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National Disaster Mental Health and Wellbeing Framework 2021


Australians will continue to face serious hazards in the coming years. In contrast to other parts of the world where war or civil conflict is present, the majority of these hazards are environmental events or processes. As a result, they disproportionately affect people living in rural and remote areas, and those in certain demographic groups (such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People) – the impacts on these priority populations is explored in greater detail in the supporting documents to the Framework.

Research on how people cope in such crises has increased in the last decade, including longitudinal or tracking studies which tell us about the varied patterns that occur over time. Such has shown that severe stress reactions followed by recovery, delayed onset reactions, and chronic conditions, also occur.

This Framework sets out actions that strengthen individual, family, and community resilience, make recovery more likely, and treat delayed reactions and chronic conditions. Many of these relate to the disaster planning and preparation needed at a community level, and ways to reduce ‘aftermath stress’ which can be more debilitating and stressful than the disaster itself. In the context of mental health and wellbeing, acknowledging that the impacts of a traumatic event can appear months or years afterwards, and accommodating for this, is critical. Similarly, the Framework emphasises that the way services and supports are delivered is as important as the type of support delivered. Local planning and, where possible, delivery, tailored to local needs is therefore important.

For this reason, the Framework is not designed for standardised implementation but for all recovery partners to use to enhance current arrangements. Its goal is greater consistency in what all Australians can expect in support of their mental health and wellbeing in the context of disasters, while recognising that how this is achieved will require collaborative, tailored solutions involving all levels of government, other recovery partners, and the community.