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Fortem Australia Launch – Illawarra & Shoalhaven Regions

Fortem Australia was proud to formally launch our Black Summer Bushfire services for preventive mental fitness programs for first responder families in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven Regions on 14th December 2020, at an event held at Albion Park Rail 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.

After a delicious BBQ lunch, the attendees were welcomed by Fortem’s Managing Director and Co-Founder, John Bale, who said the organisation had formed in October 2019, but the launch was about creating greater awareness of their latest services. He said the initiative had provided help to more than 200 first responders in the Illawarra so far.

“Our team works with the first responder family to help them to be well, and importantly, to stay well.” He stressed that building mental fitness is something as important as your physical fitness.

Alison, Fortem’s Activities Officer for the Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions, introduced her team, including Ellana, an experienced psychologist and Brittany, who is an enthusiastic care coordinator.

“We are passionate about supporting first responders and their family members. We know that first responder families in our communities need stronger support, and our team will do that through wellbeing activities that help to connect people, as well as clinical services for those who need to talk about what they are going through.”

Matthew Reeves, RFS Illawarra District Coordinator, welcomed Fortem and said a key theme he sees with Fortem is family. “Behind every RFS member is a family. And they encounter the trauma and tragedy, and the pressures that our members also face, often well after the trucks have been packed away and we’ve gone home.”

He highlighted the importance of tapping into services outside of the RFS environment. “The very nature of what our volunteers do, they are not rostered on 9 to 5, the pager goes off, dinner stops, they go to a job and family time is interrupted.” Matthew supports the value of Fortem activities which mean first responders can scheduled family time, which benefits them and their family.

In attendance to support the launch were Mayor Mark Honey, Kiama Municipal Council, Mayor Marianne Saliba, Shellharbour City Council, Mayor Gordon Bradbery, Wollongong City Council, Anna Watson MP, State Member for Shellharbour and Sharon Bird MP, Federal Member of Parliament.

“To be able to peel back the layers of support that Fortem are offering is really valuable for our members… it’s really important to us, for the health and wellbeing of our members.” Matthew Reeves, RFS Illawarra District Coordinator

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

Fortem has wellbeing activities scheduled for the Illawarra and Shoalhaven Regions 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 Brad from Chilby Photography for capturing these amazing professional photos.