Family Forum: Trees evoke the trauma of bushfires 

What to do about a neighbour’s trees?


The neighbour’s trees (Sheoaks) are very tall with branches extending into my property and hanging over the house. These trees are highly flammable and notoriously unstable.

The man who owns the property is not very approachable. As a single female, I am intimidated by him.

I lost property and goods in a previous bushfire (Port Lincoln) and moved into town. Every time the weather mimics that terrible time I watch the trees with fear.

The threat to my home also extends to winter where if the trees fall it will be directly onto my home.

The local council informed me they do not deal with this. Who do I turn to? I am physically unable to trim the upper branches myself and financially unable to employ someone.


Dealing with large tree branches overhanging your property is best handled by agreement as the legal position can be complex. The panel suggests that you enlist a friend, or the neighbourhood mediation service, or speak to your local member of parliament, to help you communicate fruitfully with your neighbour.

The South Australian independent non-government provider of mediation and dispute resolution services is Mediation SA (Phone 08 8350 0376 or country callers 1300 850 650). Services are provided free of charge, with a focus on vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the community.

When it comes to removing branches, you may be able to get help from the State Emergency Service or the Country Fire Service, who deal with similar tasks in times of crisis. A local Lions group or other community service organisation could also be approached for support.

It seems there is some fear left over from your Port Lincoln experience.  We would encourage you to consider seeing a counsellor or psychologist. Medicare rebates are available for psychological treatment by registered psychologists under the Australian Government’s Better Access to Mental Health Care initiative.

You must be referred by your GP, your psychiatrist or paediatrician. Your GP will need to complete a detailed mental health assessment and prepare a Mental Health Treatment Plan before referring you to a psychologist. You should book a longer session with your GP to enable time for this.

There are several new, fast, effective treatments for trauma such as Neuro Linguistic Programming, the Emotional Freedom Technique, and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. Stress management techniques have also proven helpful in reducing fear generated by past events. With professional help, your fears should fade over time.

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