A Different Type of Disaster: A Rural NSW Case Study

The 2018 Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium will be held next month over 15-17 October at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart, Tasmania.

Joining us at the conference is Ms Alison Thorne District Community Mhda Manager at Murrumbidgee Local Health District who will present on ‘A Different Type of Disaster: A Rural NSW Case Study.'


The death of five members of the same family in a murder suicide was a tragedy for a small Riverina community. While not necessarily fitting within the usual definition of a disaster like fire or flood, the incident nevertheless required local Mental Health services to provide a disaster response to assist with community recovery.
Mental Health responses to such events require a response that is based on the best available evidence. Each disaster event presents unique challenges and requires a flexible, coordinated response tailored to the circumstances.

The Murrumbidgee Local Health District comprises an area of 125,561 square kilometres and includes the cities of Wagga Wagga and Griffith and the surrounding rural localities. The District itself has a population of 238,214. The main town affected by the tragedy has a population of 800. This town is located 60 km from Wagga Wagga the main service centre.

This paper will describe the process and the challenges experienced in providing a disaster Mental Health response to this community and will discuss the response that was provided by Murrumbidgee LHD Community Mental Health Services at each stage of the recovery. A response that continues even now, almost 4 years on from the event.

Key Learnings:
1. What is a MH Disaster?
2. Importance of planning in Disaster Mental Health response
3. Unique approach required due to rural locality


Alison Thorne is a Registered Nurse who has lived and worked in Murrumbidgee for the past 12 years. Schooled locally in Cootamundra and later moving to Sydney to complete University and her early nursing career. Since 1995 she has lived and worked in outback and rural NSW in a variety of nursing roles. Alison is passionate about the delivery of quality health care to rural and remote communities. Alison is currently the District Community Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Manager for Murrumbidgee Local Health District, a busy and challenging role that she has enjoyed for the past 6 years.

For more information on the upcoming 2018 Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium please visit anzmh.asn.au/rrmh

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