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Byron Shire
May 17, 2021

Health comes first in fire crisis

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With the raging bushfires fresh in mind, it is paramount to remember to look after yourself and others affected by the bushfires.

After the much anticipated rain that fell over the weekend it seems the Northern New South Wales bushfires have hopefully been dampened; providing a reprieve after the three weeks of devastating bushfires. Although, the reprieve does not downplay the fact that 670 homes in Northern NSW have either been destroyed or damaged, with hundreds of other people undoubtedly affected by the fires in some way.

This is why seeking support and care for yourself and others should now be everyone’s be the first priority. Legal Aid NSW and the Rural Adversity Health Program (RAMHP) have both reached out to convey this message.

Legal Aid NSW

Legal Aid NSW (LANSW) lawyers announced that they would be prioritising and providing free legal advice to any of those who have been affected by the fires. This will include assistance in insurance claims, tenancy, credit and debt, financial hardship, social security entitlements and employments.

Having professional help is crucial in minimising the trauma and stress people are going through while helping rebuild lives. If you are experiencing any legal problems due to the impacts of the fires, it is urged that you reach out to LANSW and receive assistance.

Help is available at any LANSW office or outreach – this includes offices at Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour and outreaches at Forster, Kempsey, Taree, Bowraville, Grafton, Macksville, and Nambucca. Further help can be found at the LawAccess NSW Disaster Response Hotline (1800 801 29) and the LANSW website (www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au). For intensive casework a means and merit test is applied.

Rural Adversity Health Program

Rural Adversity Health Program Manager, Tessa Caton, says following on from any disaster, it is normal for people to feel overwhelmed, worry a lot more than usual, have trouble concentrating and making decisions. Rural Adversity Health Program (RAMHP) have been reminding anyone impacted by the fires that it is ok to have overwhelming feelings during these stressful times, although, people should be mindful of their own and others’ wellbeing.

It is after trauma that people are significantly prone to mental health issues like depression and/or anxiety. It is important to take extra care of mental health after and during the bushfires. If you find yourself or others’ exhibiting changes that remain for more than a couple weeks you should seek support.

Changes to look out for can include feelings of anxiety, sadness, increased temper, self-isolation, and ceasing activities the person enjoys. Some simple tips that RAMHP have provided to look after mental health are: spend time with family and friends, take time out but don’t isolate yourself, accept help, and understand you are not alone.

For further support calling Healthwise (1800 931 540), Connect to Welbeing (1300 160 339) or NSW Mental Health (1800 011 511) is recommended. These organisations can also be accessed through their websites (Healthwise: healthwisenenw.com.au/, Connect to Wellbeing: www.connecttowellbeing.org.au/, NSW Mental Health: www.health.nsw.gov.au/mentalhealth/Pages/default.aspx).

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