How to Support Those Affected by the South West Fires

Amanda Lambros, counsellor and Curtin University clinical fellow
Amanda Lambros, counsellor and Curtin University clinical fellow

UNFORTUNATELY it’s that time of year again – bushfire season.

The recent South West fires were not the first and we are gut-wrenchingly aware that they will not be the last.

The word bushfire means so much more than what we initially think.

Yes, it’s typically a devastating fire, however, for those who have experienced the fires; the word simply means ‘loss’.

The loss of life, house, animals, identity, comfort, photos, safety and security – the list is endless.

The losses are often tangible and intangible – some can be easily replaced, while others can never be replaced.

In times of loss, people need a few things – yes, they need shelter, clothes, food, etc. but they also need friends, a shoulder (or two) to cry on, someone to share their stories and memories with.

They need people who will be willing to listen to their plight and offer a hug without wanting anything in return. They need someone who is willing to simply ‘sit, listen and care’.

Typically those in the ‘danger areas’ surrounded by bushlands are aware of what is required for an evacuation – they’ve taken copies of important paperwork, scanned in precious photos and stored everything in the ‘cloud’ or a fire-proof box so that if a fire does occur, they can still easily retrieve those items.

Many, however, don’t stop to ask themselves, ‘am I prepared if others need me?’

Are you prepared to offer a place to stay, provide some support (offer a couch or a bed, driving, child minding, tea and coffee making, listening) when people are in need. Are you prepared to sit, listen and care?

The financial cost of fire is high; however, the mental cost of loss is much greater. Get prepared to care for yourself and others.

If you need someone to talk to or if you’re able to provide a shoulder, call Anglicare Emergency Relief WA on 9325 7033 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.