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Bushfire-impacted students on the South Coast to receive support leading up to Christmas

Girl and two boys holding a plant and a shovel in the backyard
Girl and two boys holding a plant and a shovel in the backyard

It’s been a challenging year for Australia, with many communities still recovering from the devastating bushfires that tore through the countryside in December 2019, followed closely by the new challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the Christmas period is meant to be an exciting time for children, this year it will also be an unfortunate reminder of the bushfires. This is especially so for children living in the South Coast of Australia – one of the worst bushfire-affected communities.

As a child to see your home, livestock and pets as well as that of your friends’ and family damaged by fire can be frightening and take a toll on one’s health and wellbeing. To provide support for those children who may be struggling during this period, we’ve partnered with MacKillop Family Services to deliver their Stormbirds program in schools on the South Coast.

The program helps kids to understand the effects of change, loss and grief while providing coping tools and strategies they can use everyday to support their mental health and wellbeing.

One of the first schools in the region to deliver Stormbirds is St. Joseph’s Primary School, Bombala, where Literacy Support teacher Gillian Forrester has watched how the program has helped kids begin to express how they are feeling.

“I worked with a group of students who all had different experiences to talk through. Several students were greatly impacted by the fires and have continued to experience difficulties.

“Taking part in Stormbirds, where they heard other children talk about their own experiences, helped our students begin to process their loss. They started to understand that they’ve gone through a shared experience and that they’re not alone in dealing with the weight of what happened due to the bushfires," Gillian said.

“I am confident that as they work through Stormbirds, learning how change is part of life and finding out how to accept and grow through challenges, it will help them recover from this experience. The program teaches them that when feeling big emotions, the practice of identifying helpful actions like walking the dog, talking to Mum and Dad, or playing with their brothers and sisters, helps their emotional wellbeing in general,” added Gillian.

Our $100,000 funding support will enable Stormbirds to be rolled out across 32 schools in the South Coast region, providing a safe space for school children to talk about their experience and build the resilience they need to deal with life-changing events.