resource point for psychologists to share support and professional consultation around the challenges of disaster assistance. Weekly informal drop-in meetings will be held from Wednesday January 19 on campus at Toowoomba from 12 noon to 2:00pm. Efforts are underway to provide telephone access for those who cannot drop by in person, and a secure electronic discussion list for ongoing peer support. Psychologists are directed to http://www.usq.edu.au floods for upcoming details on connecting to the meeting via telephone, and dates on upcoming free refresher seminars in psychological first aid, crisis intervention, ASD and PTSD. Contact grace.pretty@usq.edu.au if needed.


Many members have enquired about extra training for themselves, their staff, or their organisations, in disaster recovery. In disaster recovery, the APS works on the principle of coordination and proceeding slowly and steadily. Whatever we do, we endeavour to make sure it integrates within an overall coordinated and planned response with the authorities and other mental health organisations. This can take time, but is well worth it!

We do have several more immediate-term plans for APS disaster briefings and training which we are developing and will be offering to APS members. Some of these will be offered in the coming weeks to provide a quick orientation to the disaster context and how to apply one’s skills in disaster recovery. Other training workshops will be available further down the track, when it is more appropriate.

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