The Victorian Council of Churches Emergencies Ministry began in 1977 and has grown to over 1,500 volunteers 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 counselling and support services to disaster affected people. As a result, the Victorian Council of Churches through John Hill was asked to chair the counselling 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)
Until 2009, the program was known as the community recovery program and the government funding for that was relatively small.
From 2009, the program became known as Emergencies Ministry, one of the many programs of the VCC.
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).
The VCCEM is identified in the Emergency Management Manual of Victoria (EMMV):
- Provide personal support, psychological first aid and emotional spiritual care to individuals and communities
- Provide Community Chaplains for early psychological first aid interventions.
- Coordinate a multi faith response to emergencies
- Coordinate the emergency chaplaincy network for Victoria.
- Provide outreach activities with trained outreach and visitation workers.
- Coordinate State services of worship and assist in the organisation of public memorials and gatherings to support the recovery of affected communities.
- Provide an advisory and training resource for community recovery and development for faith based organisations.
The VCCEM (and its former iterations) 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, Yarra Ranges Storm Event in 2021. Volunteer teams were deployed to support those affected by the floods in northern NSW (2022).
For more information on Emergencies Ministry see their website: www.vccem.org.au