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Tuesday, 15 October 2002
Page: 5119

Senator FORSHAW (2:24 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Patterson. Minister, as we know, many people have been affected by the terrorist attacks in Bali. I refer not just to those who were there at the bombsite who may have been killed or injured but also to those people who came to their aid, to the families and friends both in Bali and in Australia, and particularly also to those people awaiting news of missing relatives or friends. Can the minister advise what the government is doing to offer critical incident counselling help, both here and in Bali, to these hundreds of people? What action has the government taken, or will it take in the near future, to coordinate the nationwide provision of private and public sector resources to support these traumatised Australians? And will these counselling services continue to be available in the months ahead, when they will obviously still be needed?

Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) —I thank the honourable senator for his question. The issue of counselling is quite a difficult one. As I have said, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Emergency Management Australia are coordinating the whole operation. They will be coordinating the immediate response and then looking at the longer term. We are currently looking at counselling, for example, for those in the health profession who have been involved in dealing with the victims both overseas and here. The Council of Remote Area Nurses of Australia, CRANA, which has a 24-hour crisis counselling service available to medicos who require counselling, mainly in remote and rural Australia, has offered its services to the medical and allied health professions. We need to make sure that we have the appropriate counselling for the appropriate groups. State departments will of course also be involved, and there will be a role for Emergency Management Australia in coordinating those services.

Senator FORSHAW —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for her answer and I am sure she agrees on the importance of such counselling being made available as soon as possible to assist those affected by this terrible event. What action has the government taken to marshal the considerable trauma counselling resources that are available to it from the Australian Defence Force, and when will these mainly reserve personnel be assisting the hundreds of shocked victims of this attack?

Senator PATTERSON (Minister for Health and Ageing) —As I said, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is the lead department, in conjunction with Emergency Management Australia, and those details will be dealt with. My department is playing a significant role in contributing to the task force that has been set up to deal with this, through Emergency Management Australia, and it will be dealing with those issues. Some counsellors have already been deployed in appropriate places to deal with counselling. As I said, CRANA has offered its services to the allied health professions and advice to me from two state ministers is that there is counselling available. Those details are under the leadership of Emergency Management Australia, and when those requirements come in my department responds. If it is the Defence Force, it is of course an issue for the Minister for Defence, Senator Hill. But it is coordinated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with Emergency Management Australia.