Woman and man sitting down smiling at camera

Reflections from the frontline of an emergency

After a bushfire swept through the Pinery township north of Adelaide in November 2015, Department of Human Services Social Worker Leanne Fenton was among those first on the ground to support the recovery effort.

Reflecting on the experience during a recent interview with Adelaide-based Community Television station Channel 44, Leanne said she was awed by the strength of the community.

“It was shocking to see the devastation of the affected areas. The Pinery fire spread so far within a short period of time and destroyed many houses and buildings,” Leanne said.

“It made me think about how scary it would have been for so many people who live and work in the area. It was phenomenal to see the resilience and strength within the communities to work together during the recovery process.”

Leanne’s role in the aftermath of the disaster was to help locals get the financial and emotional support they needed to get back on their feet.

This meant travelling nearly 100 kilometres from her office in the heart of the Adelaide CBD to meet locals and make sure they were aware of the support on offer from the department.

“My role as a social worker was to undertake outreach visits to educate the community about the Disaster Recovery Payment and Disaster Recovery Allowance, delivered by the department on behalf of the Australian Government. These payments were activated in response to the Pinery bushfire.

“I also spent a lot of time discussing with people what their emotional response to the disaster was because understanding this can help people cope with their feelings and help along the path to recovery.

“I was able to offer direct counselling, support and information and or referrals to those who were emotionally distressed.”

Anyone affected by the Pinery bushfire has until 28 May 2016 to make a claim for either the Disaster Recovery Payment or Disaster Recovery Allowance.

More information

Find out more about how the department can help in an emergency and the social work services we offer.