Bushfire-affected to get monthly mental health support care of Tamworth charity

Helping hand: Social worker Amy Ware with Wytaliba resident Dannielle Monks. Ms Ware has committed to help out residents of the bushfire-affected community.

Helping hand: Social worker Amy Ware with Wytaliba resident Dannielle Monks. Ms Ware has committed to help out residents of the bushfire-affected community.

For the first time, the bushfire-affected Wytaliba community has been offered monthly mental health checkups in their village, thanks to a Tamworth charity.

Much of the community was traumatised in last year's deadly bushfire, which left most homes in the community in ruins.

Since then academics and Billabong Club have criticised government mental health support as inadequate for the isolated, remote community east of Glen Innes.

But at a recent community BBQ, Tamworth social worker Amy Ware promised a crowd of about 20 she would head back to the community on a monthly basis to do checkups.

Glen Innes Mayor, Carol Sparks, whose Wytaliba home was lost in last year's blaze, said it was "the most fantastic offer".

"That connection with those professional people is just so good because I think the one-to-one communication is really important."

She said everyone in the community has a big story, and virtually everyone will need help "to overcome some of the terrible realities of that fire".

"We're still coming to terms with it. And I think that'd be really helpful to have a professional here.

"We've always had to go to Glen Innes. Of course [help is] available in Glen Innes, and I'm very grateful about the Primary Health Network and they've been great and they're offering services as well. But to have that real contact with a professional person that's willing to come here is just amazing."

Ms Sparks is already getting counselling, but said she will also talk to Ms Ware.

A spokesperson for Hunter New England Health District said the service had employed a coordinator through the rural adversity mental health program, plus two youth mental health project workers to help bushfire-affected young people around the region.

"Another two bushfire recovery clinicians are currently being recruited, to boost this localised support and provide clear referral pathways to mental health service providers," they said.

Wytaliba also has access to a senior clinical psychologist.

Billabong Club Engagement officer Joe Miller said the Wytaliba phone reception was notoriously dodgy and some residents had told him they had lost phone contact during consultations with outside mental health workers over the phone.

"They feel more comfortable sitting out there on a log talking to people," he said.

"That's the difference. You can give them all the cards you like to ring people and they won't."

Billabong Clubhouse, which is based in Tamworth, has been organising mental health professionals and doctors to visit Wytaliba since just days after last year's bushfire.

Two Wytaliba residents died in last year's horror Kangawalla bushfire, which demolished most of the village.

Last year's bushfire ruins are nearly cleared up, with just days until the ruins of the final two homes have been cleaned away.

The reconstruction of the village has recently started, with one resident winning development approval to rebuild the first home lost in last year's horror Black Summer bushfires.