The Sisters of Saint Joseph are in solidarity with and support communities that have been impacted by the Australian bushfires.
Good Grief is an organisation that was founded by the Sisters of Saint Joseph in the mid-1990s that provides evidence-based change and loss education programs to support children, young people and adults to understand their experience and attend well to their grief. In 2017, Good Grief joined MacKillop Family Services.
In response to the Australian bushfires, Good Grief explains how they are helping children recover from the trauma of 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. With months of summer ahead of us, the physical rebuilding and psychological recovery will be a marathon not a sprint. As California-based psychotherapist Diane Ross-Glazer commented, “You’re not only grieving what you lost; you’re grieving for your country” (TIME, January 8, 2020).
The trauma, loss and grief experienced as a result will be complex and ongoing. Exposure to disaster events effect 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.
The Good Grief team have been supporting professionals from communities in regional NSW and Victoria with immediate support material and have plans to provide training in both the Stormbirds and Seasons for Growth programs in the recovery period. Our colleagues at MacKillop Family Services have 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.
Stormbirds: Growing through Natural Disaster program 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.
A story of one young boy following the Christchurch earthquakes:
“A young boy traumatised following the earthquakes found it difficult to return to school and panicked when others mentioned the word ‘earthquake’. His parents were relieved when Stormbirds was offered and hearing their son refer to the tremors continued to occur “It’s just the ground moving mum”. The program Companion described the impact of the program on the boy: “Just a fantastic program, the boy is so much calmer and so much happier, haven’t quite got him smiling all the time but it really has made a huge difference”.
We hope to work with local regional communities to provide them with fully funded Stormbirds programs and support.