Update on the bushfire psychological counselling voucher program: February 2013

The Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund has extended the psychological counselling voucher program and the wellness recovery voucher program for an additional six months.

The two programs were to have finished at the end of August.

Under the extension announced by VBAF, people will have until 31 December 2012 to apply for vouchers, and until 31 March 2013 to redeem them.

Vouchers can be obtained through the VBAF hotline on 1800 180 213, or by visiting the psychological counselling page or the wellness voucher.

The Bushfire Psychological Counselling Voucher Program was developed through a $3.5 million gift from the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund that was financed by donations provided by members of the public in response to the devastating Victorian bushfires in February 2009. This program is a joint initiative of the Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority and the Victorian Government Department of Human Services. Although the program is not part of the Medicare Benefits Scheme, it uses Medicare providers who are eligible to provide services under the Better Access to Mental Health Care initiative to deliver the initiative.

The Voucher Program aims to assist people directly affected by the 2009 Victorian Bushfires to access psychological counselling. The program provides up to twelve vouchers for psychological counselling to each eligible individual (including dependent children over five years of age) who has been directly affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires. Each voucher is redeemable for one hour of psychological counselling from an eligible service provider.

If you have any further questions about the program, you can contact the Bushfire Appeals Funds hot line on 1800-180-213.

Eligibility and services to be provided

Eligible clients

People directly affected by the 2009 Victorian bushfires including:

  • People who have received grants paid by the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund
  • People receiving or who have received Victorian Bushfire Case Management
  • Dependent children (over 5 years of age) of people eligible above
  • Family and close friends of people affected by bushfires
  • People who have lost their livelihood directly through the effects of the bushfires.

To access the program, eligible people need to submit a short application form, and will be sent the vouchers once the application has been processed.

Referral requirements

There are no referral requirements to access the program. Preparation of a Mental Health Treatment Plan by a GP is not a requirement. People can see an eligible provider of psychological counselling of their own choice and in their own time.

Eligible service providers



  • Psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists who have Medicare Provider Numbers and currently provide services under the Better Access to Mental Health Care initiative (Medicare Provider Number must be supplied as evidence of eligibility to participate in the program)
  • Psychological counsellors employed in community health services receiving funds from the Victorian Government Department of Human Services.

There is no additional credentialing process required.

Services to be provided

Each voucher is redeemable for a one-hour session of psychological counselling. The vouchers can be used for psychological counselling for individuals, couples and families. For individual and couple sessions, only one voucher is required. For sessions where three or more people are receiving assistance, two vouchers are required. Applicants do not need to use all six vouchers, or attend all six visits with the one service provider.

Treatment modalities must be evidence-based, and recognised treatments for post-disaster recovery such as Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR) are encouraged. Routine screening for posttraumatic stress disorder should be undertaken.

It is expected that referrals will be made to ongoing supports and services during and after the course of treatment as required by the client. If more intensive treatment is required, service providers should make appropriate referrals such as to the local GP for referral under the Better Access initiative or Better Outcomes Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) program, or other appropriate services.

Reporting requirements

There are no formal reporting requirements for service providers, but it is expected that a discharge summary/ letter will be forwarded to the applicants' local medical practitioner where an applicant provides consent.

Service fee

Each voucher is redeemable for one hour of psychological counselling to the value of $150, and is expected to cover the total cost of the session. No additional co-payment should be requested from the applicant. No GST is applicable.


Process for clients to access services

People eligible for the program need to complete and submit an application form to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund. Forms have been distributed widely to affected people and are available online at www.dhs.vic.gov.au/bushfireappeal. Parents and guardians are able to apply for counselling vouchers for children over five years of age.

Once applications have been processed, vouchers will be returned to each individual nominated on the application form. Vouchers for children will be forwarded to parents/guardians.

Each voucher is redeemable for one session of psychological counselling. Vouchers will identify the eligible person by name and a unique identification number, and can be used anytime over the next two years to 31 August 2012. Vouchers are not transferable.

At the completion of each psychological counselling session the client should sign the voucher, which should also be signed by the service provider and retained by the provider for financial reimbursement. Please check vouchers carefully to ensure the name of the client is correct and the voucher is valid for use.

Reimbursement of service providers

To receive financial reimbursement, submit:

  • A co-signed counselling voucher/s
  • An invoice clearly stating:
    • Practitioner's name, Business name and address, ABN
    • Medicare Provider Number (for private providers)
    • Bank details for payment


  • Operations Bushfire Appeal
    GPO Box 4032
    Melbourne 3001

Vouchers and invoices may be submitted in batches rather than after each consultation.

Payments to community health services will be made to the agency not individual counselling staff.

It is expected that payment will be made within five days of receipt of invoice. Remittance advice will be forwarded on payment.

Psychological counselling vouchers provide a fee-for-service income to private practitioners and state-funded agencies. Therefore, services provided under this program must not be claimed against any other state- or commonwealth-funded program.

All data collected from this program will be audited for reporting purposes.

Further information

For further information visit the Department of Human Services (DHS) website at www.dhs.vic.gov.au/bushfireappeal or contact the hotline on 1800 180 213.