Launched by Craig Lapsley, Victorian Emergency Management
Commissioner, this research aims to support and learn from local clergy
and laity in the Murrindindi Shire, responding to those affected by the
trauma of Black Saturday on 9 February 2009. The fires caused
Australia’s highest-ever loss of life from a natural disaster. They
claimed 173 human lives, injured 5000 people, and destroyed 2029 homes.
Based on interviews with eleven clergy from seven denominations, Dr
Lisa Jacobson in this research examines their role during the Black
Saturday bushfire emergency of 2009, and the impact on them personally.
She makes many recommendations about how church and community groups,
with government and other agencies, need to prepare the training for
people to handle such trauma, and to coordinate closely with each other
in the emergency.
Some of the clergy had received little or no training for such
trauma, and all were exposed to high levels of stress and even burnout.
The research included debriefing workshops for clergy and laity about
emergency services training, and opportunities for conversation and
prayer about the spiritual integration of what they had been through.
The report recommended initiatives for clergy and pastoral workers
include trauma training for emergency situations, and increased
ecumenical collaboration in trauma preparation and recovery. The report
also recommends the VCC Emergency Ministries provide state-wide
ecumenical focus on long-term pastoral care, preparing local communities
to respond to emergencies, in recognition that the effects of such
disasters are prolonged and require extra support from specialised
services, including suitable religious rituals and healing for hearts
The project was funded by the Collier Charitable Fund, and managed
jointly by the Yarra Institute for Religion and Social Policy and
Creative Ministries Network.
Copies of Working with Disaster can be obtained for $10 plus
$5 postage from the Yarra Institute for Religion and Social Policy firstname.lastname@example.org, or PO Box 505, Box Hill VIC 3128, (03) 9899
Who helps the helpers?
Closely involved with church and community groups responding to the bushfires, Ivan Peterson reflects on the impact of this prolonged trauma on the helpers.
Download the free e-book version of the report.
Read Dr Lisa Jacobson talk at the launch of Working with Disaster: Clergy & Bushfires