Vol. 13 Issue 3. 2019


• Latest Events • Emergency Law with Prof. Michael Eburn • Friendships & Career in the Emergency Sector • Technology changing Police Surveillance • Natural Disasters & Mental Health • Click image to read more......

Vol 13. 2019


Strong bonds & rewarding careers



changing the

face of Police


The impact

of natural

disasters on

mental health

We’ve got your back.

Emergency Services Health is a not-for-profit

health fund that exists to enhance the physical

and mental health and wellbeing of Australia’s

emergency services community.

We do this by providing health insurance products,

support, information and services designed

exclusively for the needs of our members.

We treat our members like colleagues.

That’s because they are.

Fire Response &

Recovery Sector

State Emergency

Response &

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We’re rallying for

everybody working and

volunteering to protect

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driven by corporate investors

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Who Can Join?

Emergency Services Health is open to people across Australia who were

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Paramedics Australasia International Conference



28–30 NOVEMBER 2019

Wrest Point • Hobart • Tasmania


Photo credit: Roger Wong



Editor’s Note

Latest Events










2019 Frontline Mental Health


• Hawthorn hosts Emergency

Services Match

Emergency Law with Professor

Michael Eburn

Friendships and Career in the

Emergency Services Sector

Technology changing Police


Natural Disasters and Mental Health

Language Barrier in heath care

How a bushfire can destroy a home

Female leadership in the NSW Fire


2019 Flu Season - what we know

Emergency Contact Information

Cover Image:

Surf Life Saver Float






We hope you have unpacked the winter woolies for

this latest edition of the Australian Emergency Services

Magazine. A chilling cold front recently brought

snowfall across the Victorian and NSW alpine regions,

sending the icy blast far and wide.

In this edition, much like any other, we want to honour

and pay respect to the emergency services sector. It

is a large, generous and tight knit community as was

demonstrated in April when volunteer lifesavers,

Andrew Powell and his father Ross Powell tragically

lost their lives whilst attempting to rescue a tourist near

the Twelve Apostles in Victoria. Their bravery and

community spirit was spoken of all over the country,

This is the very core of the emergency service sector -

full of courageous and self less people who put the safety

and well being of others ahead of their own.

Working and volunteering in the emergency services

industry is certainly a life changing occupation. One

where strong bonds are formed and rewarding careers

are carved out. Our article in this edition about Amee

Morgans and Erin Smith - who started out at ESTA,

gives more insight into what a career in the emergency

services sector offers.

Stay warm and

happy reading

Emma Parker


Follow us on our social channels

and on our new website



The Australian Emergency Services Magazine is

a community educational resource publication

and does not promote itself as a charity or

fund raising institution, nor solicit on behalf of

charities and is no way financially supported by

or associated with any government or similar


Distributions of the publication is Bi-Monthly

and are circulated via a database of interested

parties, including business, subscribers,

advertisers, volunteer emergency organistations,

and council libraries. A print and digital

magazine is distributed to a targeted database in

each State & Territory.

Every effort is made to ensure that material

presented in the Australian Emergency Services

Magazine was correct at the time of printing

and is published in good faith, no responsibility

or liability will be accepted by Boothbook

Media. The views and opinions expressed are

not necessarily those of Boothbook Media and

its employees. The content of any advertising

or promotional material contained within the

Australian Emergency Services Magazine is not

necessarily an endorsement by Boothbook


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Please submit all articles to the Editor for consideration at:


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within the Australian Emergency Services Magazine.

Australian & New Zealand

Disaster & Emergency Management Conference

Wednesday12 - Thursday13 June | RACV ROYAL PINES resort








8 May 2019


Brought to you by:


2019 Frontline Mental Health Conference

There is a lot of positive work being

done within the emergency service

sector dealing with the mental health

of first responders and emergency

service personnel.

The Australian & New Zealand

Mental Health Association is hosting

the 2019 Frontline Mental Health

Conference in Townsville on Sunday

20th October through to Tuesday

22nd October.

This premiere event is designed for

all professionals working on the

frontline of disaster and emergency

management – from paramedics,

police and firefighters, through to

defence force workers and volunteers.

This conference will feature lived

experience speakers through to

mental health professionals and

emergency service professionals.

It aims to provide a platform for all

opinions, experiences and insights,

to help break the stigma of seeking

support for mental health when

working on the frontline.

First responders are at high risk of

developing mental health conditions

linked to stress and traumatic events.

The Frontline Mental Health

Conference has sourced some of

Australia’s most influential experts

in mental health, experienced in

providing specialised service and

support to workers regularly exposed

to disaster, emergency, stress and


The speaker line-up will give you the

chance to hear from fellow workers

in the front line, sharing their

experiences in dealing with issues and

instances that can severely impact on

mental wellbeing.

Attending the conference will provide

you with a library of resources,

including all presenter podcasts and

presentation slides. This will ensure

you are equipped with everything you

need to continue your educational

journey long after the conference has


It will be an opportunity to discover

research, insight and treatment

techniques from mental health

experts and to meet with fellow

industry workers.

To find out more about the

conference you can head to their

website to register your interest as an

attendee or a speaker. There are early

bird rates available.

2019 Frontline Mental Health

Conference - Townsville



When Hawthorn takes on

Collingwood on Friday 5 July at

the MCG, emergency management

personnel will be the focus.

The Emergency Services Match is an

initiative of Hawthorn Football Club

and aims to raise awareness of the

mental health challenges faced by

emergency management personnel, as

well as celebrating their contributions

to the community and raising

money for the Emergency Services


Nearly 40 percent of emergency

services employees are diagnosed

with a mental health condition,

compared to 20 percent of all adults

in Australia.

Footy fans who are also emergency

services personnel can get behind the

initiative by purchasing an Emergency

Services Membership, which provides

access to the Emergency Services

Match and one other Hawthorn Footy

Club game.

All proceeds from the memberships

go to the Emergency Services


Every day, our emergency service

workers, both paid and volunteer,

respond to over 7000 calls for help

from 000 here in Victoria.

They see, and do things, that many of

us find hard to imagine – and so often

they respond with their heart in their

mouth in anticipation of what they

will be faced with when they arrive at

the scene – especially when they are

working close to home in their own

small communities and see children

and others harmed reminding them

of their own families at home.

In recent years there has been a

growing awareness of the impact

that this work has on people, and

how exposure to danger and trauma

impacts their mental health and


Hawthorn Football Club Hosts

the Emergency Services Match

A national survey conducted by

Beyond Blue reflects the collective

voices of the 21,000 individuals who

shared their information to provide

ground breaking evidence into the

mental health and well-being of

emergency service personnel.

The research found:

• One in three employees

experience high or very high

psychological distress compared

to one in eight Australian adults

• One in three volunteers report

being diagnosed with a mental

health condition in their

life compared to one in five

Australian adults

• Over half employees surveyed

experienced a traumatic event

in the course of their work that

deeply affected them

• Employees who have worked

more than ten years in police and

emergency services are almost

twice as likely to experience

psychological distress and

six times more likely to have

symptoms of PTSD compared to

those with less than two years’


• Employees and volunteers report

suicidal thoughts over two

times more often than adults in

the general population and are

three times more likely to have a

suicide plan

These results reveal a workforce

that is deeply impacted, both by the

nature of the work that they do, and

the pressures of the environments in

which they work.

Support the Emergency Services

Foundation at:


AUSTRALIAN EMERGENCY LAW with Professor Michael Eburn











Leading expert in Law

relating to Emergency

Management &

Emergency Services

Follow Michael Eburn

Facebook- facebook.com/EburnM/

Twitter - @EburnM

For his latest articles on Emergency

Law go to:


Prevent or Respond ?

A question for Emergency Services

The mantra is Prevent, Prepare,

Respond and Recovery.

Preventing an emergency is better

than responding to one; but equally

we want resilient communities where

individuals and communities take

responsibility for managing their

own risk. But that still leaves the

emergency services to respond if and

when the residual risk manifests.

So where does the role of the

emergency services sit when it comes

to ‘prevent’? That is the essence of

today’s question that comes from

Adelaide. My correspondent has


A large tree is growing in one of

the private residences, right on the

edge, literally, of a lane – there is no

footpath. This tree has a diameter

at the base of abut 1.5 metres and a

height of, maybe, 30 to 40 metres – I.e.

a ‘significant’ tree. A broken branch

was lying across two other branches

at a height of 15 to 20 metres. The

butt of the branch was about a metre

into the lane on the tree side and the

branch extended across the lane and

finished about 2 to 3 metres over the

first-floor open car park area of a

business on the other side. It had been

there for some time because the leaves

were dead.

I advised the resident in the house

and she said that she would inform

the owner (she is renting). I advised

the business on the other side and the

receptionist said that she would notify

the council, which I had intended to

do, as well.

Jan 29, 2019

As an SES volunteer, I also called it in

to the SES reporting line. In Adelaide,

these calls go the MFS call centre. After

I explained the situation, the call-taker

said that it was not their responsibility;

it was the responsibility of the landowner.

I knew that it was too high for

SES to handle, but the MFS has aerial

units that would reach it and I thought

that they may respond.

I suspect that it is the responsibility of

the land-owner, but is this the case?

Would it constitute enough of a risk for

emergency services to be involved?

The problem is, in essence, that the

emergency services legislation says

very little about what the emergency

services do. It may be axiomatic that

fire brigades respond to fires so if

there is a fire everyone knows that

it’s the fire service job. And the fire

brigades have specific duties and

powers with respect to preventing

fires (see Fire And Emergency

Services Act 2005 (SA) ss 71-95A and

ss 105A-105K (relating to the Country

Fire Service)). But for other hazards

the issues are not so clear.

The South Australian State

Emergency Service has a number

of functions relating to dealing

with emergencies, including ‘to

assist the State Co-ordinator, in

accordance with the State Emergency

Management Plan, in carrying out

prevention, preparedness, response

or recovery operations under the

Emergency Management Act 2004’ (s

108(1)(b); emphasis added); and ‘to

deal with any emergency— (i) where

the emergency is caused by flood or

storm damage’ (s 108(1)(d)).

Emergency is defined (s 3) as:

… an event (whether occurring in

the State, outside the State or in and

outside the State) that causes, or

threatens to cause—

(a) the death of, or injury or other

damage to the health of, any person;


(b) the destruction of, or damage to,

any property; or

(c) a disruption to essential services

or to services usually enjoyed by the

community; or

(d) harm to the environment, or to

flora or fauna;

A dead tree limb hanging over a lane

threatens to cause death or injury

should it fall on someone, may

damage property and would certainly

disrupt ‘services usually enjoyed by

the community’ if it fell and blocked

the lane.

If this lane was moved to New South

Wales, the NSW State Emergency

Service is to ‘to protect persons

from dangers to their safety and

health, and to protect property from

destruction or damage, arising from

floods, storms and tsunamis’ (State

Emergency Service Act 1989 (NSW) s

8(1)(aa)). Removing a dead limb that,

if it falls during a storm, may cause

injury and would block a road would

‘protect persons from dangers to their

safety and health’. But I don’t think

anyone would seriously expect that

the SES in either SA or NSW would

respond to this job.

The answer is however that there is

no clear legislated line. It would be

quite consistent with the Act for the

services to see a hazard and seek to

remove it but there does have to be a

line. The SES are not going to clean

someone’s gutters as that will reduce

the risk of damage due to storm; nor

are the fire brigades going to check

domestic electricity installations

as that will prevent fire and every

adopts the PPRR mantra. The line

is drawn in effect by the emergency

services. They have been created

by government with a broad range

of functions and it is then up to the

Chief Officers to determine what they

do and what they do not do.

They only have limited resources and

have to ensure that they can do what

is clearly their role which is ‘respond’

to the emergency. This reasoning in

part explains why, as has been said

here before, there is no legal duty on

the emergency services to respond

and why the allocation of resources

by government to agencies such as

the SES and then within the SES

cannot be challenged in court. If

the Chief Officer assigns the bulk

of the budget to response, some to

community education and none to

removing obvious hazards from trees

across public lanes, that cannot be

challenged in court. That is his or her

call as to how the service is to operate.

What follows is that, in my view, it

would not be inconsistent with the

Fire and Emergency Services Act

2005 (SA) for either the Metropolitan

Fire Service or the South Australian

State Emergency Service to respond

to this notification of a threat to life

and property. There is nothing in

the Act to say that they must attend,

and nothing to say they must not. It’s

really up to them to decide how they

allocate their resources.

Even if the tree limb fell it’s not clearly

anyone’s responsibility. Council own

the lane and like any landowner can

chose to call the emergency services

or not. If there is a person trapped

under the tree then it’s going to

trigger an emergency response but if

it’s just on the road, the council, the

owner, a bystander or the SES may

choose to remove it. If it fell on a

person or car it would be impossible

to sheet legal responsibility to the

emergency services for failing to

remove it when they knew of it (see

No duty to prevent a disaster and no

duty to rescue (December 26, 2018)

and see also State of NSW v Tyszyk

[2008] NSWCA 107 discussed in

NSW Police owed no duty of care

to the family of fatal accident victim

(December 1, 2017)).

Legal responsibility for the tree, in

terms of who will have to pay if it

does fall and cause injury or damage,

is the tree owner – see Liability for

dangerous trees (April 28, 2015).

This article originally appeared on

the blog Australian Emergency Law


and is reproduced with the permission

of the author.

As a blog post it represents the author’s

opinion based on the law at the time it

was written. The blog, or this article,

is not legal advice and cannot be relied

upon to determine any person’s legal

position. How the law applies to any

specific situation or event depends on

all the circumstances.

If you need to determine legal rights

and obligations with respect to any

event that has happened, or some

action that is proposed, you must

consult a lawyer for advice based on

the particular circumstances. Trade

unions, professional indemnity insurers

and community legal centres can all be

a source for initial legal advice.




Almost 20 years ago, Amee Morgans and Erin Smith started at the

Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) (then Intergraph)

as triple zero call-takers. Since then, they have continued working across the

sector and are still close friends. Tania Willett from ESTA interviewed them

about their personal experience and the different career paths and leadership

roles that this sector has to offer.

Both women now have PhDs in

emergency services; Amee is back

at ESTA as Executive Director

Operations Support and Erin is

Course Coordinator and Senior

Lecturer in Disaster Response at

Edith Cowan University. For Amee

and Erin, joining ESTA was a positive

life-altering experience that led them

down the path of emergency services.

Both have worked in triple zero

call-taking, research, policy and


They talked recently about their

experiences, the friendships and

bonds that are created in the sector

and the different career paths

emergency services offers.

Take us back to where it all

started. How did you get into the

emergency services sector?

Amee: My interest in emergency

services has always been present.

I grew up with my dad being a

The emergency services sector is filled

with people that are all the same sort of

person - community focused and their

valued alignment is very strong; selfsacrifice

and doing things that are

difficult for the greater good

Amee Morgans

paramedic. When I had nearly

finished my degree in psychology, I

got a part-time job in an ambulance

crisis-counselling unit, which

opened me up to the challenges that

emergency services workers face. I

knew I wanted to use my skill set in

the emergency services sector, which

led to me taking a job as a triple zero


Erin: When I first started at ESTA,

that was my springboard into an

emergency services career. As a triple

zero operator, the emergency services

world really opened up to me but the

pivotal moment for me was when

the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened.

I was working for ESTA during 9/11

and it really made me think - `what

are our emergency services people

thinking watching this unfold?

How is this going to influence our

sector in Australia?’ Since then I’ve

completed a PhD in disaster response

and have interviewed more than 100

paramedics in Melbourne, London

and New York about how 9/11

changed them and their perspective

on the work that they do.

Erin Smith Course Coordinator and Senior Lecturer in Disaster Response at Edith Cowan University and Amee Morgans Executive Director Operations Support ESTA

I believe you and Amee also

worked on a research paper

together around paramedics’

perceptions; can you talk a bit

more about that work?

Amee: Yes, in 2009, Erin and I

worked on a research paper titled

‘Paramedics’ perception of risk and

willingness to work during disasters’.

Paramedics, as emergency healthcare

workers and frontline responders

are expected to be both willing and

able to respond when disaster strikes.

In summary, this research looked at

whether the willingness to work is

directly influenced by paramedics’

perception of risk.

Erin: In terms of methods, a total of

58 Victorian paramedics participated

in this study and a total of 12 focus

groups were conducted throughout

the state, with each group facilitated

by the use of three different

emergency services scenarios. We

then analysed each groups’ reactions

to those scenarios.

It’s clear from your careers

and research that you’re both

passionate about the wellbeing of

emergency services workers. How

important is this to the sector as

a whole?

Erin: A lot of my work to date

looked at the long-term impacts on

first responders after disasters. For

example, with my research involving

9/11, I followed the paramedics and

their families over 15 years to see

the mental health impact that 9/11

had. The emergency services sector,

because of the nature of its work,

is one that can have high levels of

anxiety and stress and other mental

health issues. It’s important that as a

sector we continue to address these

issues and ensure that our people are

getting the right help before, during

and after disasters.

Amee: The 2009 Victorian bushfires

was when I saw the mental health

consequences on those from my

own family who work in emergency

services; my sister works in triple

zero, one brother is a police officer

and my other brother is a firefighter.

To see the impacts on my own family

really drove home how important

looking after your wellbeing is in

this sector is. Both Erin and I, in

our roles, are looking at trying to

make the workforce a healthier place

for emergency services workers by

looking at how we can set up better,

how we can manage things better and

how do we recover better. If people

are confident and competent, we will

be less likely to have mental health

injuries across the sector.

You both forged a strong

friendship over the past 20 years.

What have you noticed about

friendships and bonds in the


Amee: The emergency services sector

is filled with people that are all the

same sort of person - community

focused and their valued alignment

is very strong; self-sacrifice and

doing things that are difficult for

the greater good. I think because it

takes a certain sort of person to be

an emergency services worker and

stick with it for the long haul,; strong

bonds are created because we all get

each other and have been through

experiences that nobody else can

really understand. It’s also a small

world in this sector - everybody

knows everybody. I know whole

families in the sector. There are always

touch points.

Erin: I know for Amee and I we

developed a lovely friendship during

our time working at triple zero

because we supported each other. We

weren’t just your typical workmates –

we heard things that you wouldn’t be

exposed to in another job role.

What do you both see when you

look at the future of the sector?

Erin: I see there being lots of growth

in terms of the types of roles we will

have. Even though we have many

different career paths in emergency

services that people can take now,

such as education, logistics and

recovery work, I think there will be

more targeted courses, and we’re

certainly seeing that now in the post

grad area; for example, there are

courses such as wildness medicine

and tactical medicine.

Amee: I hope to see boundary-less

services and a greater ability to

transition between sectors and roles.

When people reach the end of their

career as a first responder, it would

be good to see that they can transfer

into other roles within the emergency

services sector.

Tania Willett

Corporate Affairs Adviser

ESTA - Emergency Services

Telecommunications Authority



how new technologies are changing

police surveillance

When we think of

surveillance, we tend

to imagine traditional

surveillance tools like CCTV systems

run by local authorities. The use of

CCTV has certainly increased since

I was a young constable on the Gold

Coast in the early 1990s. From a

CCTV network of 16 cameras when

they were first introduced to the city

precinct, the network has grown to

more than 500 cameras today.

But surveillance is much more than

just CCTV. It now includes things

like private home or business security

systems, police body-worn cameras

(BWC) and the use of helicopters

and drones. And we all have the

capacity to conduct surveillance and

gather evidence using the technology

contained in our mobile phones.

These new technologies are changing

the way police approach surveillance.

Rather than using surveillance tools

reactively to catch criminals caught

in the act on camera, police are now

proactively seeking out criminals

in the process of offending and

recording the evidence on the spot.

CCTV helps solve crime,

not prevent it

Most studies show that CCTV by

itself does not necessarily prevent

crime, but it does assist in responding

to and solving crime.

In the Boston bombing case, police

used footage and images from state,

public and private sources to identify

the suspects. CCTV is also proving

crucial in identifying the bombers

who staged the recent coordinated

attacks in Sri Lanka.

Two studies released by the Australian

Institute of Criminology last month

focused on the use of CCTV by

police. The first showed that where

police requested and used CCTV

footage, there was an increase in the

rate of matters being solved. The

second study showed CCTV footage

is highly valued by law enforcement

personnel, with 90% of investigators

using the footage when it was

available. Two-thirds were able to use

it for the reason they had requested it.

New tools, new capabilities

We are now seeing a move from

reactive surveillance to proactive


Police body worn cameras (BWCs)

are an example of this. Every police

service in Australia is now using

BWCs. Rather than just recording

a criminal event by chance, BWCs

enable police to actively seek out

those committing offences, and

ecord the evidence against such


Queensland Police requires its

officers to record whenever the

officer is acting in the performance

of his or her duties. The device must

be recording prior to, and during,

the exercising of a police power or

applying a use of force.

This requirement can be problematic

since the officer must physically start

the recording. In the shooting matter

of Justine Damond in the United

States, officers were criticised for

having their recording devices turned

off during the shooting.

Some services have attempted to

deal with this issue, such as Western

Australia Police for instance, by

having the BWC automatically begin

recording when an officer draws their


Even traditional CCTV is becoming

proactive with the introduction of

mobile CCTV cameras that can

be moved as required to areas of

community concern.

Many police services are using drones

for tasks such as crowd management,

surveillance and target acquisition.

Queensland and Victoria are just are

two states that are committed to the

use of drones for policing purposes.

In 2017, Queensland Police had a fleet

of ten drones.

Facial recognition enables ‘predictive


Facial recognition software was

once the thing of Hollywood movies

like Mission Impossible. It’s now a

reality, with the Council of Australian

Governments (COAG) agreeing to

share biometric data, such as drivers

licence details and passport photos,

between government agencies.

Facial recognition software

was used by police during

2018 Commonwealth games in

Queensland. And the Queensland

government has indicated police will

continue to use facial recognition

tools – although confusion surrounds

when or how it will be deployed. The

ABC has reported that the facial

recognition system was so rushed that

it lacked the data to operate effectively

during the Commonwealth Games.

Facial recognition adds a predictive

policing capability to traditional

CCTV systems. In essence, predictive

policing or pre-crime policing is

an attempt by law enforcement to

disrupt criminal activity by the early

identification of criminal threats.

For example, Operation Nomad saw

a South Australian police visiting

suspected and convicted arsonists

when automated number plate

recognition alerted them to suspects

driving in fire danger zones. The

operation was credited with the

reduction of bushfire related arson.

Keeping a watch on big brother

Surveillance is changing from being

static, fixed and reactive to being

flexible and proactive. The enhanced

capabilities helps law enforcement

fight crime, rather than just solve it.

The Coalition government promised

A$20 million to increase the number

of CCTV cameras across the country.

Under the proposal, up to 2,600

cameras would be installed at 500

“crime hot spots”.

While this is a largely positive

move, we must ensure that there

is accountability and transparency

in the use of these technologies,

and ensure they serve the purposes

for which they were intended. An

effective governance regime is

essential to instill public confidence in

the use of these technologies.

Article first published on The Conversation

Terry Goldsworthy

Associate Professor in Criminology

Bond University


273 – 291 Princes Highway Arncliffe NSW 2205 wdawson@cityfordrockdale.com.au 1300 852 632



Let Paladin Risk Management Services fight the

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Radical circumstances

(bushfires and natural

disasters) flush out the

mental illness in society. Whenever

there’s a disaster, there’s a rush on

hospital admissions for psychiatric

problems. But on the whole, the

illness is already there.

Emergencies naturally make

fodder for delusions and the

emergency efforts, for mania.

Obviously, there are direct mental

health consequences – a small rise

in post-traumatic stress disorder

inevitably follows disaster. This

correlates with the severity of the

consequences of the disaster (loss

of family, friends, animals and


And there’s usually a big rethink,

with about a third of those affected

leaving the area permanently. But,

for the most part, this isn’t driven

by mental health issues, it results

from the very real fears about

whether living in a fire (or other

disaster) zone is worth it.

Resilience and weakness

In terms of mental health, the real

effect of disasters is surprising.

When handled well (as they

have been in the recent efforts),

disasters are an opportunity for

communities and people who are

directly involved to galvanise, and

this appears to inoculate against

mental illness by strengthening

social bonds, and feeding a sense

of purpose and meaning.

Another surprise is the flipside

– an inexplicable rise in the

mental illnesses that affect the

elderly. Those who are frail and

can’t get involved may feel they

are ultimately only a burden.

Such people suffer terribly from

mental illness as a result of

disasters. The big rise in mental

health admissions after a bushfire

happens in this group – its first

presentations of dementia and

senile degeneration is many times

higher than with any other mental


Natural Disasters

Impact Mental


Jan Golembiewski

Researcher in


Determinants of

Mental Health

University of Sydney

The complexity of social,

environmental and psychological

dynamics during an emergency

cannot be underestimated. With

normalcy going with the first

evacuees, the strength of “all that is

good” becomes the new foundation.

As the National Strategy for Disaster

Resilience points out, the power of the

community (people you never met

before come out of the woodwork to

help), and the abiding dedication of

the emergency services can be truly

inspiring. And this is just the thing

for building physical and mental


A useful way to understand this

effect is through a theory called

salutogenics. The theory rests on

a relative sense of coherence that’s

built by fostering three things –

manageability, comprehensibility and


Conversely, the sense of coherence is

depleted by anything that rattles your

ability to cope – not only a lack of

resources required to manage; a lack

of knowledge needed to comprehend

circumstances, or a lack of meaning

in life, but more general forces like the

entropy of age and time.

While emergencies inevitably attack

the ability to manage, they allow for

meaning by providing clear answers

to life’s big question – what are you

here for? Getting involved in an

emergency effort gives the answer –

I’m not a parasite, I’m here to save

people. I’m a contributor.

The formation of beliefs like these

has been shown to assist in the

widest gamut of health outcomes,

not only in mental health. Recent

research has also identified the

effect of improved meaning and

comprehensibility in conditions as

diverse as heart disease and cancers.

Surprising as it is, disasters can

actually improve health if people

find a way to get meaningfully

involved in the disaster response


Perceiving is believing

Reading this, you might think a

bushfire is a wonderful thing. But

there’s a big caveat – in emergencies,

the perceptions of those involved

are critical. Good interpersonal

connections create meaning,

but the lack of structure within

emergency situations also provides

opportunities for selfishness

and even criminality. And these

inevitably lend themselves to

atrocious outcomes (consider

Hurricane Katrina).

Good information improves

comprehensibility, but in an

emergency, information may be

hard to come by and is frequently

manipulated. What’s more, people



might not have the heart to be honest

when it matters most.

An under-promise allows low

expectations to be exceeded, and

this allows for a powerful message of

hope and the belief that everything

ultimately works out well. On the

other hand, disappointment is easily

taken as betrayal.

Disaster victims should be expected

to make unreasonable demands.

Victims may, for instance, extract

promises that are difficult or

impossible to keep. Who, after all,

wants to deny someone who is

desperate and might have his life in

danger? Who wouldn’t prefer to lie

and say, “don’t worry. Everything will

be fine”?

But a hastily made guess that

“someone will be there to help in

a couple of hours” can start doing

damage at 120 minutes and one

second. The reason is because

the promise suddenly becomes

questionable, and at this point,

comprehensibility collapses and

meaning starts to erode. What could

be more destructive mentally?

Article first published on The Conversation




0407 081 425

1/7 Beaconsfield Street, Fyshwick ACT 2609









Almost one quarter of the Australian population speaks a

language other than English at home. But health services

in Australia are largely delivered in English only.

We know Australians from culturally

and linguistically diverse backgrounds

are less likely to access health

services, which leads to poorer health

outcomes. One major reason for

this is the language barrier between

health-care providers and consumers.

Access to interpreters in health care

should be seen as a basic human right.

Interpreters benefit both patients and


Interpreters are a vital bridge between

health services and consumers.

Interpreters enable consumers to be

fully informed about their health

condition and options for treatment.

They also give consumers a voice

to express themselves freely in

their dominant language. This

means people can share exactly

what they need to say to healthcare

professionals and can ask the

questions they want answered.

Research has found the use of

professional interpreters improves

the experience of medical care

for patients with limited English


The use of professional interpreters

significantly reduces the risk of

communication errors that can lead

to negative clinical consequences.

Errors could include gaps in

information about patient allergies,

and instructions around the use

of prescription medicines being


But failure to provide access to

interpreters in health settings can

literally be a matter of life or death.

Particularly in an emergency, if a

patient and their loved ones are

unable to communicate details

about the patient’s medical situation

to the treating doctors, this may

impact whether the patient receives

appropriate and timely treatment.

In one case in the United States, a

hospital acted on advice provided by a

Spanish-speaking family with limited

English proficiency when admitting

their son. A court found language

confusion contributed to delayed

diagnosis of a brain haemmorhage,

which resulted in the patient

becoming a paraplegic.

But not everyone is given access to an


Despite the benefits of using an

interpreter, a recent study in a Sydney

hospital found although interpreters

were required in 15.7% of admissions,

just 3.7% of patients were actually

provided with an interpreter.

A person who needs an interpreter

may not get one because they’re

deemed not to require the service,

because an interpreter can’t be

sourced within the required

timeframe (for example, in emergency

situations), or because there’s no

interpreter available in the language

or dialect required by the patient.

The use of interpreters in regional,

rural and remote Australia may be

even lower given the lack of available

interpreters in those areas.

When health professionals and

consumers don’t speak the same

language, delivering health services

without an interpreter raises a

number of ethical issues.

For example, if a person is unable to

understand what is being said to them

by a health-care practitioner, they

can’t give their informed consent.

Proceeding with any treatment

without informed consent is in breach

of the code of conduct of all health

professions in Australia.

Family members as interpreters

The Australian government funds the

provision of professional interpreters

in health-care settings free of charge.

But professional interpreters are

not always on hand when they are

needed. This often results in the use of

family members as interpreters.

This practice is fraught with issues

and in some instances this can do

more harm than good for both the

interpreter and the patient.

Relatives don’t have formal training as

interpreters and may not be familiar

with the medical terminology being

used or how to translate it.

Family members may add their own

interpretation or opinion in the

delivery of the message, thereby not

delivering the message intended by

the health-care practitioner or the


In many migrant families, children or

young adults have the best knowledge

of English in the family and so are

often called upon to be the interpreter.

The use of underage interpreters

raises further ethical issues as they

are tasked with interpreting sensitive

health information about a loved one.

So caution is needed when using

family members as interpreters.

How can the use of interpreters be

increased and improved?

There are some key actions that

should be taken to improve healthcare

experiences and outcomes

for people with limited English


First, training for both interpreters

and health-care professionals is

essential to develop skills for effective


Second, there should be additional

time allocated for appointments

where interpreters are used. This

is because each sentence must be

said twice during the exchange of

information and time is needed for

briefing and debriefing about the


Third, health services need to collect

accurate information to determine

whether an interpreter is needed. A

person may present with functional

English but still require an interpreter

for ease of communication given

the complex terminology and the

seriousness of medical conversations.

And finally, professionally trained

interpreters must be available in the

languages and dialects required. There

are more than 300 languages spoken

in Australia and many have multiple


Investment in interpreting services

is essential to ensure the provision of

equitable, high quality health care to

all Australians. In a country where

interpreters may improve care for one

quarter of the population, we can’t

afford not to.

Article first published on The Conversation

Sarah Verdon

Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer

in Speech and Language Pathology,

Charles Sturt University

How a


can destroy

a home

Ten years after the devastation of Black Saturday,

building design has largely been unrecognised as an area

worthy of research. We have advanced our knowledge

of the materials used in the construction of homes in

bushfire-prone areas but we continue to use the design

model of the suburban home.

This needs to change. An initial

starting point is to consider the way

previous bushfires have damaged and

destroyed buildings.

Elements of a bushfire

A bushfire has five different elements:

smoke, wind, embers, flames, and

radiant heat (the latter two are collectively

called the “fire front”).

Smoke and wind are usually present

throughout a fire, but are particularly

high when the fire burns at its most

intense levels. Depending on the type

of vegetation burning, isolated flying

embers may arrive hours before a fire

front. Intense ember attacks usually

occur 15-30 minutes before a fire

front arrives, and may persist for up

to 8 hours after the fire front moves


Radiant heat at a level that makes it

impossible to survive outside will

persist during the passage of the fire

front, which may last anywhere between

2 and 15 minutes. However, if

consequential fires are ignited by the

main fire front, the radiant heat may

remain at non-survivable levels for

much longer.

The smoke of a bushfire reduces visibility

and can turn a bright day into

night. A change in wind direction can

renew a threat residents thought had

already passed them.

How will a bushfire attack your


Most people would expect that the

most destructive element of a bushfire

is the fire front, but rather surprisingly

that’s not the case. Ember entry

and associated spot fires, rather than

direct flame contact, accounts for 75-

80% of homes destroyed by bushfires.

Embers can be large strips of burning

bark, or a tiny spark as small as a pinhead,

and depending on wind speed

these can travel up to 10 kilometres

ahead of the fire front.

Australian research over the past

75 years has revealed more than 20

different parts of a house and its

surrounding area that are vulnerable

to bushfire attack. Much of this

knowledge has now been incorporated

into a recently updated Australian

Standard: Construction of buildings

in bushfire-prone areas.

These guidelines aim to reduce the

vulnerability of each part of a house,

and thus make the structure as a

whole more resistant to bushfire

damage. The Standard applies across

Australia for new homes and renovations.

The known building ignition points

The known weak parts of a building

are referred to as the “building ignition

points”. Several are considered


Roof cavity

In domestic homes the roof cavity is

the large open space under the roof

and above the ceiling. Embers in this

space can cause fire to spread rapidly,

making the whole building vulnerable

to ceiling collapse.

Any gap in the roof, such as a poorly

secured tile, can allow flying embers

to enter. The burning crown of a

nearby tree, pushed onto a roof by

high-speed winds, can also ignite the


When people choose to shelter in

their bathrooms they often forget

the ceiling is particularly vulnerable

there. It’s difficult to access a roof cavity

with a fire hose, and extinguishing

embers and fire invariably damages

electrical wiring, plasterwork, and

home contents.

Regular inspection and maintenance

of roof elements can help reduce ember

entry. Avoiding trees close to your

house, and removing any overhanging

branches, can also help reduce this

bushfire risk.


Overhanging trees can cause compacted

leaf litter to build up in gutters.

During a bushfire flying embers land

in this material, catch alight and

spread flames to combustible parts

of the roof structure such as wooden

facia boards, rafters, roof battens, and


It’s a good idea to clear out your

gutters each year as part of seasonal

bushfire preparation. Some people

choose to wait until a bushfire is approaching

to do this, but going onto

your roof for the first time in semidarknes

while embers are flying at

you can put you at risk, and endanger

your life.

If you’re building a new structure you

can consider extending the roof line

and having a water collection system

on the ground to remove the need for


Vents and weep holes

Together vents and weep holes allow

for fresh air to pass through a building

and for excess moisture to leave,

reduce condensation and mould. They

are necessary for our comfort and

health, and maintaining the integrity

of a building.

However in a bushfire these types of

external openings can allow flying

embers to enter the building and

start spot fires. Having steel or other

non-combustible mesh with small

holes in front or behind vents and

weep holes can reduce the bushfire

risk while still allowing air and moisture

to pass through.


Often houses constructed in bushfire-prone

areas are built on a sloping

block of land. The area under the

building (the subfloor) is left open

rather than being enclosed, and

combustible materials are often stored

there. The danger is similar in scale

to embers in the roof cavity. When

embers or flames take hold in this

subfloor area they can spread under

the entire building and allow the fire

to move up.

Plants and mulched garden beds next

to the home

Garden beds and timber steps near a

house are a potential danger during

a bushfire. Plants with dense foliage

can burn intensely and cause radiant

heat damage, cracking and imploding

nearby windows and glass doors.

Garden beds which have been


Oakhurst NSW 2761 troy@rhinosconstructiongroup.com.au

ecently mulched can trap flying

embers and spread fire to timber

subfloors. It’s much better to have

a non-combustible paved area next

to your home, with pots containing

either succulents or plants with

thin foliage.

Deciding whether to stay and

defend a home or leave early is a

difficult and contentious choice.

Hopefully, knowing more about

some parts of your house which

are most vulnerable to bushfire attack

will make that decision easier.

Article first published on The Conversation

Douglas Brown

Casual Academic

Western Sydney University

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Words By

Angela Calabrese


Image: Shutterstock


How do you maintain the momentum for an ambitious gender parity program

in a 6,800-strong organisation that has been exclusively male for decades

and only recently reached 17 women in its senior ranks?

The organisation in question, Fire and Rescue NSW says part of the answer

has been a highly successful, tailored program of empowerment and

confidence-building for its women leaders.

The Women Leading @ Fire + Rescue

NSW program was an initiative of

Wayne Phillips, Chief Superintendent,

Organisational Development People

and Culture, Fire and Rescue NSW,

who said he wanted to increase the

confidence of female leaders in order

to build the leadership pipeline.

The Women Leading program was

developed and delivered over six

months in 2018 by Executive Central

Director Reyna Matthes.

“Fire and Rescue NSW recognises

the benefits for both our existing

workforce and the communities

we serve to build an inclusive

environment and culture within our

organisation. There are many facets

that form an inclusive workplace and

this program focuses on building

capacity in our existing women

so they may act as role models for

those within and attraction beacons

for those women who may be

considering Fire and Rescue NSW

as a career,” Chief Superintendent

Phillips said.

“At the very least, Fire and Rescue

NSW recognises that career

advancement appears to be difficult

for women due to cultural and

confidence issues and this course was

seen as a way to build confidence in

its women to achieve whatever their

goals are.

“There are still not many women

progressing through the ranks. Just

one of the reasons for this lack of

progress is women’s confidence and

knowing when they can go for a

promotion. So, we decided that for

the 17 most senior women in NSW,

we needed to organise coaching and a

networking opportunity so they could

become empowered.

“We chose Executive Central because

they had a tailored leadership

program specifically for women.

Executive Central had delivered

the Women Leading programs in

similar organisations to ours and it

had a good track record for what we


In relation to key outcomes, Chief

Superintendent Phillips said: “We

were looking for higher engagement

from our senior women, more trust

in the organisation to develop women

and to increase the representation of

women in leadership.”

While currently under evaluation,

informal feedback from participants

has been positive. “I had informal

feedback along the way that the

participants felt we had really invested

in them and their leadership,” he said.

“Building the pipeline for women in

the organisation is one of the reasons

we went down this path but it’s only

one part of the pie. We are also

building a more flexible and inclusive

workplace for everyone – men and

women. This is a public-sector-wide

trend,” Chief Superintendent Phillips


What participants said about the

Women Leading program

Tracey Spindler, Leading Station

Officer, Forestville, said: “The things

that were of value, more than I had

anticipated, were the connections and

contacts that I made with other senior

female colleagues. There are very few

crews where there’s more than one

female on shift.

“This important aspect was enhanced

by the program structure: three

two-day sessions with overnight stays

and each one followed by a one-onone

coaching session with Women

Leading coach Reyna Matthes. It’s

the most perfect balance of group

work and individual focus. We got

the chance to explore things together

and then, as an individual, get more

specific and really make the program

about ‘me’.

“We were able to connect and

develop those friendships – it’s

difficult normally because we’re

in different parts of the state, on

different platoons and shifts. We were

able to really talk about and discuss

challenges, experiences and put our

vulnerabilities on the line. Personally,

I was able to move forward and feel

acknowledged by Fire & Rescue.

Learning New Skills

“The big take away for me was the

focus on ‘strengths-based leadership’

– that was pretty potent. We got

to explore strengths even further,

recognising our strengths and how

to apply them – that really was a big

deal. I feel it has given me confidence

as a leader.

“Particularly useful was the Career

Map work (a roadmap for career

management). I think that 20 years

ago, if someone had sat with me and

talked to me about my career map, I

would have taken on a leadership role

much earlier.

“Six or so months after the program,

I’m feeling more confident because

I’m focusing on my strengths and

how I can incorporate them into

my leadership. After the program, I

worked for a time in a regional area

as acting inspector where they’d had

little exposure – at all levels – to

female leaders. It was a huge benefit

to have had this training to use my

strengths to support me.

“As an organisation, I think the fire

service realised that we have a really

tough gig – even as firefighters. It

takes a lot of courage to step up as

leaders, you have to be very confident

– it really helped to explore what’s

holding us back.

“I know senior management would

do anything to help us and this was

a brilliant start. To (EC coach Reyna

Matthes) Reyna’s credit, she really

challenged us; she was very good at

looking for a way forward in relation

to issues that were preventing us from

stepping up and moving ahead in our


Zena Mehanna, Station Officer, Leichhardt, said: “When I joined there

were only around 15 active women in the fire service in a workforce of

3,000 people. My first station, Glebe, gave me the best experience. From

my crew – I worked with some truly awesome men – to my boss, who was

progressive and a true leader before his time. The reason I’m where I am

today is that I had the benefit of great leadership from the start.

“The interesting thing about our job is that we work with a very wide

generational range. As a female station officer, I work with millennials

through to baby boomers and each has to be treated differently because

they come with varying experiences and exposure to female leadership.

Expectations of the program

“To be honest I didn’t know what to expect from the course but this

turned out to be a quality leadership program for women initiated by the

(fire) service.

“The standout reasons for me as to why the program was successful was

first and foremost the women who participated. It was an important and

rare opportunity to network and offer support to each other as senior


“The other valuable component of the program was that it really

reinforced being yourself through its strengths-based leadership approach.

Being able to bring the best of you to work allows you to lead effectively.

You don’t have to be a man, I’ve always believed the best way we can effect

change as leaders is by being ourselves.

“By being one hundred percent myself it allows me to, firstly, recognise

what people bring and, secondly, that I work for them, my crew. It’s the

biggest lesson for me in leadership – you are not there for yourself, you’re

there for the people you’re leading, to reveal their strengths and let them


“I’m at a point in my career where I’m at the most influential I’ve ever

been. I can influence the most positive change with the people I work

with. I am one hundred per cent myself and one hundred per cent

confident with who I am. I try to create that environment with my crew so

they can feel the same and feel safe in a learning environment.

“There will be more women in the leadership pipeline at Fire and Rescue

NSW, but it takes time. Lasting change is not forced, change with integrity

is not forced. That’s been my experience and it’s my strongly held view as


“The things that were of value,

more than I had anticipated, were

the connections and contacts that

I made with other senior female

colleagues. There are very few crews

where there’s more than one female

on shift.”

For further information on the Women Leading Program head to


This Year’s Flu Season:

What we know so far

News reports have claimed Australia is on track for a

particularly bad flu season. But it’s too early to tell if

that’s the case – and it’s impossible to predict. Here’s

what we know so far.

Influenza illness – or the flu – is

a caused by the influenza virus.

It often comes on rapidly, with

a high fever, chills, muscle aches,

tiredness and a dry cough. These

symptoms get worse over the first few


Most people will get better without

medical care, but some people

are at higher risk of dangerous

complications. This includes pregnant

women, children, those aged over

65, people with chronic diseases and

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island


News reports have claimed Australia

is on track for a particularly bad

flu season. But it’s too early to tell if

that’s the case – and it’s impossible to

predict. Here’s what we know so far.

What was last year’s flu season like?

The World Health Organisation

(WHO) classifies the severity of

flu seasons based on how quickly

the circulating viruses spread, the

seriousness of the disease – which

can be measured by the number of

hospitalisations or deaths – and the

impact of the illness, such as the

strain on hospitals.

Based on these metrics, the 2018

influenza season was pretty mild. The

season started late, comparatively

few cases were seen in GP clinics

and hospitals, it had a low impact

on workplaces and hospitals, and it

caused a moderate level of illness.

This contrasts with 2017, which saw

an early start to the season, high

activity in the eastern states, a great

impact on GPs and hospitals, high

levels of absenteeism, and at least

1,255 deaths.

It’s too early to assess the 2019 season

– this is usually done after the flu

season ends. But GPs are seeing more

flu-like illness for this time of year

than in previous ones.

Hospital surveillance doesn’t usually

start until the end of April, so

it’s difficult to assess activity and

severity in hospitals, but emergency

department presentations in both the

Northern Territory and New South

Wales have been high.

Why is it so hard to predict?

Part of the problem with predicting

the influenza season is that we talk

about one season, but four distinct

influenza viruses cause clinically

important illness in humans.

These viruses are categorised into two

influenza types: A and B. Influenza

type A is further subdivided into two

subtypes: H1N1pdm09 and H3N2.

Influenza type B is further subdivided

into two lineages: B/Victoria and B/


All four of these viruses are covered

by the four-strain influenza vaccine

that is provided to Australians aged

under 65 years.

For adults aged 65 years and older, an

enhanced vaccine is available which

contains the two influenza A subtypes

and one influenza B. This year the B

strain is a B/Yamagata lineage virus

because in 2018, we saw many more

B/Yamagata than B/Victoria viruses.

Flu viruses are continually mutating

in nature, and so any immunity

acquired from a previous infection or

vaccine may provide little protection

against the viruses that will circulate

in the next season.

There is also little cross-immunity.

Infection with A(H1N1)pdm09, for

example, won’t necessarily protect you

against A(H3N2). It’s even possible,

though unlikely, to be infected with

two viruses at the same time or in

close succession.

All four of these influenza viruses

rarely circulate with equal frequency

during the winter months. Typically,

one of the influenza A viruses will


In Australia, it’s rare for influenza B

to dominate. It’s even rarer for both

lineages to circulate at the same time,

but it happened in 2015.

The burden of each of these viruses

also varies. Children may be more

susceptible to influenza B infections

than adults, while the elderly are

relatively less susceptible to infection

with A(H1N1)pdm09 but are more

vulnerable to A(H3N2) infections.

Although deaths have been associated

with all four viruses, A(H3N2)

generally causes more deaths than the

others, particularly among the elderly.


03 5762 7757

54 Carrier Street, Benalla Victoria 3672 kebabboyz.benalla@hotmail.com

Unfortunately, our disease

surveillance systems rarely collect

information on the specific influenza

viruses that patients present with

in GP clinics and hospitals. That’s

because influenza testing can be

expensive, and knowing the strain –

or if it is indeed influenza – wouldn’t

necessarily alter the course of


Instead, we learn which virus

dominated and its likely impact.

While this is useful for monitoring

overall trends, it isn’t sufficient

to study specific virus circulation

patterns that might enable us to

predict the seasons better.

Influenza viruses mutate quite

rapidly and circulate the globe quite

efficiently thanks, especially, to air


That said, circulation of influenza

viruses in Europe does not necessarily

help us predict which viruses will

circulate in Australia as there is no

consistent pattern of one hemisphere

leading the other in terms of virus


Even within hemispheres, variation

occurs. During the 2017-18 winter,

influenza B viruses dominated in

Europe, while A(H3N2) viruses

dominated in North America.

In tropical and sub-tropical regions,

where there is no “winter”, there may

be more than one flu season per year,

or a year-round season with low rates

of one virus, usually influenza B.

The reasons why influenza viruses

circulate at different times are unclear.

They may be related to climatic

factors, such as temperature and

humidity and, in some locales, may be

driven by tourism. But we don’t really

understand the causal relationships

between these factors.

The good news is that with increased

computing power, greater availability

of high-quality surveillance,

more years of data and a greater

understanding of influenza virology

and immunology, our ability to

forecast the season is improving.

Article first published on The Conversation

Sheena G. Sullivan


WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and

Research on Influenza

Rob Moss

Research Fellow,

Mathematical Biology and Physiology,

University of Melbourne



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State Emergency Service (SES) 132 500

General Warnings 1900 969 922 www.bom.gov.au

Cyclone Warnings 1300 659 212 www.bom.gov.au/cyclone

Coastal Marine Warnings 1300 360 427 www.bom.gov.au/marine




ABC Local Radio

ABC Local Radio Frequency Finder

Commercial Radio Australia





Standard Emergency Warning Signal


Health & Hospitals 13HEALTH www.health.gov.au

Road Closures 13 19 40 seek local/state road closure info


Energex 13 19 62 www.energex.com.au

Ergon 13 16 70 www.ergon.com.au


Telstra 132 203 www.telstra.com.au

Optus 13 13 44 www.optus.com.au


Wildlife Hotline 1300 130 372

RSPCA 1300 852 188

Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888

Lost/Missing Animals

Local RSPCA website


A joint Australian, state and territory government initiative.

A gift for living

If you’re aged 50-74 you’ll be sent a free bowel cancer screening kit. The kit is simple to use and

can detect bowel cancer before any symptoms appear. Around 80 Australians die of bowel cancer

every week, but if detected early, up to 90% of cases can be successfully treated. So be sure to

complete and return your kit. It’s a gift that could save your life. If you’re over 74 talk to your GP.

By 2020 people aged 50-74 will receive a kit every two years.


1800 11 88 68

Authorised by the Australian Government, Capital Hill, Canberra.

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