In the immediate aftermath of the devastating Victorian bushfires on Black Saturday, 7 February 2009, an expert reference group was formed to guide the education and training needs of health professionals in responding to the psychosocial and mental health needs of people affected by bushfires. This group comprised representatives from the Department of Health and Ageing, the Victorian Department of Human Services, professional health organisations including the Australian Psychological Society, Australian Association of Social Workers, Occupational Therapy Australia, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, as well as the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, General Practice Victoria and Austin Health - Centre for Trauma Related Mental Health.
The Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health developed a framework for mental health response to the Victorian bushfires that outlined three distinct levels of support. These levels of support included population level support for common distress responses, psychosocial support for people with moderate distress, and mental health interventions for people with significant mental health problems.
The framework guided the education and training of community members and health professionals across the state to enhance their provision of care and support to people affected by the disaster.
Lessons, guidelines and materials were drawn from existing resources or developed anew in the period following the Victorian bushfires. The Psychosocial Support in Disasters portal was developed to share these resources with health professionals working with people threatened by, or affected by, disasters.