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The Victorian Council of Churches Emergencies Ministry began in 1977 and has grown to over 1,600 volunteers who are trained to respond to disasters in Victoria.
“The VCC was first brought into disaster recovery work under DISPLAN in 1978 following an approach by the Rev. John Hill regarding the provision of counseling and support services to disaster affected people. As a result, the Victorian Council of Churches through John Hill was asked to chair the counseling sub committee of the Displan Welfare Plan. This committee later evolved to become The Personal Services and Counselling Sub Committee, after the 1983 bushfires, the Community Recovery Committee.” (Smale, S; VCC 1995)
The Department of Human Services has contracted the VCCEM to provide outreach, psychological first aid, personal support and emotional spiritual care. The Community Chaplaincy arrangement was initiated in preparation for the 2006 Commonwealth Games with a view to continuing as an element within the State Emergency Recovery Plan (SERP).
VCCEM is identified in the Emergency Management Manual of Victoria (EMMV):
Prevention / Mitigation / Risk Reduction Activities
Provide information, education and training to cultural and faith communities, municipal council emergency management staff and other agencies.
Provide psychosocial support including emotional spiritual care under the State Health Emergency Response Plan.
Relief / Recovery Activities
VCCEM supports DHHS to deliver the following relief and recovery activities:
- provide psychosocial support including psychological first aid, emotional and spiritual care and personal support in relief & recovery centres and through community outreach, direct visits, community meetings and gatherings
- coordinate the multi-faith multicultural response to emergencies
- assist the Department of Premier and Cabinet in the development and coordination of state services of worship and assist in the organisation of public memorials and gatherings to support the recovery of affected communities.
VCCEM has responded to numerous State Disasters including the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983, Gippsland Floods, North East Floods in 1993, Mildura’s Cardross Accident in 2006, Kerang Train Crash in 2007, Melbourne Airport Incidents, Burnley Tunnel Accident and Black Saturday Bushfires in 2009 and floods in 2010/2011 & 2016 just to name a few.