Catholic funding after Australian bush fires emphasizes mental health

Catholic funding after Australian bush fires emphasizes mental health

A 2019 file photo shows a mother and daughter near Nana Glen, Australia, as thick smoke rises from bush fires. Fifteen organizations have received funding from Catholic Emergency Relief Australia to support communities recovering from the fires, which devastated large parts of the country last summer. (Credit: Dan Peled/AAP Image via Reuters-CNS.)

Catholic Emergency Relief Australia announced funding to 15 organizations after last summer's bush fires, and at least 10 of the projects have mental health aspects to them.

CANBERRA, Australia — Catholic Emergency Relief Australia announced funding to 15 organizations after last summer’s bush fires, and at least 10 of the projects have mental health aspects to them.

“We are aware that much — but by no means all — of people’s immediate needs were addressed through major government and nongovernment organizations in the days and weeks after fires ravaged many parts of our nation,” said Susan Pascoe, chair of Catholic Emergency Relief Australia. “What will take much longer, though, is the spiritual, emotional and psychological recovery. The funding we have awarded will focus especially on those aspects of people’s journey back to some sense of normalcy.”

Catholic Emergency Relief Australia, CERA, was officially launched in February and brings together a number of key national organizations.

The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Catholic Religious Australia, Catholic Social Services Australia and the National Catholic Education Commission were founding members. The St. Vincent de Paul Society also has collaborated.

In May, the first grant application round — for at least 100,000 Australian dollars ($68,700) — was opened, said a statement from the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference. It said 24 organizations, seeking a total of approximately $400,000, lodged applications for funding.

Several branches of CatholicCare, a diocesan-based social service agency, received funding, including for one project that will loan out iPads so people can access services such as counseling remotely.

One project funded is a digital alcohol behavior change program, using social and traditional media to encourage people who need it to access alcohol change support services.

Another project includes a passive sensory play area to support anxious children who need to withdraw from normal school activities.

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