Bushfire Recovery Counselling and Support

The Flying Doctor's Bushfire Recovery Counselling and Support service provides free and confidential counselling and support to individuals, families and emergency service workers affected by the bushfires in Far East Gippsland.

This service is delivered by Relationships Australia Victoria and the Royal Flying Doctors Service, facilitated by Gippsland Primary Health Network and East Gippsland Shire Council with funding by the Victorian and Australian governments under the Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.

Bushfire Recovery Counselling and Support

Why the Flying Doctor implemented this service

Following the Black Summer bushfires of 2019/20 bushfires, RFDS Victoria’s immediate response was to place an outreach clinician in Mallacoota to support the psychological distress of those evacuated and traumatised due to the fire. Following an approach by Gippsland PHN, RFDS Victoria further expanded this initial service to provide comprehensive trauma, grief and loss counselling and therapy to bushfire impacted communities.

Over the duration of the program, Flying Doctor mental health clinicians delivered more than 2,500 face-to-face and telehealth appointments across seven bushfire impacted East Gippsland communities, with a total of 318 clients seen.

The Flying Doctor was also successful in facilitating the delivery of a series of Art Therapy workshops to both adults and young people across Mallacoota and Cann River. In total, 30 adult and 15 youth Art Therapy sessions were delivered across Mallacoota and Cann River. 

With additional bushfire funding received in 2021, RFDS Victoria employed a Gippsland-based child mental health clinician to provide services to children between 0-12 years old (and their parents) in Mallacoota and Cann River. Prior to this employment, there were no locally based child mental health resources in these areas. 

Across the program, we partnered with the below 13 local services and organisations:

  • Bairnsdale Bushfire Recovery Hub
  • Buchan Bush Nursing Centre
  • Buchan Bushfire Recovery Hub
  • Gelantipy Bush Nursing Centre
  • Cann River Bush Nursing Centre
  • Cann River Bushfire Recovery Hub
  • Mallacoota Bushfire Recovery Hub
  • Mallacoota District Health Service
  • Mallacoota Medical Centre
  • Mallacoota P-12
  • Cann River P-12
  • Orbost Bushfire Recovery Hub
  • Swifts Creek Bush Nursing Centre

In 2020, RFDS Victoria and RAV won the Gippsland PHN award within the Partnership and Integration category for their work in this service.

    Meet our team

    Read the stories below to find out more about the real impact this service has on communities in Far East Gippsland.

    Care in the community

    As a mental health clinician with Flying Doctor Wellbeing, Peter has been able to serve the needs of rural communities across East Gippsland – both in person and via telehealth.

    Read more
    Answering the community’s call

    By embedding herself in the communities of Cann River and Mallacoota, social worker Sasha Wood has been able to help give children in Far East Gippsland a voice.

    Read more
    Finding hope after the fire

    A year after the devastating 2019/20 Victorian bushfire season, RFDS mental health clinician, Robyn Smith, reflects on a community that is hurting and healing together.

    Read more

    How to make an appointment

    To find out more or to make an appointment, contact the Flying Doctor Bushfire Recovery Counselling and Support service team:

    T: (03) 8412 0480

    Our partners

    Logos for funding partners of the program