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Centre providing support for the long term

26 September 2009

Whittlesea has been at the epicentre of the bushfire response since it became an emergency services staging ground on 7 February 2009.

However, the activities coordinated from the town have changed as the needs of people affected by the fires have evolved.

Simon Smith, a chaplain with The Army, has been based at the Whittlesea Bushfire Recovery Centre since August. In his time there, he has witnessed the community’s recovery continue on its long and winding road. He says the constant pressure from the recovery process is taking its toll on bushfire victims. “We are now seeing people starting to hit the wall,” says Simon.

Maintaining a constant presence has been imperative to building strong relationships with members of the community. Simon says being a familiar face has encouraged affected residents to open up to him and other Salvation Army representatives. Libby Matkin, also based at the Whittlesea Bushfire Recovery Centre, and Simon both spend several days each week up the mountain in addition to their work in Whittlesea, with Libby providing financial counselling to residents who have requested support or have been referred to her.

Looking forward, the Whittlesea Bushfire Recovery Centre will continue to adapt itself to meet the current and future needs of the region. As well as continuing to provide material aid, such as clothing, the focus has been switching towards further psychological and expertise support. The current building will also continue to be refurbished to support a drop-in centre style area, where people can come in to discuss their situation and needs, or just to have a chat and a cuppa.

The Whittlesea Bushfire Recovery Centre is located at 38 Laurel St, Whittlesea.

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