The Morrison Government is backing our essential first responders by providing $10 million to charity organisation Fortem Australia, for essential mental health and wellbeing support for those assisting during natural disasters.
Minister for Home Affairs, Karen Andrews, said first responders perform a vital role in the community, supporting vulnerable people in urgent need, such as during bushfires or floods.
“First responders work in highly challenging and often dire conditions. They are regularly exposed to traumatic experiences, face long hours under constant pressure, and are required to make critical decisions with a moment’s notice,” Minister Andrews said.
“This funding from the Morrison Government’s federal Budget is all about taking care of the mental health and wellbeing of those front-line personnel who are out there providing emergency support to their communities during a disaster.
“In natural disaster situations, they are the unsung heroes – undertaking hazardous search and rescue activities, providing medical support to those who may be injured, or in a state of heightened anxiety, shock or distress.”
The $10 million in funding is in addition to a $1.4 million proceeds of crime grant awarded to Fortem Australia in March to support the mental health and wellbeing of national security and law enforcement communities in the wake of the pandemic.
“Labor has played base political games with this issue, misleading the Australian public with claims that support was going to be “ripped away” for first responders. Even worse, Labor has no plan for the wellbeing of our first responded and like always, are all talk and no action,” Minister Andrews said.
Member for Robertson, Lucy Wicks, said Fortem Australia programs would give first responders the tools they need to be healthier, more resilient and better equipped to cope with the challenges that come with working in natural disaster zones.
“PTSD was one of the most prevalent injuries suffered by first responders working in challenging and dangerous situations,” Ms Wicks said.
“These programs include support for workers who may be reluctant to seek help by ensuring they can connect to clinical services and other avenues to engage, talk, and seek assistance for mental health issues.”
Fortem Australia, Managing Director, John Bale, said first responders are there for us in our hour of need, but being there takes a toll, not just on them, but also their families.
“Fortem has shown that importance of an independent organisation that can provide a range of mental health services that enhances social connection, reduces stigma and builds resilience of first responders and their families,” Mr Bale said.
“Taking our proven model across Australia will be a game changer for the mental health and wellbeing of first responders and their families. We are incredibly thankful for this opportunity.”
Fortem Australia has demonstrated significant experience in running similar successful resilience and wellbeing programs for Australia’s frontline personnel.
The organisation will deliver a national program to provide psychological support, wellbeing activities and mental health literacy training specifically designed for first responders.