Our heroes return home from bushfire-affected communities

It was a challenging start to the year with the devastating impacts of the bushfires. Our district showed an enormous amount of altruism during this emergency, with deployed staff providing expert healthcare and support to bushfire-affected communities on the ground.

For months, mental health teams delivered specialist care to communities in the Narooma, Moruya and Batemans Bay areas where they responded to distressed and traumatised communities, providing psychosocial support to vulnerable people in need.

While dedicated nursing staff spent time at Milton Hospital, Nowra Community Health Centre and in Shoalhaven Hospital’s Emergency Department to relieve local colleagues impacted by the fires – some who had lost homes and property.

Anne Devlin, Clinical Psychologist, Prince of Wales Mental Health Rehabilitation, was one of the many healthcare workers to travel to the South Coast during this period. She detailed a raw account of her frontline experience.

“It's strange and surreal being here. There are burnt leaves on the beach, while the birds are singing the sun is orange and there is a lot of smoke,” Ms Devlin said.  

“As city dwellers not familiar to this area, we are saddened by what we see, but the locals hold a memory of what was once there. They're glad to be alive but the charred trees and houses reminds them of what other's lost and what they almost lost. They are incredibly welcoming, and remain patient and kind.”

“The stories I'm hearing are terrifying, inspirational, angry, sad and funny. It's a privilege to be here.”

As of Tuesday 10 March, 2020, our heroes returned home to their loved ones. Tobi Wilson, Chief Executive, SESLHD expressed his sincere gratitude to the devoted staff.

“I would like to once again recognise our colleagues for their outstanding efforts during this very difficult time. Working away from family and friends to help others in need is commendable and reflects the CORE values of our district.

“I would also like to recognise those who lost family, friends, property and pets as a result of the fires – please know that you are in our thoughts," Mr Wilson said.

Our heroes: Adam McKeowen, Jennifer Ings, Hannah Kelly & Georgia Lewis