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Ansvar Insurance, one of Australia’s leading specialist insurers, has conducted an interfaith arson forum in Geelong in response to the recent spate of church fires. In partnership with Catholic Church Insurance, the forum included speakers and experts from the Geelong Interfaith Network, the Victoria Police, the Country Fire Authority and the Victorian Council of Churches.
The Inspector Graham Banks and Leading Senior Constable Andrew King from Victoria Police, Retired Inspector of Explosives and Arson Squad Jeff Maher and Tony Burke from the CFA provided invaluable information on how to protect faith properties from arson which included protective measures, early detection and fire suppression as well some insight to the behavior of arsonists. Just as important however, Stuart Stuart , CEO of the Victorian Council of Churches Emergency Ministries was on hand to speak about the psychological impacts of arson and the counselling and support services available to those victimised by such events.
“Arsonists do not discriminate and the effect of a fire at a house of worship, whether a church, synagogue or mosque, is a devastating event. In addition to damaging the physical property, these events also have a traumatic effect on the community. It was important for us to conduct this forum with all members of the faith community to arm them with the knowledge they need to help mitigate the risk of arson and also help deal with the emotional side effects,” said Warren Hutcheon, CEO – Ansvar Insurance.
“It is unfortunate that there is a need for such forums, but the collective information presented from the panel of experts will help members of all faith communities be more vigilant, active participants in the risk mitigation process of their respective houses of worship.”
“As an Insurer we naturally focus the majority of our attention on the financial losses suffered as a result of arson. It was important for us that this forum address the emotional consequences so we were conscious of inviting experts on the panel who were able to address the psychological reactions to traumatic community events,” said Hutcheon.
The forum was attended by over 100 interested parties including a broad cross section of customers and community members.
“The recent increase in church fires in the area have left many of us feeling uneasy. We are grateful to Ansvar Insurance and the Catholic Church Insurance for assembling such a varied and informative group of panelists to help guide our communities and educate us on how we can reduce the prevalence of future arson attacks,” said Russell Hoath from Churches of Christ Insurance.