Tony Pearce, Chair of the Emergency Services Foundation and Victoria's Inspector General for Emergency Management, has embarked on a solo trek over 50 days covering 1440 kilometres in the areas worst affected by the 2019-20 Black Summer fires.
Tony’s Trek will travel through many of areas affected by Victoria’s 2019–20 Black Summer bushfires acknowledging the mental health impacts that those fires had – and continue to have – on emergency personnel and community members alike.
Tony’s Trek aims to raise awareness and support for building collaborative sector-wide mental health initiatives ed by the Emergency Services Foundation (ESF).
Victoria’s emergency management sector includes more than 125,000 paid and volunteer members in frontline and support roles devoted to helping Victorian communities before, during and after emergencies like fire, flood, storm, and pandemic.
A study by Beyond Blue has revealed first responders and emergency service workers are more likely than others in the community to suffer serious and debilitating mental illness because of the accumulated trauma they often face while working. This is reflected in escalating mental injury claims.
“We are seeing larger and longer duration emergencies affecting our communities, and it is increasingly evident that members of our emergency services community – who give so much to Victorians before during and after these emergencies – are at increasing risk of suffering a mental injury due to the type of work that they do to keep us safe”, says Tony Pearce
Despite considerable investment in mental health treatment programs and services, there is still much work required to help prevent mental injury.
CEO Siusan MacKenzie says, “ESF seeks to get ahead of the mental harm and injury threat that currently pervades the sector – that’s why our focus is on prevention and early intervention.
“We must make sure we have the best possible programs to help support those who are always ready to support our community”, says Siusan.
Funds raised from Tony’s Trek will be used to enable ESF to deliver pioneering - prevention-focused mental health initiatives – a Lived Experience Program and Pilot Residential Wellbeing Program.
ESF is entirely dedicated to the prevention of mental health injury for Victoria’s emergency workers. It works with the support of 14 member agencies.
More information: ‘Tony’s Trek’ campaign video.
To find out more, donate or get involved go to www.esf.com.au