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While evidence supports early rehabilitation's benefits, it has traditionally been under-used in emergency health responses such as natural disasters, conflicts, and disease outbreaks.

Fortunately, broader recognition of rehabilitation’s value is growing.

In May 2023, the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre (NCCTRC) welcomed the World Health Assembly’s endorsement of a historic resolution on strengthening rehabilitation in health systems.

This resolution highlights the critical importance of ensuring access to rehabilitation across all sectors of the health system, from community-based services through to hospital-based care.

Particular emphasis was placed on the role of rehabilitation in emergency preparedness and response, recognising the value of deploying rehabilitation professionals as integral members of multi-disciplinary teams.

The Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) has a well-prepared and sample rehabilitation workforce to call upon for deployment during health emergencies, the NCCTRC have developed a rehabilitation-specific training course. The course covers crucial topics such as rehabilitation needs assessment, activity planning and prioritisation, capacity building, vulnerable populations, assistive technology, and inclusive humanitarian response.

The training is designed to equip already clinically skilled rehabilitation professionals with knowledge that is critical to working effectively in low-resource and crisis-affected environments. It incorporates lectures, small group activities and simulation based training over a four day period.

The inaugural AUSMAT Rehabilitation Course was held at the NCCTRC’s training facility in Bees Creek, Northern Territory recently, and was attended by professionals from across Australia, as well as clinicians from Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Fiji.

The participant group was truly multi-disciplinary, with occupational therapists, physiotherapists, nurses and doctors in attendance. In addition to the teaching and learning of important concepts, the course was a valuable opportunity to share knowledge and experience between Australian and Pacific colleagues.

Given the Pacific is AUSMAT’s most common region of deployment, developing networks with rehabilitation professionals in these areas is of significant importance and supports the NCCTRC’s work in the region.


As part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-funded Regional Engagement Program, the NCCTRC is fortunate to work alongside rehabilitation partners in the Western Pacific and Timor-Leste to strengthen health emergency preparedness and response capabilities.

The program works to ensure that rehabilitation professionals and services are prepared and supported to actively contribute to health system responses to emergencies, and improve the long-term outcomes of people with injuries, illnesses and disabilities.

To support teaching and learning efforts in the Western Pacific and Timor-Leste, the Regional Engagement Program has developed the Rehabilitation in Disasters and Emergencies (RIDE) course, which has been delivered in Timor-Leste and Fiji so far. The program looks forward to taking the course to other Western Pacific countries in 2023 and 2024.

This course introduces rehabilitation professionals working across community and hospital settings to the concept of rehabilitation in disasters and emergencies, and stimulate action to improve preparedness and response.

Several countries in the Pacific have already made concrete steps towards formalising the inclusion of rehabilitation in their disaster preparedness planning, and towards building the knowledge and skills they need to respond in times of emergency. Due to the hard work and dedication of their rehabilitation leaders, these countries serve as motivating examples of progress.

The NCCTRC also participates in global initiatives towards strengthening rehabilitation in emergencies and is a member of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Rehabilitation Alliance. Launched at the WHO’s headquarters in Geneva in July 2023, the alliance is a global network of rehabilitation stakeholders focused on promoting rehabilitation as an essential health service.

Its objectives include conducting evidence-based advocacy activities that increase awareness and demand for rehabilitation, networking and knowledge sharing, and creating a shared understanding and narrative around rehabilitation. Emergencies has been included as one of the Alliance’s five key work streams and is the focus of the NCCTRC’s participation.

AUSMAT is one of few international emergency medical teams to have developed a comprehensive deployable rehabilitation team and is able to deliver training tailored to the needs of rehabilitation professionals working in health emergencies. Alongside the work being performed by rehabilitation partners in the Pacific and Timor-Leste, the NCCTRC is proud to be supporting the growth of rehabilitation in emergencies in our region and further afield.