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Help is at hand where ‘invisible fires’ still burn says Stone

Lifeline Australia still receives 400 calls a day to its dedicated Bushfire Recovery Helpline one year on from Black Summer bushfires.

NRMA Insurance and Lifeline have partnered with Australian music icon Julia Stone to highlight the continued need for mental health support for people affected by the devastating fires throughout the 2019-2020 season.

Stone has created a powerful bush poem, “Next To Me”, to shed light on the ongoing mental health trauma caused and to reassure those who are struggling a year on, that help is still available.

While the bushfires ended a year ago, the number of calls to Lifeline Australia show that, for many, the invisible fires still burn.

The poem is personal for Stone, who trained as a mental health counsellor and volunteers as a hotline support worker, assisting people and families living with anxiety disorders.

“As I wrote in my poem: ‘You all saw it on the TV, but it still burns inside of me,’ Stone said. “I want to highlight that it’s important we don’t forget about those who have been physically and mentally affected by the Black Summer bushfires, even though the world has moved on as we grapple with the effects of a global pandemic.”

To help illustrate the poem, NRMA Insurance collaborated with Julia Stone to develop a video titled “Invisible Fires”. Beginning as an MRI scan, a brain dynamically morphs in response to Julia’s lyrics, to metaphorically highlight the overwhelming negative mental impact this catastrophic natural disaster has had on so many Australians.

‘The enormity of the recovery is ongoing’
Stone’s poem follows a two-million-dollar donation to Lifeline Australia from NRMA Insurance and RACV. The donation will help provide video counselling support and community resilience training in bushfire affected areas.

Throughout the fires, NRMA Insurance frontline teams were on the ground in impacted communities, helping customers in person and providing emergency assistance. On the NSW South Coast, one of the hardest hit regions, NRMA Insurance teams spent seven consecutive weeks on the ground and helped more than 2,500 customers.

IAG Executive General Manager, Luke Gallagher, said: “We received more than 12,700 claims related to the Black Summer fires, and I know many of our people were brought to tears hearing the experiences customers shared with them.

“While most Australians saw the devastation of the bushfires on their screens, as an insurer we also see that the emotional toll on our customers and their communities goes beyond the physical damage to homes, businesses and wildlife.”

“We teamed up with RACV to make a two-million-dollar donation to Lifeline Australia to help extend Lifeline’s tele-health services and to help create local support networks that provide tailored community resilience training to people impacted by the bushfires. This beautiful poem is a reminder that help is still available,” Gallagher continued.

The joint NRMA Insurance and RACV donation will help enable Lifeline Australia to provide more than 8,000 tele-health counselling sessions for communities affected by natural disasters, provide e-learning Accidental Counsellor training for up to 3,000 people in communities across Australia and distribute thousands of toolkits and resources within affected regions, so people in these areas are aware of the support that’s available to them.

Lifeline Australia’s Chairman, John Brogden, said: “Our Bushfire Recovery Helpline, 13HELP is still receiving up to 400 calls a day. The crisis may be over, but the enormity of the recovery is ongoing. Many people won’t experience trauma for months, even years to come and Lifeline will be there for them 24/7. Julia Stone’s heartfelt poem will help people know that they do not need to suffer in silence. NRMA Insurance and RACV’s generous donation will enable us to extend our essential services for those mentally struggling from the Black Summer bushfires and other natural disasters including floods and Covid-19.”

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View “Invisible Fires” here.

If you are struggling and need support, reach out to someone you know or Lifeline Australia. Lifeline’s Crisis Supporters will continue to be available on the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on the 13 HELP Bushfire Recovery Line (13 43 57).

To donate to Lifeline, visit www.lifeline.org.au/donate

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