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National Disaster Mental Health and Wellbeing Framework 2021

2.4 Framework scope

2.4.1 National

The Framework’s scope is ‘national disasters’. It applies to any disaster that triggers national coordination mechanisms, including response or recovery assistance, under existing nationally agreed plans in the health and emergency management sectors. This includes but is not limited to incidents coordinated under the NatHealth Arrangements, when the Australian Disaster Response Plan (COMDISPLAN) is activated or when Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements are activated.

The Framework also aims to guide good practice in any disaster, large or small. A key purpose of the Framework is to achieve consistent responses for all Australians who experience a major emergency or hazard, including disasters managed by a single state or territory, or a local event, that do not trigger national coordination mechanisms.

2.4.2 All-hazards

The all-hazards approach means the focus is on the impact of an incident, hazard, or emergency, rather than being limited to a specific type of event (such as natural hazards). In other words, it is applicable to the full spectrum of emergencies or disasters. This scope is consistent with contemporary Australian and international disaster frameworks, such as the Australian Government Crisis Management Framework whose scope includes (but is not limited to):

  • terrorist incidents, cyber incidents, health pandemics, animal diseases, natural disasters and incidents affecting Australians and/or Australian interests overseas.2

2.4.3 Recovery phases

In recent years the concept of ‘recovery as restoration’ has been supplemented by a focus on the opportunities disasters may create for communities to ‘build back better’. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that in developing countries:

  • The surge of aid, combined with sudden, focused attention on the mental health of the population, creates unparalleled opportunities to transform mental health care for the long term.3

Figure 2 Community capacity building over time

The lessons learned in a disaster or emergency situation will ideally build community capability over time. Not learning such lessons was a frustration highlighted in the Commission’s research.

At an individual level, recovery is not linear and can be a lengthy process. Some people feel they never recover. Successive or simultaneous disasters can act as triggers, create fears about the future, and amplify adverse effects. Research indicates that individual and community experiences of a disaster vary greatly and progress differently. As such, individual and community recovery can take different trajectories.

Alternatively, some people describe their experiences post-disaster as ones of evolution or transformation, both for themselves and their community. The Framework often uses the language of ‘before, during, and after’ a disaster in order to respect people’s varied experiences.4

Figure 2 Community capacity building over time

Aboriginal flag Torres Strait Islander flag

Acknowledgement of Country

The Commission acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands throughout Australia.
We pay our respects to their clans, and to the elders, past present and emerging, and acknowledge their continuing connection to land, sea and community.


The Commission is committed to embracing diversity and eliminating all forms of discrimination in the provision of health services. The Commission welcomes all people irrespective of ethnicity, lifestyle choice, faith, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Lived Experience

We acknowledge the individual and collective contributions of those with a lived and living experience of mental ill-health and suicide, and those who love, have loved and care for them. Each person’s journey is unique and a valued contribution to Australia’s commitment to mental health suicide prevention systems reform.