MEDIA RELEASE: Grant provides critical bushfire recovery support
Royal Far West welcomes the news of the significant financial grant of nearly $4m over two years to its Bushfire Recovery Program.

This comes as part of the Stage 2 Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Funding, announced by the Hon. David Littleproud MP and The Hon. John Barilaro MP earlier this month.

The grant will enable the Program to continue supporting the mental health and wellbeing of children in over 30 bushfire impacted communities for a further two years, especially those children with developmental vulnerabilities that could place them at risk of long-term adverse outcomes.

Royal Far West CEO Jacqueline Emery said: “We are thrilled to receive this grant, which will allow our Bushfire Recovery Program to continue the important work of building the resilience and wellbeing of the children and families within these communities.

The next two years are critical to recovery and to the prevention of long-term adverse impacts on the most vulnerable children, and this grant will enable us to broaden and deepen our engagement with schools and preschools across seven Local Government Areas.”

Research conducted by Charles Sturt University shows the impacts of traumatic natural events like bushfires may not show up in children for up to two years or more following a disaster.

The Bushfire Recovery Program was initially established in collaboration with UNICEF Australia and expanded further through funding and support from The Paul Ramsay Foundation, HP and Little Wings in response to the devastating bushfires in NSW over the 2019/20 summer.

UNICEF Australia CEO Tony Stuart said: “As research shows that children often experience the trauma of large-scale emergency events differently to adults and much later, the support they require is also different.

“We are thrilled that this grant has been provided as it is so important to work with children, families, schools and communities over a longer period of time. When we combine our expertise, resources and advocacy efforts as partners, we can have a much greater impact for children.”

It is a community-based Program, delivered through primary schools and preschools, providing support to children (0-12 years) and those key adults around the child including parents/carers, educators, local services and community leaders. A multidisciplinary health team delivers the Program through community visits with ongoing support and therapy also offered via technology.

A range of services can be offered through the Program which allows the school/preschool community to choose what is most helpful to them, with options ranging from group work and individual therapy with children focused on building their resilience, to sessions with educators and parents exploring strategies to support the children they care for.

The Program continues working with and supporting 22 primary schools and 12 preschools across the LGAs of Eurobodalla Shire, City of Shoalhaven, Bega Valley Shire, Clarence Valley, Kempsey Shire, Glenn Innes Severn Shire, and Nambucca Valley. The Program has so far supported more than 900 children, 400 educators and 1,100 parents/carers.

Commenting on the value of the Program, a Clarence Valley School Principal said, “The Bushfire Recovery Program has, and still is, helping me to care for our most vulnerable students and provide them with ongoing support and strategies to develop their physical, social and emotional wellbeing. The Program is an investment in the future of our children”.

The grant will allow for an increased focus on delivering the intensive individual phase of the Program with personalised assessments and multidisciplinary therapy delivered to vulnerable children in order to support their recovery and address underlying developmental concerns.

Critically, this funding will also enable Royal Far West and our partners to share practical learnings and research outcomes with communities, policy and decision makers and local service providers as well as Government to strengthen the future capacity and resilience of rural and remote communities to better respond to not just bushfires, but all types of natural disasters.

The continued roll-out of our Bushfire Recovery Program equips communities with the knowledge, skills and information to be able to respond to natural disasters through the phases of preparedness, relief and recovery to protect rural Australian children now and into the future,” added Ms Emery.