Crisis, disaster and recovery assistance

July 2022 flood recovery assistance

The Cessnock Local Government Area (LGA) was declared a natural disaster zone following extreme weather events in July 2022. This means residents of the Cessnock LGA impacted by flooding are eligible for financial support under the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment.  

Available from Thursday 7 July, the payment provides one-off financial assistance to eligible people affected by the floods in New South Wales. The rate of the payment is $1000 per eligible adult and $400 per eligible child. 

Click below to find out more.

Dealing with the aftermath of a flood is challenging. However, support and assistance is available for individuals and businesses.

The quickest way to find the support available to you is by visiting the Disaster Assistance Finder, visiting your nearest flood recovery centreor calling Service NSW on 13 77 88 or visiting the Service NSW storm and flood customer care website.

Flood Recovery Back Home grant

This section will be updated with future post-disaster recovery grants.

There are no grants available at this time. 

Find out more and apply online by visiting Service NSW

Flood recovery assistance points

This section will be updated with future flood recovery assistance points.

These assistance points provide a place where you can meet Government and Non-Government agencies that provide: 

Financial assistance

Accommodation advice

Help with replacing lost documents

Mental health and wellbeing services

Clean-up services

Insurance and legal support

SES is first point of call

It is important to call the SES on 132 500 if you need assistance during and directly after a disaster if you are trapped, isolated or require assistance and help with the clean-up of inundated properties. In an emergency call 000. 

Visit the SES website here

Please reach out to Council with important information

When natural disasters and emergencies happen Cessnock City Council relies on the community for valuable information to help Council respond.

This is why we have created a new email account,, through which members of the community can reach out with important information.

If you have information about access, safety, or any urgent information you think the Council should know, please use the address to reach out.

Reduced fees for flood-damaged waste

Cessnock City Council has approved a levy exemption, in line with EPA recommendations, for flood effected materials delivered to Cessnock Waste Management Centre.

The levy exemption means residents can dispose of flood-damaged waste for a lower charge of $263.40 per tonne until 31 December 2022.

This will only apply to residents within the declared flood areas. Council is using the SES notification for suburbs reference:
  • Wollombi
  • Congewai
  • Greta
  • Paynes Crossing
  • Laguna
  • Bucketty
  • Ellalong
  • Millfield
  • Weston
  • Abermain
  • Branxton
  • South Cessnock
Anyone presenting with flood waste materials will be required to provide the address the material originated from (for cross checking with the above locations) and proof they live at the address, such as a rates notice or driver's licence.

Information from Ausgrid

The situation in some parts of the Cessnock Local Government Area is complex with Ausgrid still working to restore power to many homes and properties while Council continues to asses and repair damaged road networks. Find out important information from Ausgrid about electrical safety during a flood and getting the power back on at your property(PDF, 137KB)

Emergency assistance for landholders

NSW Department of Primary Industries and Local Land Services are providing emergency assistance to landholders and communities with animal welfare-related issues resulting from the floods, including:

  • Animal assessment and veterinary assistance
  • Euthanasia and burial of animals
  • Emergency fodder (up to three days supply where there is an immediate animal welfare concern)
  • Emergency stock water (where there is an immediate animal welfare concern)
  • Care of animals in evacuation centres
  • Livestock feeding and management advice

For more information, download the brochure below:

Rural aid support for farmers

Rural Aid was originally formed to provide farmers with hay through the Buy A Bale program. Rural Aid has now grown to incorporate:

Disaster Assistance: Respond & Recover, which includes:

  • Wellbeing & Counselling
  • Financial Assistance
  • Domestic Drinking Water & Domestic Water Tanks
  • Fodder
  • Farm Army (
  • Other support – as identified

Rural Aid is here to help farmers throughout the year and this includes in times of national, state or local storms and disasters. Rural Aid can provide support with confidential counselling, fodder, domestic water, financial assistance and also by providing access to volunteers through The Farm Army.

Registered farmers also have access to our counselling intake line - 1300 175 594. This phone line is staffed by a Rural Aid counsellor between 9am and 5pm AEST, Monday to Friday. Farmers can call to have a chat and the team will work to connect them with an appropriate team member to assist them.

Scan the QR, visit or call 1300327624 to register with Rural Aid.

Rural Aid QR.JPG

Staying healthy during and after a flood

NSW Health has put together some helpful information about staying healthy during, and after a flood. Click here for more information. 

While we are in the recovery phase of this disaster, NSW Health also has some helpful fact sheets on emergency preparedness which can be found here

Insurance Council of Australia update

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has declared a significant event for the July 2022 extreme rain and flooding event that has impacted large parts of Sydney, the Hunter and mid-north coast.

The ICA activated a range of processes and data collection activities to assist with the assessment of the insurance impact of this extreme rain and flood event.

Insurers have received 8,415 claims (84 per cent property, 14 per cent motor and two per cent commercial), with an estimated insurance loss of $97.9 million.

The ICA encourages policyholders who have sustained damage to property, businesses, or vehicles to contact their insurer as soon as possible to start the claim process, even if the full extent of the damage is not yet clear.

Safety is the priority as people return to their properties.

  • Only return to your property when emergency services give the go ahead.
  • Don’t do anything that puts anyone at risk.
  • If water has entered the property, don't turn on the electricity until it has been inspected by an electrician.
  • Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to lodge a claim and seek guidance on the claims process.
  • Property owners who have sustained roof damage should advise their insurer, your insurer will arrange emergency works to minimise any hazards and prevent further damage. This can include isolating damaged solar panels or electrical circuits and installing a roof tarp.
  • Don’t worry if you can’t find your insurance papers – insurers have electronic records and need only your name and address.

What to do if your property has been impacted by flooding and storms:

  • Start the cleanup but first take photos or video of damage to the property and possessions to support a claim.
  • Keep samples of materials and fabrics to show the insurance assessor.
  • Remove water damaged goods from the property that might pose a health risk, such as saturated carpets and soft furnishings, take photos to support a claim.
  • Make a list of each item damaged and include a detailed description, such as brand, model, and serial number if possible.
  • Store damaged or destroyed items somewhere safe where they do not pose a health risk.
  • Speak to your insurer before you attempt or authorise any building work, including emergency repairs, and ask for the insurer’s permission in writing. Unauthorised work may not be covered by your policy.
  • Do not throw away goods that could be salvaged or repaired.

General disaster assistance

Birth, deaths, marriage certificates and drivers licences

Services NSW - 137 788
Services NSW may replace certificates and drivers licences at no cost to those affected by a disaster.

Business assistance (general and for COVID-19 and disaster)

Services Australia (Centrelink)
Services Australia can provide information about available subsidies and financial support available for your business. 

Australian Tax Office 
The Australian Tax Office can provide information about available subsidies and financial support if you or your family is affected financially by COVID-19 or disaster.

NSW Government COVID-19 Support Package
The NSW Government will provide financial assistance, support measures and tax relief to help businesses and people across the state impacted by the current COVID-19 restrictions. For more information visit the NSW Government website.

Rural Assistance Authority - The Rural Assistance Authority will provide concessional rate loans to business who meet the eligibility criteria.

Business Connect - 1300 134 359
This organisation provides practical face-to-face support, tailored to individual business needs. 

Service NSW Business Concierge0448 249 120 
Personalised, ongoing support for small businesses impacted by bushfires, drought, COVID-19 and more. Help to identify and understand the information on the Service NSW website and support available to you, including financial support and how to adapt to meet changing regulatory requirements.

Child protection

Child Protection Helpline13 12 11
to report a child at risk of harm and neglect

Kids Helpline - 1800 55 1800
Kids Helpline provides free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25.

Counselling services

FREE Local Cessnock LGA mental health support. No referrals required.

Face to face at Wollombi/Cessnock. Telephone available. 
Call 1300 152 854 to make an appointment. Available fortnightly.

Hunter New England Health/Farm Gate Counselling
Face-to-face and phone counselling. 
0477 322 581 to make an appointment.

Rural Aid
Rural Counsellor. Face-to-face and phone counselling. 
Call 0499 527 327 to make an appointment.

Hunter Primary Care
Face-to-face services available at Cessnock, Maitland, Warabrook, Singleton and Kurri.
Telehealth or video consultations also available. 
02 4935 3039 to make an appointment.

Reflex Social Services
Face-to-face or phone counselling. 
0403 258 618 to make an appointment or book online at

Financial assistance (general and for COVID-19 and disaster)

Council rates relief 
Residents experiencing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic can contact Council to check their eligibility for a rates payment plan. Phone our Customer Service team on (02) 4993 4100 and someone from our Rates team will call you back by the next business day. For more information, please read our Hardship Policy(PDF, 289KB) or visit our Paying your rates page

Services Australia (Centrelink)

Services Australia can provide information about available subsidies and financial support if you or your family is financially impacted by COVID-19. This includes:

Australian Tax Office 
The Australian Tax Office can provide information about available subsidies and financial support if you or your family is affected financially by COVID-19 or disaster.

NSW Government COVID-19 Support Package
The NSW Government will provide financial assistance, support measures and tax relief to help businesses and people across the state impacted by the current COVID-19 restrictions.  For more information visit the NSW Government website.

Service NSW
Service NSW provides financial assistance for those impacted by disaster. These include:

  • Disaster assistance to those with limited financial resources and no insurance.
  • Eligible individuals and families whose homes have been significantly damaged or destroyed can apply for disaster relief grants.
  • If you're having difficulty paying your household energy bill because of a short-term financial crisis brought on by COVID-19 or disaster, you could also be eligible for an EAPA $50 voucher under the Energy Accounts Payment Assistance (EAPA) Scheme
  • Seniors Energy Rebate is also available to help cover the cost of electricity for Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders. 
  • Find out about the residential tenancy support package.

 NSW Rural Assistance Authority 
If you are unable to obtain assistance through other channels, you can apply to the NSW Rural Assistance Authority for assistance with with concessional rate loans.

Farm Household Support
The Federal Government's Department of Human Services provides assistance to eligible farmers and their families facing financial difficulties through the Farm Household Allowance.

Energy & Water Ombudsman 
The Energy & Water Ombudsman can provide support for customers impacted by COVID-19. 

Service NSW Support Service Specialist (SSS) - Brooke Moy - Cessnock SSS 
Brooke can help you with enquiries about support available through Service NSW, including the Cost of Living Program, which looks at where savings can be made across many different service providers including electricity, gas, telephone, insurance, discounts, etc. Phone 13 77 88

Personal Financial Counselling 
If you are having trouble paying bills, finding it hard to manage money, need help with debt. Phone 0437 368 967 to make an appointment.

Health and wellbeing

NSW Rural Mental Health Services - 1800 201 123
Contact this organisation if you require access to mental health services and support. 

Mental Health Line - 1800 011 511
For assessment and referral to mental health services.

Domestic Violence Line - 1800 656 463
Provides counselling and referral services for women experiencing domestic violence. 

Mensline Australia - 1300 789 978
Telephone and online counselling, information and referral service for men (24h)

Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467
Telephone and online support service for those at risk of suicide

Australian Red Cross - 1800 812 028
Red Cross can provide personal support if you or your family have been affected by a disaster. 

Salvation Army - 1300 363 622
The Salvos can provide mental health support and assistance if you or your family have been affected by a disaster.

Headspace Maitland - 02 4931 1000
Headspace centres act as a one-stop shop for young people who need help with mental and physical health, alcohol and other drugs or work and study support. 

Lifeline - 13 11 14
Lifeline provides free, 24-hour telephone crisis support services. 

Police Assistance Line - 131 444
Contact the Police Assistance Line if you are a victim of a crime, other than life threatening or time critical emergency situations.

Disability Information Helpline - 1800 643 787

Provides information and referrals for people with disability who need help during COVID-19. 

TIS - 131 450

Provides access to phone and on-site interpreting services in over 150 languages

1800 RESPECT 24/71800 737 732

24-hour phone and online service providing confidential sexual assault and domestic & family violence counselling, information & referrals.


QLife - 1800 184 527

Australia-wide anonymous and free LGBTI peer support for people wanting to talk about sexuality, identity, gender, bodies, feelings or relationships. Call or webchat 3pm-12am. 

Aboriginal DFV Hotline -1800 019 123 
24-hour phone service for Aboriginal victims of crime. 

NSW Rape Crisis - 1800 424 017  (02) 9181 43 49 - TTY 
24-hour phone and online counselling service for anyone who is at risk of or has experienced sexual assault, family or domestic violence.


Compass Housing - Homelessness Access Program - 1800 718 207
Provides accommodation to assist those sleeping rough or experiencing homelessness to self-isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Communities and Justice NSW, Housing Contact Centre - 1800 422 322 
Department of Communities and Justice - Housing (DCJ Housing) provides a range of housing solutions for both the private rental market and Public Housing, Community Housing and Aboriginal Housing.

Link2home (Department of Family and Community Services) - 1800 152 152
Link2home provides assistance to people who are homeless or at risk of being homelessness by offering access to specialised support and accommodation services. 

Carrie’s Place - 02 4934 2585 (office hours) or 02 4933 1960 (after hours)
Carrie’s Place provides domestic violence and homelessness services.

Hunter Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service Advice line - 02 4969 7666 or 1800 654 504

NSW Fair Trading - 13 32 20
Residential Tenancy Support package applies to eligible COVID-19 impacted tenants and landlords. It includes a freeze on evictions and assistance for landlords who reduce rent. Visit the website

Sanctuary Place - 0401 020 400
Sanctuary Place provides safe, secure and dignified long and short term housing. Helping every Australian to have the security of a safe house to come home to, no matter their circumstance.

Legal and consumer services

Legal Aid - 1300 888 529 or 02 4993 3400
Legal Aid can provide free legal advice on a broad range of issues including dealing with insurance companies,mortgage payments and tenancy advice. The service also visits the Cessnock Samaritans Information Neighbourhood Centre. 

Hunter Community Legal Centre02 4040 9120 
Provides free legal support in domestic violence, family law, credit and debt, traffic, fines and more.

NSW Fair Trading - 13 32 20 
Provides assistance and advice to consumers and business on fair and ethical practice. 

Law Access - 1300 888 529
Law Access NSW is a free telephone service that provides information for legal problems and contact details for services that might be able to assist.

Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services - 1800 938 227 
Information, advocacy and referrals to assist women and their children who are or have been experiencing domestic and family violence, with their legal, social and welfare needs.

Livestock and animals

Department of Primary Industries - 1800 814 647
The Department of Primary Industries provides assistance with livestock and other animals during a flood crisis.

Local food, utilities and clothing

Cessnock Samaritans Information & Neighbourhood Centre - 02 4993 3400
124 Vincent Street, Cessnock
Emergency Relief Service provides short term emergency financial assistance including food and utilities vouchers. An assessment is required to determine eligibility. 

Kurri Kurri Community Centre - 02 4937 4555
251 Lang St Kurri Kurri
Low cost food and household goods available for pension/benefit card holders. Emergency food relief may also be available.  

Salvation Army - 1300 371 288
The Salvo's can provide short term emergency assistance such as food items. Call for assessment.

Food War Inc. Cessnock(02) 4966 2987
137 Vincent Street, Cessnock.
Low cost groceries for pension/benefit card holders. Open 9:30am to 3pm, Tuesday to Friday. 

Foodcare Weston - 0481 102 632

53 Station Street, Weston. 
Low cost groceries for pension/benefit card holders.

Soupz On 

Baptist Church Hall, Corner King and Cooper Street, Cessnock.
Free meals available Friday/Saturday/Monday nights from 5- 8pm  Check Facebook group to stay up-to-date. 

Youth Off The Streets0477 389 170 
Food relief available 2 days per week

Northern Coalfields Community Care Association - (02) 4019 9700
Meals on wheels and home care support services.

Rotary Club of Cessnock
Marthaville Arts and Cultural Centre, 200 Wollombi Road, Cessnock
Free scones, tea and chat available for people in need. Fridays, 10am to 12pm.

BBQ lunch in the park
Cumberland Street car park, at the rear of Alira House, 116 Vincent Street, Cessnock. 
Free BBQ lunch available Wednesdays 10am to 12pm  

Hunter Food Relief
Cessnock Bellbird Uniting Church – Corner Cooper and Cumberland St Cessnock. 
Tuesday 9am to 1pm Wednesday 2.30 to 3.30pm Thursday 12pm to 3pm. Free meals, food, groceries and social support available for people in need. 

March 2021 flood recovery assistance

Important Contacts 

Emergency Assistance – 000
SES – 132 500
Disaster Customer Care Service – 13 77 88
Disaster Assist - 
AASFA for emergency animal assistance – 1800 814 647 
Local Land Services (LLS) - 1300 795 299 
Rural Assistance Authority (RAA) – 1800 678 593

Disaster Recovery Payments 

$1,000 for adults and $400 for children 
Support for people adversely affected in the floods in NSW March 2021 is available. The payment is a lump sum payment to help you following a declared disaster. If you're eligible you'll get $1000 per adult and $400 per child. For more information on how to claim, visit Services Australia or phone 180 22 66

Disaster Recovery Allowance 

Short-term income support for 13 weeks 
The Disaster Recovery Allowance provides a short-term income support payment to assist individuals whose income has been affected as a direct result of the storms and floods, for up to 13 weeks. Visit Services Australia or phone 180 22 66 to find out if you are eligible.

Disaster Relief Grant 

Always-on assistance for eligible applicants in any emergency 
The Disaster Relief Grant helps people to recover from the effects of a disaster and re-establish a basic standard of living. It is not provided to replace insurance or compensate for losses. You may be eligible for financial support if the following apply: 

  • your home (primary place of residence) was damaged by a natural disaster
  • you do not have insurance for the damage
  • you are a low-income earner with limited financial resources
  • it has been less than four (4) months since the disaster

Phone 13 77 88 and ask about the Disaster Relief Grant administered by Resilience NSW. 

Primary Producer Disaster Recovery Grant

Disaster recovery grants of up to $75,000 
Disaster recovery grants of up to $75,000 are now available to primary producers in LGAs affected by the NSW storms and floods that have occurred from 10 March 2021. Apply direct online via the Rural Assistance Authority or phone Service NSW on 13 77 88 and ask for the Primary Producer Disaster Recovery Grant administered by the Rural Assistance Authority.

Farm Household Allowance

The Farm Household Allowance (FHA) program provides assistance to farming families experiencing financial hardship, no matter the cause of that hardship. The program provides eligible farmers and their partners with a package of assistance that includes:

  • Up to four years of fortnightly income support (in every 10 year period) 
  • Ancillary allowances such as Pharmaceutical Allowance, Telephone Allowance, Rent Assistance and Remote Area Allowance 
  • A professional financial assessment of the farm business (worth up to $1,500) 
  • Funding to help develop skills, access training and pay for professional advice (up to $10,000 and can now include reasonable travel and accommodation to undertake training) 
  • Regular support of a case manager 

For further information visit Farm Household Allowance - Department of Agriculture

Business loans and financial assistance 

Primary producers 
Primary producers may be eligible for urgent loans at a concessional interest rate and transport subsidies for the carriage of livestock, fodder and supplements for dairy cattle. Visit the NSW Rural Assistance Authority website or more information or call 1800 678 593. You can also download the Primary Producers Assistance Guide for more information. 

Small businesses 
Urgent loans are available at a concessional interest rate to eligible small businesses. Visit the NSW Rural Assistance Authority website for more information or call 1800 678 593

Non-profit organisations 
Loan assistance is available to churches and voluntary non-profit organisations for the  restoration of essential facilities. Visit the NSW Rural Assistance Authority website for more information or call 1800 678 593

Sporting clubs 
A grant or a concessional fixed rate loan is available for sporting and recreation clubs and  associations for clean-up, removal of debris and/or restoring essential facilities. To access an application for grant assistance, contact NSW Treasury by email at learn more about loan assistance, contact the NSW Rural Assistance Authority on 1800 678  593 or (02) 6391 3000 or email

Legal support 

LawAccess NSW 
Businesses can contact LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529 to discuss legal support that may be available from various legal bodies in NSW, Community Legal Centres and other free legal assistance services in your immediate area. 

Legal Aid NSW
Legal Aid NSW's Disaster Response Legal Service provides free legal advice to businesses and individuals affected by disasters on a range of issues including insurance, tenancy, credit and debt problems, and Centrelink. Visit Legal Aid NSW for more information.

Insurance assistance

Guide to making an insurance claim 
The NSW Small Business Commissioner’s quick guide to making an insurance claim can help  businesses through the claims process to get paid quickly and smoothly after a disaster or disruption. Visit the Small Business website. 

The Insurance Council of Australia may be able to assist businesses who have queries relating  to insurance. Visit Insurance Council of Australia's wesbite or call 1800 734 621

Mental health support 

There is 24/7 help available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

Online services and resources

Ahead for Business by – Helps small business owners take action on their own mental health and wellbeing. 

NewAccess by Beyond Blue – Free and confidential help for small business owners from mental health coaches with a small business background. 

Rural Adversity Mental Health Program – Connects people living in regional, rural and remote NSW with local mental health services and resources. Read their 'Coping with the impact of flooding' resource here(PDF, 866KB).

Rural Resilience Program – helping build resilience by linking rural communities, families and individuals with the most appropriate services and information.

Business guides and resources

Business guide to recovering from disaster 
“Get back to business” by the NSW Small Business Commissioner is a step-by-step guide for business owners dealing with a disaster. The guide provides information to help businesses from the moment disaster hits, to the days, weeks and months ahead. Visit the Small Business Commissioner website to learn more and download a copy.

General business support 

Telstra assistance package 
Telstra has announced a disaster assistance package for its residential and small business customers who have lost services following the severe storms and major flooding across  eastern parts of New South Wales. 

The package includes mobile call diversion, a boost to data and free calls as well as reconnection support to those impacted across the New England, North Coast & Mid North Coast, as well as the Newcastle, Hunter and Central Coast regions. 

Call 1800 888 888 for more information.  

Personalised business support 
The Business Concierge Service can help you identify what support is available for you and complete any financial relief application forms. Our business concierges will be on board our Mobile Service Centres and at Disaster Recovery Centres in impacted areas, or you can call 13 77 88

Business Connect 
Business Connect provides professional advisors, all of whom have experience in running their own small business. They'll be able to help you with: 

  • Developing a customised recovery strategy
  • Managing your cashflow
  • Accessing finance including grants and loans
  • Marketing your business to reach new customers
  • Connecting to other government support and local professional services

You can select an advisor and book an appointment online, or call 1300 134 359.

Agricultural and Animal Services 

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and Local Land Services (LLS) are providing assistance to landholders and communities with animal welfare-related issues resulting from the floods, including: 

  • Animal assessment and veterinary assistance 
  • Stock euthanasia and burial
  • Emergency fodder and emergency stock water (where there is an immediate animal welfare concern)
  • Livestock feeding and management advice
  • Care of animals in evacuation centres

To request assistance, call the Agricultural and Animal Services Hotline on 1800 814 647 or your local LLS veterinarian on 1300 795 299. 

For current animal disposal advice, visit

Evacuation centres for animals and livestock 

A full list of current Animal Evacuation Centres is located on the NSW Department of Primary Industries website.

Animal owners are reminded that care of your animals, including adequate food and water supply, any toys and medication, as well as full time supervision, remains your responsibility once you arrive at the animal evacuation centres. Owners are also asked to bring appropriate identification for their animals.

Damage Assessments

NSW DPI asks any primary producer affected by the floods to fill out the Primary Industries Natural Disaster Damage Survey. DPI uses these surveys to determine the scale and severity of the impact and what assistance and resources are required, where.

Motor vehicles

Office of State Revenue - 1300 139 814
Motorists whose cars have been written off as a result of the floods, may be eligible for stamp duty relief on their replacement vehicles. Conditions apply.


Wollombi Connect Bus Service 
0499 359 659 or to register.
Every second Thursday leaves Laguna Community Hall at 9:30am (via Wollombi Tennis Club at 9:45am),  returns North Ave Cessnock (near Westpac) at 1:30pm (via Wollombi Tennis Club at 2:15pm).  Bookings are essential. $7.50 one way, or $15.00 return.

Lower Hunter Transport Services
Subsidised door to door transport for people and carers who find it difficult to use main stream services due to frailty, age, functional disability and for people with no access to a private car or unable to use public transport. For more information contact 4017 9750 or



WorkCover licences

WorkCover NSW - 13 10 50
WorkCover may replace licences at no cost to those affected by a disaster. 



Psychological preparedness for disasters

Being psychologically prepared when a disaster is happening can help you feel more confident, more in control and better able to make effective emergency plans. It can also help to reduce psychological distress and prevent longer-term mental health problems.

Being psychologically prepared means your natural reactions to stress can be anticipated and managed and this helps you feel more in control, clear headed and confident. The Red Cross highlight 3 steps to assist you in being psychologically prepared:

  1. Anticipate – that you will feel worried or anxious and remember these are normal
  2. Identify – what physical feelings or frightening thoughts might be adding to the fear
  3. Manage – your responses so that you can stay calm

Below are helpful resources from Dr Rob Gordon, the Australian Red Cross and Australian Psychological Society that focus on preparedness for disaster. In addition to these are some tips below from the DART Centre for Journalism and Trauma that others have found helpful in managing distressing sensations and thoughts that arose whilst watching graphic imagery and sound, such as the up-coming ABC TV series “Fires”.

Experiment with different ways of building some distance into how you view images 
Some people find concentrating on certain details, for instance clothes, and avoiding others (such as faces) helps. Try adjusting the viewing environment. Reducing the size of the window or adjusting the screen’s brightness or resolution can lessen the perceived impact. Try turning the sound down or off when you can - it is often the most affecting part.

Take frequent screen breaks 
Look at something pleasing, walk around, stretch or seek out contact with nature (such as greenery and fresh air etc). Try to avoid watching programs with distressing images just before going to sleep. It is more likely to populate your mental space. (And be careful with alcohol - it disrupts sleep and makes nightmares worse). It’s a great time for us to talk about how we can #GetReadyTogether in 2021 and remind ourselves that the threat from the Black Summer of 2019/2020 has passed.


FREE Cessnock LGA mental health support (no referrals required)

Face to face counselling (at Wollombi and Cessnock) and telephone counselling – Lifeline. Phone 1300 152 854 to make an appointment with Steve Hessel, the psychological counsellor available fortnightly at Wollombi and Cessnock.

Face to face or phone counselling with Farm Gate Counselling – Hunter New England Health. Phone 0477 322 581 to speak to either Pam Seccombe or Dave Rosewarne for either face to face or telephone counselling.

Face to face or phone counselling – Rural Aid Rural Counsellor. Phone 0499 527 327 to speak with the Rural Aid Counsellor, Gary Bentley.

Face to face, phone or video counselling – Hunter Primary Care. Phone 02 4935 3039 to make an appointment. Face to face services available at Cessnock, Maitland, Warabrook, Singleton and Kurri Kurri. Telehealth or video consultations also available.

Face to face or phone counselling – Reflex Social Services. Phone 0403 258 618 to make an appointment with Damien Southam. Appointments can also be made online here.

FREE Cessnock LGA financial support (no referrals required)

Personal Financial Counselling – Samaritans. Phone 0437 368 967 to make an appointment with Graham Smith. Graham helps people who may be having trouble paying bills, finding it hard to manage money, need help to negotiate with businesses chasing outstanding payment of bills. He can help you apply for hardship variations with creditors.

Small Business Financial Counselling – Phone 0427 458 647 to speak with Kristi Petersen. Rural Financial Counselling Services provide free support to small businesses who may be experiencing, or at risk of, financial hardship dur to impacts of drought, bushfire or COVID-19.

Service NSW Business Concierge – Phone 0448 249 120 to speak with Dominique Sheehan. Dominique can provide personalised, ongoing support for small businesses impacted by bushfires, drought, COVID-19 and more. She can help identify and understand the information on the Service NSW website and support available to you, including financial support and how to adapt to meet changing regulatory requirements.

Service NSW Support Service Specialist (SSS) – Phone 13 77 88 and request to speak with Brooke Moy, your local Cessnock SSS. Brooke can help you with any enquiries about support available through Service NSW, including information and support on the Cost of Living Program, which looks at where savings can be made across many different service providers including electricity, gas, telephone, insurance, discounts, etc.