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Bushfire program builds children’s resilience after disasters

December 21st, 2021

A new report has found that elevating the specific needs and voices of Australian children in disaster recovery responses will help build their resilience in the long-term.

“Bushfire Recovery - The Children’s Voices”, produced by charities Royal Far West and UNICEF Australia, also found that children are particularly vulnerable to the trauma of emergencies, such as bushfires, and governments must invest in evidence-based programs that improve their wellbeing.

Over the past 12 months, the bushfire recovery program (BRP) has improved the wellbeing and resilience of about 3,000 children in more than 30 bushfire-affected communities through the targeted provision of therapy and learning programs. The BRP, provides an effective, multidisciplinary model (social work, speech pathology, occupational therapy, and psychology) that involves working with the specific needs of children (aged 0-12 years) and key adults supporting children (parents, carers, educators, and service providers) to support their mental health, wellbeing. This community led skill and capability will help them prepare for future disasters.

“We know from research that children are particularly vulnerable to the trauma of natural disasters, especially those with underlying mental and development health and behavioural challenges. This trauma, as well as the resulting changes can affect the trajectory of their lives, negatively impacting education, employment, and psychosocial outcomes immediately and over the longer term. And yet the voices and needs of children are still missing from policy and planning for natural disasters,” Royal Far West CEO Jacqueline Emery said.

“With the right help at the right time, these children can get back on track, providing significant costs savings to both governments and society in the long term”, she said. 

“Australian children have endured multiple crises over the past few years, from bushfires and drought to flood and the COVID-19 pandemic. Often, their recovery from these traumatic events is a long and difficult journey. This report highlights that we can best support children’s long-term recovery from natural disasters by listening to their voices and putting their needs at the centre of disaster planning", UNICEF Australia CEO Tony Stuart said. 

Royal Far West won the Resilient Australia 2021 Community Award for the BRP, which aimed to ensure children were not forgotten in recovery efforts.

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