In February 2019 Victorians will acknowledge the 10-year anniversary of the 2009 Victorian bushfires, one of the worst natural disasters our state has experienced.

The anniversary is a time to reflect and remember the 173 people who died in the bushfires, to learn about many lives that were changed and how communities have rebuilt.

Many Victorians still experience the effects of the bushfires and the severe heatwaves that occurred in early 2009.

Everyone’s journey through recovery is different and for many, recovery remains an ongoing challenge.

It’s normal to have strong feelings

As the anniversary approaches, people may experience different emotional, physical and psychological reactions. 

These feelings are normal and on most occasions, will subside again within a few weeks as part of the body’s natural healing and recovery process. 

There are strategies you can use to cope with these strong feelings including: 

  • talking with family and friends
  • accepting that you have had a distressing or frightening experience
  • rest
  • exercise

You can find more coping strategies on the Better Health Channel.

Check in with friends and family

If you know someone who was affected by the 2009 bushfires, it’s a good idea to check in on them to see if they are ok.

Some people may feel more anxious, stressed or nervous this summer because of new bushfire risks and drought, particularly if they live in a bushfire-prone area or if they have been affected by other bushfires.

I think I need more help

If you or someone you know is finding this time difficult, it’s important to remember you are not alone.

There are many places you can go to for advice or help, including friends and family, your local doctor, mental health support services, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or online resources like the Better Health Channel and Sane.

If at any time you are worried about your psychological wellbeing or mental health of yourself or someone you know, there is always help available through:

  • Your GP 
  • A mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, counsellor  or social worker
  • Your community health centre 
  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • GriefLine 1300 845 745
  • BeyondBlue 1300 224 636
  • The Australian Centre for Post-Traumatic Mental Health (03) 9035 5599

The Department of Health and Human Services has provided extra support through existing, trusted and local service providers wherever possible to make sure people can access services that are tailored to their needs. These include:

  • counselling services
  • mental health, alcohol and other drugs counselling
  • community engagement activities
  • GP locums.

To access these local services you can speak with your doctor or a mental health professional.

Family violence

In times of trauma and grief, instances of family violence can increase. If you are experiencing family violence and are in immediate danger, call 000.

For confidential counselling and advice call the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling service on 1800 737 732 (1800 RESPECT).

Support during commemorative events

Red Cross and the Victorian Council of Churches volunteers will be available to support people attending commemorative or community events being held across the state during February 2019. They will be on the ground, providing psychosocial first aid.

More support and recovery advice is available from the Vic Emergency website on recovering from a bushfire and the Better Health Channel on trauma reaction and recovery.

Person-centred services and care