Bushfire Response Program an ECEC success in fire-damaged communities
Following last summer’s catastrophic bushfires in many parts of Australia, the Federal Government provided an additional $8 million of funding to BeyondBlue to develop the Bushfire Response Program for children.
The Be You Bushfire Response Program engaged Contact Liaison Officers (CLOs) through headspace and Early Childhood Australia to work closely with local schools and early childhood services in bushfire-affected communities across South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
In addition to the impact on children, many teachers and education providers have been left grappling with the impacts of disaster recovery, having maintained their role as educators but also becoming a ‘life-line’ to families within these communities.
Following the Black Summer Bushfires, children in impacted communities had a range of experiences, responses and memories. The Be You Bushfire Response Program has helped them explore these and use them as a springboard for healing.
In the Snowy Valleys, a key part of recovery under this program was creating a community book filled with artwork and reflections from children and young people who’d been through the 2019-20 bushfires. The central themes of the book are reflection, growth, nature and resilience.
Sally Hodges, Be You Bushfire Response Program CLO for the Snowy Valleys, said the concept for the book was raised at an initial meeting of the Snowy Valleys Council’s Be You Working Party, a group that was formed in direct response to Black Summer.
“From the Black Saturday fires in 2009, we knew that children often feel powerless afterwards. Adults try to help by shouldering all of the burden, but that only leaves children feeling a bit helpless,” Ms Hodges said.
“Adults can be concerned about re-traumatising children by bringing it up, but we also know that not talking about it leaves children to experience it by themselves.”
Not only is there something very therapeutic about art, the book has become a safe way for adults to talk about the Black Summer bushfires with children.
To learn more about Be You’s Bushfire Response Program, please see here.