Providing psychological services to people affected by bushfires

13 February 2020


The ANU Research School of Psychology together with the Australian Psychological Society proudly provided a live webinar on ' Providing psychological services to people affected by bushfires' The webinar was delivered live on 21st February 2020 and was designed to help mobilise and prepare psychologists and other mental health service providers to assist people whose mental health has been adversely affected by the fires.

A recording of the webinar is available below, with additional resources and presenter slides. The webinar recording and materials is also available through the APS, which can also issue a certificate suitable for documenting CPD.

Webinar Summary

The recent bushfires have affected thousands of people across regional and rural Australia. In their wake, the bushfires have exacted enormous loss – of life, property, community, dignity and hope. Moreover, exposure to the fires and their smoke have caused untold health problems and concerns. The traumatic impact of the fires and smoke has been significant and calls for a timely and concerted response from healthcare professions to aid in the recovery of people and the rebuilding of their communities.

Emergency agencies such as the Red Cross have mobilized initial support and psychological first aid through their established channels and networks.

In coming weeks and months, psychologists and other mental health professionals will be asked to provide a second wave of support, including the treatment of mental ill-health related to the impact of the fires. Providers in urban areas may wish to offer treatment to people living in regional, rural and remote areas.

The purpose of this webinar is to help mobilise and prepare mental health workers across Australia to provide this second wave of support. It will provide an introduction to key areas of practice related to supporting people impacted by the bushfires. Participants will be able to assess their learning needs and find out about additional CPD that they can undertake in coming weeks to prepare themselves for this work.

On completion of this webinar, participants will have introductory knowledge of:

  • Strategies for adjusting engagement, assessment and interventions to best meet the needs of the diverse populations who have been impacted by the fires
  • The broader health impacts of bushfire exposure and optimal ways to collaborate with General Practitioners in this area of work
  • Culturally safe practice
  • Use of videoconferencing in clinical practice

Panel of presenters

Rob Gordon

Rob Gordon is a clinical psychologist who has been working in the field of disaster recovery since Ash Wednesday in 1983. He is a consultant to Red Cross and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and has worked with people and communities after the Port Arthur shooting, the Bali Bombing, Black Saturday, the Christchurch Earthquake as well as numerous floods, fires, cyclones and other events throughout Australia and New Zealand. Rob himself is a bushfire survivor and spends time counselling and helping the survivors of bushfire, flood, fire, cyclone and other traumatic events.

Christine Phillips

Christine Phillips is a general practitioner and health services researcher with interest and expertise in the health and health care of marginalised persons and populations, quality in health care and refugee and migrant health. Christine has extensive experience of working with people who have experienced trauma. She is Medical Director of the ACT's refugee health care service, and has over twenty-five years of clinical experience working in primary care in the context of deep urban poverty, drug and alcohol medicine, elder care, and prison health. She is past Chair of the Refugee Health Network of Australia and has been an Advisor for UNHCR, the Migration Council of Australia, and state/federal departments of health and human services.

Glenn Williams Assoc MAPS

Glenn Williams Assoc MAPS is a descendant of the Wiradjuri people of NSW. Glenn is the Project manager for the MIND the GaP project at the University of Wollongong, which is developing and delivering best practice mental health services in the region. Glenn is a Registered Psychologist and past State Mental Health Coordinator for the Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council of NSW (AH&MRC) – the NSW peak body for the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector. Prior to this Glenn worked in a clinical practice as a Psychologist based in an Aboriginal Medical Service

Rohan McKnight

Rohan McKnight is the Digital Training Co-Ordinator at Coordinare, South Eastern NSW PHN. Rohan works closely with primary health care providers to develop, implement and support health informatics initiatives across the region. He provides technical and practical advice on clinical information systems, telehealth, secure messaging, and other eHealth technologies.

Julia Reynolds FAPS

Julia Reynolds FAPS is a Clinical Psychologist at the Research School of Psychology at the Australian National University. Julia has extensive experience in traditional forms of clinical practice as well as its application in electronic delivery formats including videoconferencing. Over the last decade, Julia has contributed to advances in research and practice in e-therapies and to national initiatives to train service providers in the use of technology in routine practice.

Webinar Facilitator

Bruce Christensen

Bruce Christensen is a clinical psychologist and clinical neuropsychologist and the Director of Professional Programs (including the Master’s and PhD of Clinical Psychology and Master’s of Professional Psychology) at the Research School of Psychology, Australian National University. His clinical and research work has focussed on serious mental illness with an emphasis on psychotic disorders and a particular interest in how stress causes vulnerability for psychotic experiences.


Working with general practice - Christine Phillips (PDF 816KB)

Telepsychology and Video-conferencing - Julia Reynolds (PDF 2.47MB)

The Effects of Preparing for Sudden Death - Rob Gordon (PDF 1.74MB)

Providing psychological services to people affected by bushfires (PDF 248KB)