Most Victorians seem to know someone who has been affected by the
fires: even for those without any direct connection, the saturation
media coverage, and the familiarity of the place names and locations,
makes the whole community feel part of the devastation.
One of our member agencies is regularly debriefing staff because of the
depth of concern there - among other things, one of the channels
through which the impact of the overall situation has filtered through
to counselling staff is through an increase in demand for personal
counselling in relation to issues that are not directly fire-related.
It is as if the whole of society has been seared.
And we are all aware that this is only a pale shadow of the sense of
loss felt by those who have lost family members and friends. It is
there that the most immediate response has been focused, and where
increased support will be needed over time, once the immediate issues
of grief and survival have been confronted.
The organised community response to the suffering and loss flowing
from the fires has been fine tuned over the past few days, as the
situation has become clearer, and more of the worst-affected areas are
opened up for front-line assistance. All three levels of Government
responding actively, and community sector agencies working together to
ensure optimal allocation of resources.
Assistance patterns differ from area to area, depending largely on the
severity of the damage. In some municipalities, Recovery Plans are
established, and the St Vincent de Paul society in particular is able
to move into top gear. In some other areas, this stage has not yet been
While seeking to assist wherever practicable, all are concerned not to
overload the people we all want to help, and to ensure that systems are
put in place to ensure that the community is supported over the
extended time that will be needed to re-build the buildings and
The Church community and its agencies have been part of this general response.
Spiritual and pastoral support is part of the response. St Patrick's
Cathedral was full today when Archbishop Denis Hart celebrated a Mass
for victims of the fires. All Dioceses, parishes and communities
throughout the state have been praying for those who have died and
those who are in mourning.
Spiritual and pastoral support remains the first priority for parishes
in the affected areas. The Victorian Council of Churches is developing
a roster to ensure pastoral and chaplaincy services beyond the
immediate crisis, including at the ‘Recovery Centres' that are now
being established. Any clergy or pastoral associates who would be
available to assist could register their availability with the
Victorian Council of Churches 9650 4511. Fr Joe Caddy is coordinating
assistance to clergy in the worst affected areas of the Melbourne
Archdiocese - firstname.lastname@example.org
Response and rebuilding
Red Cross and Salvation Army, with Government agencies and funding,
continue to provide the first line of material assistance to affected
families and communities.
The media in Victoria advertise for specific inputs as the need for
them arises - eg, for call centre operators, or for particular
professional skills. Offers of counselling assistance are directed to
the Red Cross on (02) 9229 5286.
Within the Catholic church, the St Vincent de Paul Society is
working with local government and the main coordinating authorities to
move into the recovery centres and start the job of re-building lives.
Priority needs at the moment are
Financial support - : www.vinnies.org.au; by phone: 13 18 12; or at any Vinnies store.
Goods - large clothing and personal items are still needed, at the
Victorian Disaster Appeal warehouse, Henderson Rd. Rowville.
Housing assistance - email@example.com, tel (03) 9895 5800
Centacares in the Victorian Dioceses are gearing up to supply the
counselling, and support for many that will be needed once the initial
crisis phase is passed. Some agencies are assisting through the central
coordination of the Department of Human Services with an offer of
professional social workers and psychologists to help to meet some of
these demands. Provision of clinical supervision and support if
required to parish workers in the areas affected by the fires is also
Many Dioceses, parishes and agencies around the country have been
prompt and generous in offering assistance, and many have expressed a
desire to help over the longer term. Many want to make a financial
contribution - parishes around the country are planning special
collections this Sunday. Others want a more personal connection.
Twinning with an affected parish has been suggested by a number of
The bushfire appeal by the St Vincent de Paul Society, or the
Archbishop of Melbourne's bushfire appeal -
www.melbourne.catholic.org.au - provide channels for making a
contribution that will be applied at a time when it can be most
Because of the pressure on the priests, schools, and communities in
general in the affected areas, many offers for more complex involvement
cannot be fully addressed at this time. CSSV is keeping details of
those offers that are directed to us, so that we can facilitate
match-ups etc as the situation becomes more stable.
CSSV is also continuing to act as a broker for other offers that come
our way, to ensure that they are effectively channelled, and that they
don't get lost - contact us at (03) 9287 5566 or firstname.lastname@example.org.