Concern for communities as fires ravage south eastern Australia

01 January 2020

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) is deeply concerned by the catastrophic bushfire events currently impacting large areas of south eastern Australia, their local communities and holiday makers.

‘Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with all of those impacted and currently still affected by these devastating events,’ said RANZCP President, Associate Professor John Allan.

‘I understand that these events are still unfolding with communities isolated and vulnerable people stranded in evacuation centres waiting for news of family, friends and loved ones.

‘There are also those returning to their homes to discover unprecedented losses to property, business, livestock, wildlife and pets.

‘I am acutely aware a lot of people remain in danger and there will be a lot of anxiety given the forecasts for a return to extreme conditions on Saturday.

‘We urge people to take all of the necessary steps to prioritise their personal safety and wellbeing during this time of crisis,’ said Associate Professor Allan.

The RANZCP appreciates the courage, commitment and hard work of the emergency workers, police, hospital staff, volunteers and other members of the public who are responding to these fires, particularly on the south coast of New South Wales (NSW) and Far East Gippsland in Victoria.

‘With so many struggling with the sense of shock and despair at the devastation, we are thankful for the strength, professionalism and hope demonstrated daily by people working in these communities,’ said Associate Professor Allan.

The RANZCP President emphasised that people directly or indirectly exposed to these fires may experience a range of emotions and reactions in the coming days and over the weeks and months to come, and there is no right or wrong way to respond.

‘These types of disasters can lead to a wide range of direct and indirect negative health effects including mental health problems and mental disorders.

‘While most people recover from such traumatic events, it is vital that people who find themselves struggling to cope with serious incidents such as these seek out help from mental health professionals.’ 

The RANZCP President also called on governments, insurance agencies and other responsible organisations to ensure that all of those affected are provided with access to readily available resources, due compensation, financial support and the mental health services they require.

For more information, please see our list of mental health support services and refer to first steps to seek mental health support.

For the latest fire information in New South Wales, please refer to the NSW Rural Fire Service website.

For information on bushfires in Victoria, visit the VicEmergency website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Andy Newton on +61 (0)3 9601 4982 or +61 437 315 911, or email