24 October 2022

bushfire recovery
This free interactive self-help resource has been designed by Australian farmers affected by fires, for Australian farmers.

Nearly two years after the devastating bushfires of 2019-2020, many farming communities are still coming to terms with the impacts.

Now, a new online bushfire resource – Recovering After a Farm Fire – is hoping to provide Aussie farmers with the support and information they need to help them process and recover after a bushfire.

Launched today by the University of South Australia, this free interactive self-help resource has been designed by Australian farmers affected by fires, for Australian farmers.

It hopes to share information and practical tools to help farmers and their supporters to adapt effectively if they have experienced a fire, and to prepare psychologically in case of future fires.

Led by UniSA Senior Research Fellow and Clinical Psychologist, Dr Kate Gunn, the new bushfire resource is part of the successful ifarmwell website, to help farmers cope effectively with life’s challenges and get the most out of each day.

“Growing up on a farm myself, gave me an insight into the ups and downs that farmers face. When farmers in my community were struggling and wondering where to seek confidential, free help, we came up with the ifarmwell website,” Dr Gunn says.

“The new bushfire module focusses on equipping farmers with practical strategies that are helpful for coping with a range of challenges, including stress and trauma, which are often experienced by farmers who are significantly affected by fires.

“It’s based upon things that other farmers affected by bushfires have told us they found helpful – as well as evidence-based psychological techniques. It covers topics such as how to deal with post-bushfire workloads, how to manage stress, anger, and worry, and importantly, how to maintain good relationships with your community and those around you.

“Ultimately, it gives farmers practical tools, based upon psychological science and what other farmers have found useful, to help manage their individual situation.”

The free 30-60-minute module can be accessed on a computer, smartphone, or tablet - anywhere with internet access – so farmers have the choice to connect from their tractor, shed or home.

It includes contributions from 16 farmers who collaborated on the project, to help other farmers who may have faced similar challenges to them. 

South Australian dairy farmer, Mick Kowald, has been running the family farm for 20 years. In the aftermath of the 2020 bushfires, he worked around the clock as he cleaned up after the fire and kept the farm running. After 3-4 days of constant work, little sleep, and extreme stress, he ended up in hospital with a panic attack.

“I realised I couldn’t deal with the bushfire impacts on my own; I had to take a step back and slow down,” Kowald says.

“The fire was bigger than anything I could fix in a couple of days, and it was going to take a long time to repair the damage on our farm.

“So, I took a few days off and stepped back from it all. I spent a lot of time in my veggie patch, I made sure I cut back on the alcohol, I got involved with community recovery efforts, and I spent a lot more time with my family.

“After a bushfire event like I’ve been through, I think it’s so important that you really take time to look after yourself, pace yourself, be aware that you may suffer similar things that I’ve been through.”

As an advocate and contributor to the ifarmwell site, Mick willingly gave advice on what the new bushfire module should contain and shared his experiences in a video. He says the value lies in the content being specifically tailored to farmers.

“The ifarmwell website has been a great resource for me over the years,” Kowald says.

“Certainly, it takes some time and commitment to work through, but the advice and strategies on the site are all practical and focused for farmers, so it’s all very real and relatable.

“My advice is simple: keep talking to your mates and neighbours, share your stories, don’t be afraid to open up, and seek advice from resources like ifarmwell if you need it.”

Notes for editors:

  • The researchers gratefully acknowledge the 16 farmers who participated in the research that enabled us to co-design this module.
  • This work was co-funded by the Department of Rural Health, University of South Australia, as well as the Commonwealth and the Government of South Australia under Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.
  • The ifarmwell website is based on 10 years of research and the input from hundreds of farmers and supporters from the health and agricultural sectors.
  • For more information on the bushfire module go to ifarmwell.com.au/recovering-after-a-farm-fire or go to the ifarmwell website by scanning the QR code below.


Contact for interview:  Dr Kate Gunn E: Kate.Gunn@unisa.edu.au 
Media contact: Annabel Mansfield M: +61 479 182 489 E: Annabel.Mansfield@unisa.edu.au

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