The information and advice provided is of a general nature, for more comprehensive information visit one of the websites of the organisations on this page.
This page contains content about bushfires. If you find this distressing and need support please seek assistance using the resources at the link below.
Psychological recovery after bushfire
Experiencing a bushfire is traumatic and can be overwhelming. It is usual for you or family members to feel unsettled and disrupted for a while. You may also feel depressed, anxious, sad, angry or exhausted. You might find it hard to sleep, concentrate or remember details.
People can also experience:
- Intrusive thoughts and memories such as worrying or negative thoughts or images that won't go away
- Flashbacks (like a brief nightmare when you are awake) or nightmares about the event that make you feel like it is happening all over again.
Whilst these feelings of distress can be frightening for adults and children, they are a natural response to having experienced an overwhelming event. It is the brain's way of trying to make sense of an intense experience and 'process' the memories.
Experiencing this in the first few weeks is to be expected and does not mean you or your family member will necessarily have ongoing problems. For most people, these experiences will naturally reduce over time, but the time frame for that is different for everyone. If they persist for months after the event, or increase it is important to seek support. This would be particularly the case if you or a family member:
- Feel very distressed, frightened, irritable or jumpy a lot of the time
- Can't carry out your normal roles at work, school or with your family
- Feel hopeless, despairing and think you cannot go on
- Are thinking of harming yourself or someone else
If you need support quickly, Lifeline has established a dedicated bushfire recovery phone line to provide support for people affected by bushfires. This 24 hours a day/seven days a week phone line provides advice, support and referrals that are specific to the effects of bushfires and can be accessed by calling 13 43 57.
Understanding and recognising when things get too much is essential in balancing your mental health and wellbeing. For information on what to do when things become overwhelming Lifeline have developed a number of resources to help families dealing with bushfires, drought and extreme climate events.
Recovery takes time. It is important to allow yourself time to process your circumstances to regain a sense of normalcy.
Recovery for you
Stories of recovery
Bushfires impact many people around Australia and local support is a key factor in community recovery.
Kangaroo Island farmer Tim Buck shares part of his recovery experience following the fires which destroyed his family’s farm in the summer of 2019-20
Tim and Tammy Holmes
Gardening Australia's Tino Carnevale explores a lush garden in Tasmania’s south-east, where one family has built on the memories of the 2013 bushfires to create a home, life and garden that is stronger than ever.
After the Disaster — ABC Radio podcast
You've been through a disaster — what next?
After you've experienced a disaster, be it a fire, a terrorist attack, a cyclone or a flood there is so much to work through. What should you expect? How do you look after yourself and the people around you? Why are relationships, the endless paperwork, emotions and parenting so hard right now? When are things going to feel normal again?
From how to manage insurance to supporting kids, After the Disaster offers practical tips and evidence-based advice.
This podcast series speaks with people who have been through disaster and people who have researched the best way forward. Presenting the latest advice for how to find your feet towards recovery.
Mental health and wellbeing resources
Your GP is a good place to start and they can also refer you to other services. You can also check if it is possible to have a telehealth appointment which is becoming more common.
Phoenix Australia's Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health promotes recovery for Australians affected by trauma. They work with individuals, organisations and the community to understand, prevent and recover from the potential adverse effects of trauma following accidents, violent crime, terrorism and natural disasters. Phoenix Australia is an independent, not-for-profit organisation with an affiliation with the University of Melbourne.
The website contains many resources to support psychological recovery after an event, with the links below taking your directly to a couple of those, including a toolkit to work through.
Beyond Blue is an Australian organisation providing information and support to Australians to achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live. Their website contains numerous resources and a range of ways to access support specific to your circumstances.
The SA Health website has a number of resources that may be helpful to your wellbeing in recovery.
The booklet below may help people who are supporting others who may be struggling with their mental health after a disaster. This booklet is based on a resource that was developed by the community affected by the Pinery bushfire in November 2015. The purpose of this booklet is to:
- Build community awareness of the mental health impacts of disasters such as fires, storms, floods, pandemics and other incidents that impact on the health and wellbeing of the community.
- Help people to support each other if a disaster happens in the local community.
- Provide tips on what to look out for, how to respond to people who might need support, what services are available, and how you can look after your own mental health and wellbeing.
SANE Australia is a national mental health charity supporting people affected by complex mental health issues through support, research and advocacy.
Life after bushfires provides the tools and support to begin rebuilding, connecting and caring for yourself after the traumatic events of recent bushfires.
For those who need some support to switch off and have a phone to access information, there are numerous applications that can support you with mindfulness, meditation and improving your sleep.
Recovery for children
On this page you will find resources and links that will provide you with information about supporting children after a disaster.
Children need stable and supportive environments to grow and develop and will look to adults during a traumatic or stressful time to help them make sense of what has happened.
Their reactions immediately after a traumatic event can be intense and will generally be at their worst during the first few weeks. The intensity of feelings children experience may fluctuate but should settle down with time, however sometimes these intense feelings will return when they are reminded of the event.
As adults, we may think that infants, toddlers and very young children are not affected by traumatic events because they are too young to remember it or understand what is going on. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Any baby or child can be affected by the stress around them. Stress experienced by adults who care for young children can also affect their children's behaviour.
What can I expect?
Children cope with trauma in different ways, just as adults do, and there is no one ‘standard’ pattern of reaction to the stress of traumatic experiences. Children are not always able to describe and express their emotions in the same direct way that adults do and therefore may not show the same reactions to stress as adults. It is particularly important to look out for changes in children’s behaviour that suggest they are unsettled or distressed, such as:
- changes in their play, drawing, dreams or spontaneous conversations
- regressive behaviour – children behaving younger than they normally do
- talking constantly about natural disasters
- anxiety about sleeping alone or trouble getting to sleep
- irritability, anger or tantrums
- eating less/more or fussy eating
- tummy or other aches
- wanting to stay close to a parent
- problems concentrating at school.
Children are usually very resilient and for most children these reactions will gradually reduce over time with the support of families.
Emerging Minds is an Australian organisation dedicated to advancing the mental health and emotional wellbeing of Australian infants, children, adolescents and their families. Their website has a large range of resources freely available.
The Emerging Minds Community Trauma Toolkit contains a number of useful resources (short articles, videos, factsheets, podcasts) to help parents and caregivers after a disaster or traumatic event. A summary of the resources includes short articles about what parents and caregivers can expect during and immediately after a disaster or community trauma, and in the short and long term.
Australian Red Cross
Red Cross is well known for their work supporting communities in recovery from natural disasters. They have developed a number of resources that may help you support your children through their recovery.
Australian Psychological Society
The Australian Psychological Society's website provides information on how to access psychologists and has a range of resources to help people recover from bushfires.
Children affected by disasters may suffer major disruption, losses, or live through frightening experiences. Some children may be affected indirectly, through hearing about natural disasters or knowing someone who has lost their home.
These can all be challenging experiences for children. The Australian Psychological Society have created an information sheet that will outline some strategies you can use to help children recover from a natural disaster.
For more information and links to resources and supports, please visit the Australian Psychological Society (APS).
Kids Helpline is Australia's only free, confidential 24/7 online and phone counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25.
Qualified counsellors at Kids Helpline are available via WebChat, phone or email anytime and for any reason
Birdie’s Tree offers information and resources for parents and caregivers of babies and young children and was developed at the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health,.
LifeLine has developed a tool kit, which is designed to provide you with information on how you can help support your child after the events of a natural disaster.
Mindfulness and meditation for children
Sleep Meditations for Kids has four bedtime stories that are transformed into guided meditations designed to promote relaxation and contentment and can be incorporated into your child's bedtime routine.
Other useful resources
Recovery for people most at risk in emergencies
Some people have differing abilities to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies. A person's level of risk in emergencies can vary over time as people's circumstances are always changing. Factors that can influence a person's level of risk can include living in isolation and having limited social connections, chronic illness, recent illness and lived experience of disability. We all can experience periods of increased vulnerability at times. People who are particularly vulnerable during emergencies may require individual or prioritised support in recovery.
A GP is a good place to start, and they can also refer you to other services. You can also check to see if it is possible to have a telehealth appointment which is becoming more common.
People with a Disability
The state government has a number of resources on their website to support people with a Disability who have experienced a bushfire.
There are a number of services available to support older people experiencing problems with their mental health, no matter what the reason. Follow the links below for more information.
Multicultural mental health support
The links below will take you to websites that offer mental health support for people from non-English speaking backgrounds.
Recovery for your business
If an emergency happens, your first priority is the safety of you and your employees. Then you can look at protecting your business and assets. There will be a range of support available from various sources to help you get your business back up and running.
business.gov.au an online information hub provided by the Federal Government. This is where you will find information on what support is being offered to Australian business after an event, including any associated grant programs. This website has a number of tools that can support you to firstly prepare and then recover from a disaster.
Find out what to do in an emergency, how to keep up-to-date, and how to get help.
Regional Development Australia
Regional Development Australia (RDA) is an Australian Government initiative that brings together all levels of government to enhance the development of Australia's regions. A national network of RDA committees has been established to achieve this objective. There is a specific RDA Board for the Hills, Fleurieu and Kangaroo Island, providing access to support and information for local business.
The South Australian government's Business Hub provides information about the support offered to SA businesses and will be updated with the relevant information after an event, including funding.
Rural Business Support
Rural Business Support's Business Financial Counsellors can help small and family business owners who are in financial hardship - details in the link below.
Adelaide Hills Business Hub
The Adelaide Hills Business Hub Recovery Officer is based at the Adelaide Hills Business Centre at Woodside to connect businesses to the information, resources and support services to help you successfully start, run and grow your business.
The service is available Monday, Wednesday and Friday 9am – 5pm to businesses in the Adelaide Hills, Mount Barker, Mid-Murray and Murray Bridge LGA’s.
You can book a free appointment with Amanda Hunt at the Hub, request a call back through the email below.
The Adelaide Hills Business Hub is jointly funded by the South Australian Department for Innovation and Skills and the Australian Government to support the economic recovery of the Adelaide Hills Mount Barker, Mid-Murray and Murray Bridge local government areas.
GrantGuru is an online Australian grants database in Australia. The data is up-to-date and in consistent format. it is free to search, but there are additional services you can buy if needed.
Business SA is South Australia’s peak Chamber of Commerce and Industry and peak employer body, offering a range of services, products, advice and training to help member businesses. Following the Black Summer fires they offered a number of supports to affected business. Check their website for details of current supports.
Business Council of Australia
For most business owners affected by bushfire, the first question they ask is, "How long will it be before I can open the doors again?"
BizRebuild is a business-led initiative that provides practical, on-the-ground assistance to small and local businesses affected by bushfire, designed to help businesses recover and create jobs, rebuild stronger communities, and restore thriving local economics.
Family and Business Support Program
The Family and Business Support Program (FaBS) is a state government initiative supporting people through difficult situations like drought, bushfire and other adverse events.
FaBS are an experienced team of regionally based professionals who will listen and help you find ways to manage the situation. Team members work closely with service providers and can help connect you to services, including:
- financial counselling
- local health networks
- emotional wellbeing and counselling services
- government and non-government assistance
- community organisations and donations.
Stories of recovery
Jack Young shares a story from his recovery experience following the bushfires which swept through the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island in South Australia in the summer of 2019-20.
Jack discusses the impact the fires had on his bike tour business, and how he came to receive recovery assistance to help get him and his business back on track.
The Bushfire Community Legal Program (BCLP) is a free legal service which delivers regular face to face outreaches (as well as phone and email) services to support individuals, small business and communities with their bushfire preparedness, resilience and/or response. The areas of the law they provide advice and/or information sessions on are:
- Negotiating debt (mortgage, credit cards etc)
- Succession planning (Trusts, Wills, Power of Attorney, Advanced Care Directives)
- Replacing fences, clearing native vegetation around properties
- Contractual disputes (i.e. rebuild issues, contracts entered into for recovery or farm work post-recovery); and
- Governance (for community groups and small businesses).
Recovery for farmers
The ifarmwell website is designed by Australian farmers to help other Australian farmers cope effectively with life’s challenges and get the most out of every day. It does this by sharing practical ways of coping with difficult circumstances, thoughts and feelings (especially worries about things you can’t control) and helping you to work out where it is most useful for you to put your attention and energy.
You can do this from the privacy of your home, tractor or shed and it’s free. It is designed to be useful for farmers who are currently feeling down or stressed and those who would simply like some new tools to improve their ability to cope with uncertainty associated with life on the land.
Recovery support for your land
The Hills and Fleurieu Landscape Board is one of nine regional landscape boards established under the Landscape South Australia Act 2019. The board supports communities and land managers to improve the management of the region's landscapes.
The Cudlee Creek bushfire recovery program continues to operate.
For more information on the programs offered and some relevant fact sheets follow the links below.
Adelaide Hills Natural Resource Centre
The Adelaide Hills Natural Resource Centre (AHNRC) is a community led environmental information hub. Our aim is to encourage and support sustainable community actions for the conservation and protection of the biodiversity of the region. We provide a diverse range of services and information resources for landholders, local residents, community groups, hikers and students.
Co-located with the Summit Community Centre, AHNRC provide a comprehensive range of services for the local community.
The AHNRC is a not-for-profit organisation funded by the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board.
FarmHub has been developed by the National Farmers’ Federation with funding from the Commonwealth Government and in partnership with numerous government and non-profit agencies which provide support to farmers.
FarmHub contains four separate resources:
- a comprehensive directory of assistance available to farmers from a range of government and private sources;
- regional Climate Guides with information about weather and climate patterns;
- a Learning and Development Directory containing a wide range of training and capacity building options; and
- informative articles and information relevant to managing a farm business during hardship.
The below links provide information about recovery for animals and natural resources:
- Video — Post-fire woody weed control — Learn about how weeds respond to bushfire and different ways to control them (10 minutes)
- Video — Fire Recovery: Reconstructing native grasslands (1 hour 5 minutes)
- Video — Fire Recovery: Pasture management for small horse properties (27 minutes).
Stories of recovery
Apple and cherry grower Kym Green shares a story from his recovery experience following the Cudlee Creek fire, which swept through the Adelaide Hills in South Australia on Friday 20 December 2019.
Kym discusses the grants that have been instrumental to his recovery and his partnership with research scientists at Primary Industries and Regions SA’s research arm, SARDI, which is helping them to better understand how fruit trees recover after fires.
Recovery for your home
Returning home after a bushfire may be daunting. After a bushfire, you may find your local environment has dramatically changed from the one you left. Some of the experiences people report after bushfire include:
- blackened, lifeless landscapes
- burnt out buildings, outbuildings, vehicles
- smell of burnt bush
- areas covered in ash
- road signs and familiar landmarks missing
- dead animals
- rotten food in the fridge (especially if the electricity has been turned off for days)
- search and rescue signs painted on houses
For more information on what to expect when returning home after a bushfire visit the Australian Red Cross.
The above link will also help you think about how to prepare for retuning home, including the following things:
- Are the roads open, and are they safe?
- Have you got enough fuel, food and water?
- Are mobile phones charged?
- Who will you inform that you are returning home?
- Have you got a torch and a radio?
- Have you got appropriate clothing, boots, hard wearing long sleeved shirts and long pants, as well as gloves, and a hat?
- Will you take children and pets on the first visit?
- Is your tetanus booster up to date?
It is usual for people to have conflicting emotions as a result of returning home. it might help to try and anticipate what conditions you may be confronted with and how you may react. Rehearsal of the scenario will allow you to feel more in control of the situation and less distressed.
Below are some basic suggestions to help your personal recovery:
- Find a support network to tell your own story as well as listen to the stories of others.
- Keep a record of your thoughts.
- Look to the future and start to make plans.
- Give yourself and others time to work through feelings.
- Avoid isolation. Those people who seek out support, involve themselves in their communities and make full use of the various services offered recover faster and better. You are entitled to the assistance available.
The Insurance Council of Australia provides advice on how to commence your claim process at the link below.
In summary, you should contact your insurance company as soon as possible to seek advice about the claims process, this includes:
- Speak to your insurer before you attempt or authorise any building work, including emergency repairs, and ask for the insurer’s permission in writing. Unauthorised work may not be covered by your policy
- If your home is unsafe, notify your local authorities and check with your insurance company whether you can claim temporary housing expenses
- You can remove and discard any damaged goods that pose a health risk, such as carpets or soft furnishings, but take photos and keep samples of materials and fabrics to show the assessor
- Keep any items that could be repaired and if in doubt speak to your insurer
- Do not be concerned if insurance documents are not readily at hand. Insurers keep records electronically and require only your name and address in order to find a policy
- If you are in urgent financial need you can ask your insurer to fast track your claim and make an advance payment within five business days of you demonstrating your urgent financial need. Any advance payment may be deducted from the total value of your claim
- If your claim has been finalised within one month of the disaster, your insurer must give you six months from the finalisation date to ask for a review of your claim (for instance, if you think the insurer has not accurately assessed your loss), even if you have signed a release.
The Community Justice Service have also produced a webinar that may be useful for progressing insurance matters.
Property and rebuilding
The links below provide starting points on how to think about rebuilding your home after a bushfire when you are ready.
Video — Bushfire Resilience — Adelaide Sustainable Building Network
- This webinar from April 2020 explores how you can improve the bushfire resilience of your home (video, 35 minutes)
Video — Build Back Better: a fire recovery workshop — Community Reference Group for bushfire recovery in Adelaide Hills
- This presentation provides valuable guidance around rebuilding after a fire including the design process, planning approval, bushfire assessments and working with builders, architects and designers. It also includes a Q & A session with a panel of experts. (video, 2 hours)
The links below provides a range of resources to help you rebuild your garden after a bushfire, including a video and blog from ABC Gardening Australia presenter Sophie Thomson.
Volunteering and recovery
There are many organisations that offer volunteering opportunities for those wishing to provide hands on help to recovery efforts. following are links to some of those that may be offering opportunities.
When there is a disaster, you may be interested in registering to lend a hand during recovery operations.
If you want to volunteer, visit the Volunteering SA&NT website to see what emergency volunteering opportunities are currently available. You may or may not be contacted to take part, depending on need.
Blazeaid is a volunteer-based organisation that works with families and individuals in rural Australia after natural disasters such as fires and floods. Working alongside the rural families, our volunteers help to rebuild fences and other structures that have been damaged or destroyed.
Equally important, volunteers also help to lift the spirits of people who are often facing their second or third flood event after years of drought, or devastating losses through bushfires. BlazeAid volunteers work in a disaster-affected area for many months, not only helping individuals and families, but also helping rebuild the local communities.
You do not need any fencing experience, just a willingness to give it a go and learn on the job. You can volunteer for a day or two, or a week or more.
Volunteer Leadership Program — Australian Institute for Disaster Resiliance
The Volunteer Leadership Program (VLP) equips volunteers from community organisations, not-for-profits, disaster relief organisations and local government within the emergency management sector, with the skills and confidence to grow as leaders. The VLP experience is immersive and collaborative, bringing together volunteers from different organisations and agencies to build knowledge and share experiences with each other. The program explores practical leadership frameworks through interactive learning, and participants gain both self-awareness and an enhanced ability to understand and contribute to their organisations.
Community-led approaches to disaster recovery are regarded as the best approach to sustainable disaster recovery, fostering self-reliance and self-determination within affected communities. Below are just some of the resources designed to support community-led recovery.