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Stephen Prohm, Lifeline's Disaster Recovery CoOrdinator

Updated: Jan 19

Lifeline Mid Coast has a new kid on the block. His name is Stephen Prohm and he’s the new Disaster Recovery Coordinator for Lifeline Mid Coast.

Following a confronting year that included floods which followed hot on the heels from last year’s bushfires and the continuation of COVID, the name of Stephen’s role was changed from Bushfire Recovery Coordinator to Disaster Recovery Coordinator this year, to reflect the change in scope for the delivery of service.

The continuation of community disasters enabled Lifeline Mid Coast to create the new role with the program being designed to identify and support natural community leaders who are active in re-building their towns and communities after a disaster, supporting the growth of community resilience and mental health awareness.

Tell us a little bit about your role as the Lifeline Disaster Recovery Coordinator

“I commenced in February 2020 following the Black Summer Bushfires, and since then I have been doing lots of outreach mainly up around Kempsey, Bellbrook and Willarin. As far as we are aware, they were the hardest hit and most vulnerable communities on the Mid North Coast. I also visited areas that were impacted and those included Lake Cathie, Laurieton, Johns River, Pappinbarra, Hollisdale and out past Long Flat. Wherever I was needed during those time, I would turn up, I would also represent Lifeline at programmed community resilience events.

What do you do?

“I provide non-clinical support by listening. I also let people know of Lifeline’s and other agency services. It works well because I’m also building awareness in the community that Lifeline does not only provide suicide prevention and crisis services, but we do many other things.”

“We have provided targeted training in understanding and responding to trauma; the provision of ongoing support in skills development; and opportunities to engage in debriefing and supervision.”

During 2020-2021, Lifeline Mid Coast continued to respond to communities impacted by the bushfires, as well as engaging in the flood recovery efforts being coordinated by local councils, where torrential rain and floods impacted the communities of Kempsey, Mid North Coast and Taree/Manning. In some instances, families who lost homes and/or animals in the bushfires were again devastated by such losses during the floods.

By June 30 2021, Lifeline paid and volunteer staff had made 110 site visits to 30 trauma affected communities covering 7034 km. Visited the Lifeline Shops that were depleted due to COVID. Despite restrictions, the training team (lead by Di Bannister) delivered Psychological First Aid and Accidental Counsellor workshops.

How did you get chosen for this role?

“It was an internal hire; I was already a Telephone Crisis Supporter for Lifeline Mid Coast and had been volunteering for the past five years. More recently I had been assisting facilitators in a volunteer role, for the Crisis Support Training for the new cohorts.”

What is your background and how did it equip you for this important role?

The Telephone Crisis Support and I had been in a human factor role in the Australia Navy for 20 years serving in both Australia and overseas. My final three years in the navy were spent in a service organisation where I was part of a team that assisted people with entitlements and importantly connecting the partners of submariners, who were not coping so well on their own, with psychological support. I was able to look after and provide support for the partners who were having difficulties, rather than have to bring the submariner home.”

“Prior to Lifeline Mid coast, my most recent role was in Quality, Safety and Environment.”

Stephen Prohm has always played the part of support person in relational leadership.

What’s happening now for you?

I am part of the Community Resilience and Community Support Network, and I am continuing to coordinate The Accidental Counsellor training for community members. As my role and the program continues to evolve, I am working with Lifeline volunteers and the SES to prepare for future major disasters. As a result of community needs workshops (in 3 LGA’s) a need was identified to seek out those who may not have sought or were not ready to seek psychosocial assistance. This gap will be addressed next year.

What’s your take away?

“Reaching small communities, identifying gaps that services are struggling to meet and coordinating networks to meet some of those gaps within the community.”

“Recognising that most of the communities have the strength and the trust within the communities to do it themselves, so I am just here to support their skills”.

Thanks for your time Stephen and all the great work you do in our local communities.


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