The Newcastle Earthquake Experience: The Human Context and its Implications for Disaster Management

R. V. Anderson, M.M. Cotton


This paper is concerned with the psychological impact of the Newcastle earthquake during the first twelve months after its occurrence and with the implications for disaster management. As most disaster workers are aware, the N.S.W. Disaster Welfare Plan identifies Health Services as being responsible for counselling services following a disaster. Accordingly, following the Newcastle earthquake on 28th December, 1989 the Hunter Area Health Service established a Disaster Counselling Service. This Service involved identified strands for primary counselling, specialist counselling, stress debriefing services and counselling for ethnic communities. A Co-ordinator was appointed to assume responsibility for the overall co-ordination of services. The Disaster Counselling Services Committee was established and consisted of the Co-ordinator, a consultant (a psychiatrist), an Administrative Officer, and Co-ordinators of Primary Counselling Services, Specialist Counselling Services, and Stress Debriefing Services, a Professor of Psychiatry and two staff members from existing Community Health Centres. The Committee's role was to monitor service provision and to discuss issues pertinent to service delivery. The Consultant was responsible for the initial educative process for personnel from Health and other organisations with a view to assisting them to function optimally in their roles dealing with clients. The Administrative Officer was responsible for the smooth day-to-day functioning of the identified strands of the Services.


psychological impacts; disasters

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