Topics: Mental health support for people affected by bushfires.
Well as fire conditions ease on the fire front for the moment, the Federal Government is this morning turning its attention to the heavy emotional toll for those on the ground.
It’s announced $76 million for mental health services in fire-affected areas. Health Minister Greg Hunt joins me now. Good morning to you, Minister.
Good morning Jayne.
Seventy-six million dollars, how will this money be spent?
The bulk of the fund is being invested directly into counselling and psychological and support services for individuals.
What that means is counselling services in the areas of the fire-affected zones. We’re helping mums and dads, children, young people, old people, farmers who’ve had such agonising conditions, and of course emergency support workers.
So that will include 10 additional counselling services, 10 additional Medicare support psychological services, as well as tele-health because not everybody can get to the doctor or get to the psychologist.
And, in addition, $16 million for post-traumatic support for emergency service personnel and $7.5 million aimed directly at headspace and bolstering youth support services.
You say this help will be immediate, but we’ve already seen in some of the fire regions that some of the Government assistance has been a little hard for some people to come by.
What sort of guarantee can you give that the people who need these services will get them straight away?
We have an approach that people can either call the Services Australia 180 22 66. Or, in addition to that, you work with your GP and your GP will help provide the services.
In many ways the GP is the cornerstone of somebody’s treatment. And we know that mental health can be an immediate crisis or it can build up, so this is a package which is providing services now as well as over the course of the next two years.
And in addition there’s community support to have quiet community events, it could be a coffee get together, it could be a breakfast, where sometimes people will progressively begin to talk and seek help.
In many cases it’s understandable that people are reluctant, it may not be something they recognise or it may not be something they’re comfortable to talk about, and so there are multiple ways in to providing the support.
Onto another, but related, issue this morning. The Prime Minister has said whatever it costs in relation to this bushfire crisis. But this morning the Government is facing criticism about its bushfire relief packages.
Unions and employers are saying $40 a day just isn’t enough for victims. They want them to have access to the national minimum wage. Is that something you think the Government will look at?
Well, I think what we’re doing is providing the support which is not just in line with what we’ve done in the past, but greater than what we’ve done in the past on many fronts, as you see with this mental health support package.
So we assess all of the proposals from people, the support for the volunteers, the support for fire-affected victims, and whether it’s in terms of emergency relief, whether it’s mental health support, whether it’s community rebuilding with the immediate million dollars for each of the local government shires that have been affected.
And so we assess the needs and all of the different proposals that people bring forward.
So do you think what’s being offered at the moment is enough?
Look, I’ll respectfully leave that to David Littleproud and to the Prime Minister.
But think of it this way: it’s the first time ever that there’s been a compulsory call up of reservists for the ADF, which have been deployed throughout the country, the new relief agency that’s been created, the first time we’ve deployed the medical assistance teams at the national level.
So things are being done on an unprecedented scale to bring the resources of the nation to assist the people who are often in agonising situations emotionally, in terms of great physical challenge and hardship.
So our support is focused on what we believe to be the deep, profound needs of those communities.
And again, that’s what we are doing to support the firefighters, the emergency services personnel, young and old people, farmers, small businesspeople, families, with this package for mental health and counselling and trauma support today.
Well there will be a lot to do. No doubt this mental health package will be welcomed on the ground. Minister, thanks for your time this morning.