2005 - 2006 Funded Projects
01-2005 - Development of a model for civilian disaster medical assistance teams
Unlike other countries, Australia does not have a significant history of deploying civilian medical teams into disaster areas. In both the Aitape (Papua New Guinea) tsunami in 1998 and the Bali bombing in 2002, the Australian Defence Force had the primary responsibility for deploying medical teams into the disaster area.
Most States and Territories have also based their internal disaster relief medical teams around major hospitals, a practice which had been questioned following the 1997 Thredbo disaster. Because this particular disaster produced only a single live casualty, a review of medical team performance under multiple casualty incident or disaster conditions was not possible.
As a result of the recent tsunami disaster in South East Asia, Australia needed to send civilian medical teams into the affected areas at short notice. The first four teams that deployed needed to be medically equipped and able to live in the field, which was a major challenge for the current health logistics systems.
The preparation and screening of the deploying personnel also was done rapidly, making it difficult to ensure the most appropriate people had deployed. This was further complicated by the changing roles of the teams, in one case from surgical to public health, in the 24 hours prior to leaving.
The United States (US) developed Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT) as part of the National Disaster Medical System in 1981. While the US focus is more internal, the concept could be applied to civilian medical teams in Australia to provide a disaster medical response either intrastate, interstate or internationally.
02-2005 - Cultural Diversity - To establish guidelines on understanding of the cultures, strengths and needs of non-Christian faith communities.
Faith communities are highly diverse in their theologies, values and organisations and as a consequence can bring a variety of contributions to the other social networks that already exist within a community. Sadly, this contribution is often ignored or vigorously opposed.
Engagement with faith communities makes demands upon official leaders and members of other non-religious networks, demanding an understanding for religious literacy, tolerance and close encounters for which they are either ill equipped or bound by perceived stereotypes.
Engaging faith communities in community building and how to achieve that involvement is a neglected area of study. The commitments, interests, organisation, places of worship and the social networks that originate from these groups, which in turn relate to peoples religious beliefs and identities, have an important contribution to any community building initiatives.
This research seeks to understand and enhance the contributions that can be made by faith communities such as Muslims, Buddhists and others that may emerge from this research to the programs of Disaster Response, Community Recovery and Community Building.
03-2005 - The development of clinical practice guidelines for Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
The Australian Centre for Post-traumatic Mental Health (ACPMH) has been appointed by National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) to develop best practice clinical guidelines for assisting adults following disaster and trauma. Specifically, the guidelines will outline evidence-based, best-practice treatment of individuals who have developed, or are at risk of developing, distressing reactions generally consistent with diagnostic criteria for Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The working group established by ACPMH for this project comprises top clinicians and researchers from around Australia in the field of posttraumatic mental health.
The working group will oversee a systematic review of research and clinical literature in the area of posttraumatic stress and related conditions. The review will identify levels of clinical and research evidence for common interventions. On the basis of this evidence, the working party will generate recommendations which will form the basis of the guidelines.
A sophisticated consultation process is required to ensure that the clinical guidelines are of practical utility and are widely accepted. In this project, the working group will seek regular input at each stage of the process from a multidisciplinary panel comprising representatives of consumers, researchers, clinicians, service providers and purchasers, and other key stakeholder organisations.
Key deliverables for the project will be a summary of the evidence for the range of interventions following trauma and a set of clinical practice guidelines, endorsed by multidisciplinary practitioners across a variety of care settings and approved by NH&MRC. This document will form a national standard against which proposed interventions can be assessed.
04-2005 - What is recovery and what helps people recover? An investigation into medium and long-term community recovery after the 2003 Canberra bushfire disaster
A multidisciplinary research team across the ACT Government and universities has been established to investigate the process of individual and community recovery after a disaster. The team will bring together expertise from government, mental health, social work and communication to fully explore the recovery process. The project has four interlocking strands:
Whole-of-government, in partnership with community, approaches to recovery. The Bushfire Recovery Taskforce and the ACT Recovery Centre provide a model for government/community response to natural disasters. The key research questions will explore what the affected community accessed in terms of services provided, what worked, what the gaps were, and where people and communities are now in their recovery.
Communication and information provision to the community are part of the recovery process. The communication strategies of government and community groups will be explored in depth and analysed to develop models for effective communication approaches for communities in recovery.
The long-term mental health outcomes in individuals exposed to the bushfires. Utilising the expertise of the Department of Psychiatry, ACT Health, the research team will administer standardised instruments to look at morbidities such as depression, anxiety, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and alcohol abuse.
Community and individual resilience – the impact of government and community recovery programs on community and individual sustainability will be evaluated and community development strategies identified which may become models for other recovery programs.