Emergency Services Foundation
Victoria’s emergency management sector works as one to protect Victorian communities.
The Emergency Service Foundation (ESF) supports the emergency management sector to prevent, promote and address the incidence and impact of mental injury for the 125,000 volunteers and paid staff who serve us.
While every employer has responsibility for looking after the safety and wellbeing of their people, ESF focuses on building collaborative approaches to discover and address sector-wide issues causing a high incidence of mental injury.
We know it’s a job where people see and do things on a regular basis that can be very tough to deal with. And the impacts of the job can add up. Beyond Blue’s landmark national research into the mental health and wellbeing of police and emergency services, Answering the Call (released 2018), reveals alarming facts. One in three employees in the sector experience high or very high psychological distress which is a much higher rate than the general adult population; and employees and volunteers report having suicidal thoughts at more than two times the rate of adults in the general population.
The research paints a picture of a workforce which is deeply impacted, both by the nature of the work that they do, and by the pressures of the environments in which they work. The facts compel us all to act. They demand a collaborative, dedicated and sustained approach to strengthen our efforts, and better protect those who protect us.
In partnership with the sector ESF will:
- Help to identify and address work-related factors contributing to mental illness
- Share experiences and best practice to build capability and drive improvement across the sector
- Build the evidence base to support ongoing programs
- Help to reduce stigma so that people get help early and have the best chance of recovery
Better together. That’s what we aim to be.
A new ESF Chair
It gives me a great deal, of pleasure to assume the position of Chair of the Emergency Services Foundation as it continues to assist Victoria’s emergency management sector to identify ways in which to address the occurrence and health impacts of mental injury. In taking over this role I want to acknowledge the leadership provided by Patrick Kidd OBE OAM since he commenced in the position of Chair in September 2019 following a change of Constitution that saw the ESF appoint a new skills-based Board and establish a new strategic direction for the organisation. Patrick will continue as a Board member with the foundation, something that I personally appreciate him agreeing to do.
I have had an association with the Foundation since 1999 and have seen the outcomes of the good work done by the former Emergency Services Foundation and its Board. My intention is to assist the new organisation to take the next step in its journey to achieve its new strategic focus with an emphasis on becoming even more inclusive than we are now. The emergency management sector in Victoria is large and complex, made up of consummate professional and dedicated volunteers and paid staff that come from emergency service organisations, state and local government departments, non-government organisations and others. It is evident that increasingly, the members of these organisations that give so much to the Victorian community are at increasing risk of suffering a mental injury due to the type of work that they do, we are seeing larger and longer duration emergencies affecting our communities. And whilst organisations themselves have an obligation to provide as safe as is practicable a workplace that reduces the risk of all types of injury, the inherently stressful nature of the work that we all do means that there are potentially opportunities to do more in the mental health and wellbeing space through the formation of strategic partnerships to bring people together, drive research, and foster innovation.
I look forward, along with the ESF Board to continuing to work with our CEO Siusan MacKenzie, the ESF Stakeholder Council, individual organisations, and sector volunteers and paid staff to take the work of the Foundation forward.
Inspector General for Emergency Management
After the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires a public appeal was launched to provide relief to Emergency Service Workers affected by this tragic event. With the agreement of the originators of the appeal the residual funds were used to form a charitable trust for the benefit of Emergency Service Workers. In 1987 the Emergency Services Foundation was established and in line with the origins of the Trust it was determined that provisions of the Trust Deed be directed towards:
- the relief and assistance to any Victorian Emergency Service Worker and their families who suffer hardship as a result of the Worker engaged in the operations of activities of an Emergency Service; and
- the funding of research and study by properly qualified persons aimed at the improvement of the methods of relief and assistance set out in (1) or the lessening of hazards experienced by Victorian Emergency Service Workers in their line of duty.
Since 1987, at the request of heads of agency, ESF has provided financial assistance to the families of people deceased in the line of duty and scholarships have been provided to 145 Victorian emergency service personnel.
The Foundation has recently shifted its welfare focus to the issue of mental health and wellbeing. ESF is connecting the Victorian emergency management sector to continuously improve [prevent, promote and address] the mental health and wellbeing of its 125,000 volunteer and paid emergency service workers.
In 2013, we celebrated 25 years of supporting emergency services workers. Below is a video commemorating our history.