THE community development and justice committee in the WA Parliament is undertaking an inquiry focusing on State Government workers and volunteers who work for State agencies involved in emergency responses.
These include the Fire & Emergency Services Authority, the police and St John Ambulance.
It is talking to local and other witnesses on whether existing agency responses adequately address the trauma experienced by staff and volunteers during and after declared natural disasters that have occurred since 2001.
Many of these “first responder” workers also have to deal with dramatic incidents every working day, such as fatal car accidents, house fires and suicides.
The committee wants to know the barriers to those suffering trauma (sometimes called PTSD) from accessing available assistance services and the measures to mitigate any health impacts they have from trauma, especially when responding to a declared disaster such as a bushfire or flood.
The committee has received nearly 20 submissions and has heard from more than 100 witnesses here in Perth and in places such as Christchurch that have had severe disasters.
It will report to Parliament later this year.
The Government will then have three months to respond as to whether it agrees or not with each of the committee’s recommendations.
I and other members of the committee have heard harrowing stories from witnesses about what they have had to go through, and the stress that events such as car accidents and shark accidents have caused to them.
In fact, many “first responders” have retired from their job due to this stress.
The committee is looking at new processes such as formal peer support programs and the use of retired workers to try to assist these people who do important tasks in our community.
Tony O'Gorman is the Community Development and Justice Committee Chairman