UTS Library

Bali bombings: Supporting Western Australians after the tragedy


Department for Community Development WA

PR Company: 

Department for Community Development (Jane Machin-Everill)

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2003 F 5



Executive Summary: 

<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />12 October 2002. Indonesia. Bali. KutaBeach. The Sari Club. Paddys Bar. Two explosions. Chaos. Devastation. Tragedy.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Reports of the bomb blasts in Bali reached Perth that night. Early on Sunday, the Premier announced the state would provide services to all those requiring them in Western Australia and play its part in the national response. By that afternoon the Department for Community Development had set up a support line and over the coming weeks provided services, usually around the clock, to victims, their families and friends, and the wider community.

The challenge was to ensure the Department delivered on its responsibilities under WAs emergency management arrangements to provide immediate and ongoing welfare services.

Response was driven by urgencyWestern Australians were suffering and needed support. However the key target group was difficult to reach because contact details could not be released to the Department. The target group was also difficult to engage as many were young men who did not want to be seen to need help.

A wide ranging and cost effective communication strategy ensured services were widely promoted so those needing them knew what services were available and how to access them. Results showed a huge number of individuals and families were reached and supported in the immediate aftermath of the bombings.

The Departments Corporate Communications and Marketing (CCM) team played a key role in advising, developing and implementing communication strategies.

Situation Analysis: 

The first reports of something wrong in Bali reached <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Perth on the evening of Saturday 12 October 2002. Reports of explosions. Talk of bombs and terrorists. Surely not in Bali, the isle of pleasure and fun for thousands of Western Australians each year.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

The reality was indeed too horrific to contemplate let alone understand. However within a matter of hours after the bombings, Western Australia was ready to respond.

The Western Australian Government needed to prove it could handle the situation. It depended on its agencies, significantly the Department for Community Development, to respond quickly and appropriately. While the Department had an excellent reputation in responding to emergencies, Bali was a whole new experience.

Within Western Australias emergency management arrangements, the Department is charged with providing immediate and ongoing welfare services to individuals and communities affected by disaster. However previously established plans, designed mostly for evacuations due to bushfires and floods, were thrown into disarray as Bali demanded a very different response. Nothing prepared anyone across Australia for the scale of the tragedy: international issues, foreign affairs protocols, federal police jurisdictions, national security, national and state coordinationall needed to be considered.

Critically, a new approach to communication was required. Whereas in previous emergency responses to disasters the Department worked alongside affected communities, in this instance the Department had no direct connection with the Bali victims as, for privacy and security reasons, individual contact details could not be released.

Suddenly a communication challenge was presentedto ensure everyone, particularly those immediately affected by the tragedy, knew what support services were available and how they could access them if they wished. The challenge included engaging young people, mainly men, not likely to ordinarily seek support and counselling.

Each day brought new challenges and situations to address and resolve. Considerable effort was required to keep key stakeholders informed, advise on communication strategies and change communication tactics as new information came to hand.

As the Department and indeed the states responses took shape, governments from across Australia looked west. Perth was frequently the first Australian destination for those returning from Bali and it became the model for implementing services and communication programs.

The communication program was enormous and included many staff within the Department and beyond. CCM took a lead role in advising, developing and implementing communication strategies over the weeks immediately following the bombings.


Significant research is undertaken across the world on emergency management arrangements. In <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Western Australia, the Department regularly provides welfare responses when traumatic events and natural disasters occur. This has been put to the test with the Gracetown tragedy in 1996 where nine people were killed when a cliff collapsed; responses to the Moora and Exmouth/Onslow floods of 1999; and evacuation of 600 people from the remote Bidyandanga Aboriginal community during Cyclone Sam in 2002. In each of these situations, responses were analysed, debriefings occurred and changes to policies and procedures were recommended and implemented.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

The Departments response is managed by a dedicated coordinator and team of volunteer staff who take part in ongoing training. Regular scenarios are set up to test responses and coordination across agencies.

There is also international research on trauma and recovery which is the realm of the Departments psychologists and social workers, especially those specialising in trauma counselling.

The Departments response to the events in Bali and the services it offered to victims, their families and friends, and the wider community was based on this research as well as ongoing research and evaluation throughout the program.

Research showed timely, confidential and easily accessible services were paramount in engaging the target audience effectively. CCM had input into the design and delivery of services and ensured communication highlighted these aspects.

CCM worked closely with social workers and psychologists working with victims and their families so communication could be targeted appropriatelyeg advertisements changed, communication opportunities identified and the website developed.

Research was also undertaken into the services available to victims and this was distributed to key stakeholders and became part of the website.

Target Policies: 

  1. Western Australians immediately affected by the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Bali bombings (eg family, friends, significant others of those injured or killed)Communication focused on ensuring this group was fully aware of what support was able to be accessed.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
  2. People in the general community across Western Australia feeling traumatised as a result of the bombingsThe Departments role in building and strengthening communities made this a significant target group.
  3. Key stakeholders providing resources and supportThe Department relied on partnerships with a range of key stakeholders to ensure quality services were delivered.
  4. Premiers Office, Ministers Office, Government Media OfficeDaily and weekly briefings.
  5. MediaThe Department, and indeed the Government, relied heavily on the media to ensure Western Australians were fully informed of services they could access.

Communication Strategy: 

Communication Strategy & Implementation

The Department implemented a range of service strategies which were publicised widely to ensure people wanting support knew what was available and where to go:<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

  • 1800 24 hour Bali Support Line providing counselling, support, information and referrals
  • 1800 Bali Offers of Assistance Hotline to coordinate offers of help by the community
  • individual and group support and counselling
  • airport reception including return of the deceased
  • support networks and groups.

Crisis management team

  • CCM was a key player in the crisis management team which was established on the Monday after the bombings and led by a Department executive director. It included the coordinator of the welfare response and a range of key staff.
  • The team met every day to evaluate responses in the previous 24 hours and plan responses for the following 24 hours. It also coordinated trauma support and debriefing for staff.
  • CCM advised on communication issues and developed and implemented communication strategies. Communication was a key part of the agenda at each meeting (see Appendix A, Item 1).

Media management

  • CCM managed the Departments media strategy in accordance with the media policy (see Appendix A, Item 2) and liaised with Ministers office and Government Media Office.
  • CCM identified three Department spokespersons and provided media skills support, training and briefings. CCM drafted media statements for the Premier and Minister (Appendix A, Item 3) and arranged media interviews, responses and conferences. This included a visit by the Premier and media to the Bali Support Line.
  • CCM responded to media calls from across <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Australia as Perth was the first place many people landed from Bali.
  • CCM wrote a full page editorial in The West Australian Health+Medicine dealing with the effects of trauma and pointing to the website for more information (Appendix A, Item 4).
  • CCM monitored all state media and distributed information to the crisis management team and Department senior staff (Appendix A, Item 5).

Stakeholder management

  • CCM contributed to briefings and updates for the Premiers Office, Ministers Office and Department executive. This included drafting and providing information for Parliamentary questions and statements (Appendix A, Item 6).
  • CCM monitored all media and liaised with services offering assistance to ensure the Bali Support Line had the latest information to provide to callers (eg details of who to contact at Telstra to get the cost of telephone bills to Bali waived). It was initially developed on a spreadsheet and later incorporated into the website (see below).
  • CCM updated information twice daily and emailed the spreadsheet to the Bali Support Line and other key stakeholders such as the Red Cross and Department of Education (see Appendix A, Item 7).

Advertising campaign

  • CCM developed an advertising campaign to ensure victims and others were aware of the support they were able to access. CCM wrote, designed and placed all advertisements and negotiated special community service rates with The West Australian, Community News and regional newspapers to ensure maximum value for money. This included negotiating with The West Australian to run the advertisements on the pages covering the Bali bombings which were usually in the first few pages of each edition (Appendix A, Item 8).
  • At the request of the Premiers Office, CCM wrote and designed a special half page advertisement from the Premier which was run at no cost in The West Australian (Appendix A, Item 9).
  • During the third week after the bombings, CCM wrote and designed an advertisement focusing on recovering from trauma (Appendix A, Item 10).

Website development

  • As a result of feedback from the Bali Support Line counsellors and those working with individuals and groups that some young men in particular were reluctant to seek help, CCM recommended the establishment of a website as an anonymous and less threatening service strategy.
  • CCM wrote the text for the website in liaison with the Departments senior psychologist, briefed the Departments web developer and managed the development and implementation of the site.
  • The website also enabled the Department to provide information to the broader community to help with recovery after the traumatic events (Appendix A, Item 11).


  • CCM updated and managed the redesign and printing of a brochure entitled Dealing with the effects of trauma. The brochure was distributed extensively by Department staff in the weeks after the bombings, in particular at the airport receptions and at the twilight ceremony organised by the Kingsley Football Club (Appendix A, Item 12).
  • CCM wrote and printed a newsletter for the Kingsley Football Club to give to members. The newsletter included the Departments information about dealing with trauma (Appendix A, Item 13).
  • CCM wrote and printed fliers giving details of the Bali Support Line which were given to those who had friends and relatives in Bali and were also given out at the airport (Appendix A, Item 14).

Internal communication

  • CCM managed regular communication with staff by the Director General and other executive members through the Departments intranet which is accessed by all staff when they log in.
  • Through this medium staff were also given information about statements made in Parliament by the Premier and Minister relating to the work of Department staff (Appendix A, Item 15).



  • The crisis management team coordinated all aspects of the Departments response to the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Bali bombings in a timely and sensitive manner.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
  • The Bali Support Line was set up within 12 hours of news of the bombings being received by the WA government. It received 235 calls in the first two weeks involving 350 adults and 65 children and averaged 30 calls a day for the next three weeks. Most were long calls and required follow up.
  • The Bali Offers of Assistance Hotline was set up within 12 hours after the need was identified and received 73 calls over its two week life.
  • CCM responded promptly to all media requests and proactively sought media for the Premier and Minister. No negative media resulted from any of the work undertaken by the Department.
  • Briefings and updates were presented to key stakeholders on time and were accurate.
  • Advertisements were changed in a short turnaround time in response to feedback from counsellors (eg the Bali Support Line was originally tagged as a counselling and support line and was retagged as a counselling and information line to better target those reluctant to seek support).
  • Originally intended as an internal document, the information spreadsheet became a vital communication tool to keep stakeholders up to date with the latest developments.
  • The website was written, developed, tested and went live five days after the strategy was approved. It received an average of 700 visits a week to the end of the 2002.
  • The brochure Dealing with the effects of trauma was redesigned, updated, new information added and 10,000 were printed within three days.
  • Fliers were written, designed and thousands photocopied in house within a couple of hours.
  • Kingsley Football Club newsletter was written, designed and printed within a day. This  included all liaison and approvals from the club, Department psychologists, a local member of parliament and the Government Media Office.


Results showed a huge number of individuals and families were reached in the immediate aftermath of the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Bali bombings. Although 88 Western Australians lost their lives in Bali, in its first 10 days alone the Bali Support Line received calls involving 350 adults and 65 children. Calls reduced over time as people took up individual and group counselling/support options as they were established. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Feedback to the Bali Support Line was positive: Grateful for the information and appreciated the follow up call, The help provided was absolutely brilliantand thats coming from a bloke who never believed in counselling and stuff like that, Bali response is providing an excellent service, Helpful to talk, Thank you for all your assistance.

Feedback from counsellors enabled the communication strategies to be flexible and better targeted.

The success of the website led to it being enhanced to include a facility for people to register for support groups. A number of groups were established involving people affected by the Bali events and wanting to connect with others with similar experiences.

The Department took the lead role in coordinating the welfare response across government and non government services. One of the indicators of its success was the fact that other states were interested in WAs achievements and duplicated the approach.

Members of the crisis management team took responsibility for liaison across government and non government services and reported at each meeting. This ensured everyone was kept informed. When it appeared that activities were being duplicated, the matter was resolved within 24 hours so valuable resources (mostly staff time and energy) were not wasted.

Internal communication ensured staff within the Department were kept informed of the work of colleagues. While many were not directly involved, they played an important role in supporting, both professionally and personally, those who were involved.

In response to the many offers of assistance from community counsellors, the Department organised training for these counsellors to increase their knowledge of trauma and grief counselling. This is continuing with the aim of increasing the communitys capacity to respond to future emergencies.

An interdepartmental group was set up to share information, research and evaluation to inform future psychological and therapeutic practice and response to situations like Bali.

All members of the Department involved in the Bali response (and other government and non government agencies) were presented with commemorative Bali pins by the Premier in appreciation of their dedication and commitment.