COMMUNITY CARE: SES Richmond Tweed Region's community engagement coordinator and Chaplain Paul von Bratt said his role is to assist people no matter the colour of their responder uniform or position on faith.
COMMUNITY CARE: SES Richmond Tweed Region's community engagement coordinator and Chaplain Paul von Bratt said his role is to assist people no matter the colour of their responder uniform or position on faith. Alison Paterson

The people supporting our fire heroes

EMERGENCY service personnel, be they volunteer, retained or career, routinely face distressing situations and experiences as they help people during what can be the worst day of their lives.

At the current NSW bushfires, first responder chaplains are there to support the volunteers, retained and career emergency workers who look after their communities.

Easily identified by their purple vests, the chaplains said possessing a religious belief is not mandatory if someone needs to talk.

NSW State Emergency Service Community Engagement Coordinator and Chaplain, Paul von Bratt said his job involves assisting anyone no matter the colour of their uniform.

Currently working out of the Rural Fire Service Incident Management Centre at Casino Airport, Mr von Bratt said chaplaincy work "knows no boundaries".

He said fatigue during incidents such as the seemingly endless bushfires can add up and leave feel people mentally as well as physically exhausted.

"We are all humans and we all struggle with very similar things," he said,

"As the SES is a support agency to the RFS during bushfires, we work across a wide variety of areas including supplying meals and door-knocking with police to get messages out to the community.

"Part of my brief is to ensure that people are looking after themselves."

RFS Chaplains and married couple David and Meryl Cook are also working out of the management centre at Casino.

"We have a fairly broad remit," Mr Cook said.

"In essence we support fire-fighters and the fire control centre crew to maintain a buoyancy and keep their spirits up."

Mr Cook said the fire crews they work with are fantastic.

He said he admired them for getting up and going out to do what is often dirty and dangerous work before going home and then getting up to do it all again the next day.

"They are really amazing people and are incredibly resilient, they are are so delightful to work with," he said.

"The gamut of human experience goes on despite bushfires and floods."

Richmond Police District Superintendent Toby Lindsay, said police chaplains have an important role.

"A senior NSWPF state chaplain from Sydney is in the field supporting our police and support staff," he said.

"Their pastoral support is much appreciated by the troops. "


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