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Stormbirds - helping local community deal with grief, loss and trauma from bushfires

06 February 2020

Stormbirds program helping local community deal with grief, loss and trauma from bushfires

The recent bushfires have been unprecedented in their size and scale, causing tragic loss of life and damage. The devastation of the bushfires is compounded by the impacts of one of the most severe droughts on record. Dealing with this ongoing stress and trauma has a profound effect on those involved, especially on children who are directly affected or who are watching traumatic scenes and hearing distressing stories through the media.

MacKillop Family Services has been supporting professionals from communities in Glen Innes, Taree, Forster and Milton with immediate support material and will continue to provide training in both the Stormbirds and Seasons for Growth programs in the recovery period.

MacKillop Family Services has first-hand experience of the impact of the fires, with children, young people and carers from MacKillop in the Clarence Valley, Batemans Bay and Bega Valley directly impacted; some families have evacuated on multiple occasions at the height of the fires and at least two families have lost their homes.

Godelieve Hofman-Verkuyl, MacKillop Partnership & Program Coordinator understands the importance of directly addressing the effects of trauma.

“The trauma, loss and grief experienced as a result will be complex and ongoing. Exposure to disaster events affect the mental health and wellbeing of children, young people and adults who are both immediately impacted by events and those that have been exposed to media images and stories.”

MacKillop will support communities to deliver the Stormbirds: Growing through Natural Disaster program. Stormbirds was developed in 2009 in response to the devastating Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria and is embedded in the foundational principles of the evidence-based Seasons for Growth education program.

Stormbirds does not focus on the disaster or the traumatic experience. The program gives children the opportunity to tell their story, process their feelings, and learn how to manage them in a healthy way. Stormbirds has supported in excess of 2000 children and young people following bushfires, cyclones, floods and earthquakes in Australia and New Zealand.

The Stormbirds program will take place today, on Thursday 6th February 2020 at the Lecture Room, Glen Innes Health Service, Glenn Innes.