The rain has quenched the fires and quelled the dust…
The firefighting aircraft are gone, the emergency service chainsaws are silent, first response aid organisations are pulling out, and the news crews (and indeed the rest of the world) have moved on to the next disaster.
Amidst the criss-cross of barrier tape and temporary fences, with caravans for homes and demountable buildings for schools and shops, communities slowly overcome their initial numbness, tally their losses, become angry, and grieve, and only then tentatively tiptoe towards recovery.
And this is when Royal Far West’s bushfire response program carefully moves in to help, supporting mid to long-term recovery for country children and communities.
To create our program, we listened– to the needs of parents, teachers, health professionals and children within bushfire-ravaged communities, drew on the experience of our team, and examined world best practice trauma responses. Then, in collaboration with UNICEF Australia, we developed a bushfire recovery program to support both children and adults. This program is currently being rolled out to support eight NSW regions, encompassing 25 individual communities.
Across the 18-month delivery time frame (reflecting the typical phases of disaster recovery) and using both in-community and telehealth service delivery, we expect around 500 children and 1,600 parents, carers, local educators and health professionals will be directly supported.
The bushfire recovery program includes skill building groups for parents and carers, therapeutic group activities for children, psychoeducation (how mental health professionals teach people about their mental health conditions), psychosocial support (helping people with severe mental illness to build skills to manage their mental illnesses).
By providing a range of options to enable each community and family to choose the option(s) that best meet their individual needs, the program delivers a sense of safety, calm, control, connectedness and hope.
Although this program is focused specifically on recovery in the wake of overwhelmingly frightening and destructive bushfires, it is also part and parcel of Royal Far West’s mission of improving the health and wellbeing of children and young people who live in rural and remote communities.
We know the cycle of renewal has started for the bush. And as we share both the tears and laughter of fire-impacted children and their families, we know the cycle of human healing and recovery is also underway.
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