Launched by Craig Lapsley, Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner, this research aims to support and learn from the local clergy and laity in the Murrindindi Shire who responded to those impacted by the trauma of Black Saturday on 9 February 2009.
The fires caused Australia’s highest-ever loss of life from a natural disaster. They claimed 173 human lives, injured 5,000 people, and destroyed 2,029 homes, countless pets, livestock, and native animals, and burnt over 4,500 square kilometres.
The author of the report, Dr Lisa Jacobson, responded to Mr Lapsley, as did Stuart Stuart, State Manager, Emergency Ministries of the Victorian Council of Churches, and Ivan Peterson, who was directly involved in helping to coordinate church networks after the fires.
The report was launched on 16 April 2015 at the Uniting Church Centre in Little Collins Street Melbourne. The speakers highlighted strengths and weaknesses in the response to the fires, and what could be learned for the future. Three areas stood out.
First, networking among church and community groups with government and other organisations and emergency services is vital in such situations, and needs to be strengthened in vulnerable areas.
Secondly, the report stresses that trauma resulting from disasters lasts much longer than the immediate work of clean-up and rebuilding, and people need time and ongoing support to deal with their grief and trauma.
Third, all helpers, including pastoral workers and clergy, are deeply affected, as well as being exposed to secondary trauma due to their prolonged involvement with those directly affected.
The report recommends that clergy and pastoral workers be provided with opportunities to prepare for such emergencies, not just with grief training, but also with the extra dimensions needed to take part in disaster emergencies.
The project was funded by the Collier Charitable Fund, and managed jointly by the Yarra Institute for Religion & Social Policy, and Creative Ministries Network.
To order your hard copy of Working with Disaster for $10 plus $5 postage from the Yarra Institute for Religion & Social Policy, complete this form, and send it to PO Box 505 Box Hill 3128, or firstname.lastname@example.org, 03 9899 4777.
For report enquiries, contact Lisa Jacobson, email@example.com, 0408 331 398.