Australian counsellors flown to Christchurch

Australian counsellors flown to Christchurch

13 September 2010

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Australia:  Trauma counsellors who helped in the aftermath of Victoria’s bushfires are being flown into Christchurch to help earthquake victims.

The Salvation Army is bringing in about 20 counsellors, including 10 who helped people in the wake of deadly bushfires near Melbourne last year.

Salvation Army Major Wendy Barney, co-ordinator of the emergency-response counselling team, said counsellors had already spoken to more than 100 traumatised earthquake victims in Christchurch. “Something massive has happened in their lives and we are trying to help them understand and cope with that,” Barney said.

“We have given them some mechanisms for that.”

The Salvation Army currently has nine counsellors working in Christchurch, but hopes to have 27 counsellors in the city by tomorrow.

Counsellors are also helping people deal with the trauma of possibly losing their homes.

The Christchurch City Council’s building evaluation team has issued red notices for 187 buildings. These are not demolition orders, but mean the buildings should not be occupied.

The Australian counsellors would be a huge help.

“We want to bring the best here. They will bring huge knowledge that we do not have at the moment.”

It would take a long time for people to overcome the trauma,” she said.

“There may not be a `normal’ again. It could take weeks or months. Loss takes a long time to deal with.”

Victim Support chief executive Tony Paine said about 50 volunteers from across the South Island would help out Christchurch support-service workers.

“The Christchurch teams are getting pretty tired,” he said. “We don’t give counselling, but emotional first aid. It is helping people with some simple advice on coping with trauma.”

The support workers were accompanying building inspectors when they went to damaged homes to help distressed residents, he said.

“Clearly, if people are going to be told that their home is not habitable that will be traumatic and we can be there for that.”

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