Bushfires and the role of general practice

Disasters, planning and Australian tourism

Australia’s devastating bushfire season of 2019-2020 highlights our country’s vulnerabilities to the effects of climate change.

The events also impact on global perceptions of Australia; the fires clash with the idea that we are a safe tourist destination. Australia’s economy is highly reliant on tourism – estimated to represent 10.4 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 12.2 per cent of total employment in 2018.

However, it seems we are yet to grasp the full extent of the economic impact that global issues exacerbated by climate change could bring to Australia; particularly when those consequences are bushfire disasters of an unprecedented magnitude, covered extensively by the international media and affecting some our most iconic tourist destinations.

Early estimates point to an impact on tourism of at least $A4.5 billion by the end of 2020. Bushfires and storms threaten water supply and much more…


Turning over a new leaf: How to help communities heal after trauma

Most of us are probably familiar with the concept of psychological trauma, the impact on an individual’s psyche caused by an extremely distressing event. But there’s another kind of trauma.

A collective disturbance that occurs within a group of people when their world is suddenly upended. Consider the Buffalo Creek flood of 1972 in the US, in which a dam burst at a West Virginia coalmine, inundating the town and killing 132 people.

Visiting the region the year after the disaster, sociologist Kai Erikson noticed that in addition to ongoing personal trauma, there was a “collective trauma”. The community as a whole appeared to be in a permanent state of shock. As Erikson noted in his book, Everything in Its Path, the floodwaters left more than physical damage in their wake. They also damaged the relationships and routines that had defined life for generations…


Bushfires and the role of general practice

Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements Image credit: The RACGP is seeking feedback on the role of general practice during a bushfire, and on how GPs could be better supported. (Image: AAP)

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements (bushfire royal commission) is designed to ‘examine coordination, preparedness for, response to and recovery from disasters as well as improving resilience and adapting to changing climatic conditions and mitigating the impact of natural disasters’.

It was established by the Federal Government following Australia’s horror bushfire season, which resulted in loss of life, property and wildlife, as well as considerable environmental destruction.

General practice has a vital role to play in such disasters and the RACGP will be providing submissions to the bushfire royal commission, as well as the Senate inquiry: Lessons to be learned in relation to the Australian bushfire season 2019–20. The college is seeking member feedback on the role of general practice, and on how a response could be better facilitated and GPs better supported….



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