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Fortem Australia Launch – Bega Valley Region

Fortem Australia was proud to formally launch our Black Summer Bushfire services for preventive mental fitness programs for first responder families in the Bega Valley Region on 4th December 2020, at an event held at Quaama Rural Fire Service.

Fortem’s Grant Program for Emergency Services Workers trauma care, including PTSD support services, is funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Home Affairs.

In his opening remarks, Fortem’s Managing Director and Co-Founder, John Bale, acknowledged the need for support services in the area. “In a year like this, it’s easy to feel like everyone’s forgotten and moved, but we know it’s vital to remember, to listen, and to work towards providing stronger support services not only for the first responder but for the family that supports them through all the highs and lows.”

Paul Sheargold, Captain of the Quaama RFS, welcomed Fortem and gave an insight into the trauma the community faced during the 2019/ 2020 bushfires which destroyed many local homes, including those of volunteers in the Quaama Rural Fire Brigade. Watch his speech here. “We had some tough decisions on that night, early that morning… toughest one I ever made was driving away from Vic’s house while it burnt down. Sometimes you got to do it. You got no water, you got no back up, no one is coming to help us.”

These moving words highlight the need for support for first responder families, as Paul explains. “It’s really important that we are shown the support that a group like Fortem is bringing to us. It’s really important that we work with people like that and they work with us, so that we can all adjust to what we’ve been through and what we are going into.”

When Hayley, Fortem’s Activities Officer for the Bega Valley region, took to the lectern, it was easy to understand why she brings such exuberance and commitment to her role. “Having first responders in my family, I’ve seen first hand the heart, the soul and the time that first responders pour into the community. I’ve seen the challenges that first responder families face, the sacrifices that they make.”

Her dedication to her community was reflected in her words. “My work is supporting the first responders that keep this community safe, this community that I love. I’m so proud to be standing here as a representative of Fortem, which is a young organisation but we have so much heart. It’s really important to me that I’m part of an organisation that reflects the values that I have and reflects the values the community has, in terms of supporting one another, looking out for one another, being community focused and being family focused.”

As a delicious, healthy lunch was offered to our guests, conversations were struck up as the attendees from various first responder agencies, such as SES and RFS, as well as other local support networks, shared their stories with the Fortem team. In amongst the conversations and comradery that comes from shared challenges and rebuilding of the community, the need for support services was acknowledged.

Hayley from Fortem Australia supports first responder families from a range of agencies in her community.

“People like Fortem are thinking about us, they’re doing this for us. We’re not used to people doing it for us, we’re the ones who do it for someone else.” Paul Sheargold, Captain Quaama RFS

Fortem supports first responder families to proactively look after their wellbeing and mental fitness. Our services for first responders and their families include: 

  • Wellbeing Activities
  • Psychological Support and Care Coordination
  • Mental Fitness Support

To date, Fortem have run seven wellbeing activities in the local Bega Valley area over the last few months with another 15 scheduled in the coming weeks (find Wellbeing Activities on our calendar). These wellbeing activities offer first responder families a chance to relax and connect with other families while forming the support networks vital for good mental health.

Our services have been extended to help those affected by Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20, thanks to a Grant Program for Emergency Services Workers trauma care, including PTSD support services, funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Home Affairs.

Fortem’s psychology support and care coordination services are available for all first responder families with access to qualified psychologists, and unlimited appointments at no cost. This service can be accessed by calling 1300 33 95 94.

Fortem supports local business in the regions we service. Thank you to Areli Bosson Photography for capturing these amazing professional photos.