Topics: Mental health support for people affected by bushfires.
Joining us from Canberra now is the Health Minister, Greg Hunt. Minister, thank you for your time. A wonderful initiative.
Obviously it is great to see the focus being directed not just to the rebuild of buildings but to the rebuild of people. Is $76 million enough?
Good morning, Matt. So, this is based on the advice through our consultations with communities, working with mental health leaders around the country, medical health professionals, and the teams that we’ve had on the ground.
So this morning I will be meeting with one of the leading disaster psychologists in Australia, Luke McCormack, who has been on the ground as part of the medical assistance teams.
And we’ve worked with Pat McGorry and Beyond Blue, we’ve worked with so many people.
And what this funding does, it’s about exactly as you say, helping people rebuild themselves as well as the country and the nation, what everybody’s doing in terms of the physical infrastructure and the environment.
We know that there can be deep-seated trauma that comes from confronting the horror of the actual fire. It’s all the consequences, the human or the infrastructure or environmental consequences, and just the fear that people face.
So this is funding as you say counselling services, 10 free sessions, psychological services, 10 sessions a year under Medicare, telehealth.
But also the rebuilding of communities, funding for headspace and funding for post-traumatic stress for our extraordinarily brave emergency service workers, our volunteers, our firefighters.
Minister, obviously a sensational initiative.
But one of the things that strikes me looking at this, having spent some time in these communities, is how you’ll deliver, the practical delivery of this.
The GPs in these areas have been sleepless since the fires, a lot of the communities have been destroyed altogether. How do people practically get access to these services?
I think that’s a very important question. We’ve spent a huge amount of time working on that part.
Immediately, we have counsellors that are embedded with the Services Australia teams, with the medical assistance teams. What are called the Primary Health Networks will help commission the counsellors.
But in addition, we know that in some cases the circumstances are very difficult on the ground, that’s just one of the deep realities.
That’s why the telehealth initiative is available for psychological services as well, and we’re supporting the GPs through making the Medicare psychological services available.
So the counsellors are immediately available and what are called the Primary Health Networks will progressively commission more of those. But they are part of the teams.
And the telehealth services, again, immediately available, and for anybody who needs assistance 180 22 66 is a very important starting point, or the Department of Health website health.gov.au.
Minister, let’s hope we have enough counsellors to fill this need and, if not, that more are called upon. Thank you for your time this morning.
If more are needed, more will be provided. Thank you, take care.