Psychological wellbeing and long-term disaster response

Wed, 19 Jul 2023 11:45am - 12:45pm AEST Free

Catastrophic events are occurring across Australia, New Zealand and globally. 

Planning funding for the medium-to-long term can make a real difference to the lives of those struggling long after the initial impact. On January 27th, 2023, Auckland experienced flash flooding that resulted in catastrophic damage. Then, in February 2023, Cyclone Gabrielle (the worst storm to hit New Zealand this century) hit, causing tragic loss of life and unthinkable damage. 

Thousands of people are still heavily affected by disasters and many more are still living through the devastating impact of bushfires and flooding across both Australia and New Zealand. While the immediate effect of disasters such as these are clear and well covered by the media, it is the medium-long-term implications that pose very real risks to wellbeing and mental health of people living in affected communities. 

  • Dr Alexandra Williamson will moderate the discussion following presentations from speakers with experience in disaster recovery or funding resilience. 
  • Dr Rob Gordon OAM, Clinical Psychologist will explain the potential impact and support required to help people who have experienced such trauma with a focus on Australia and sharing his experiences with helping communities and emergency service workers recover from the Ash Wednesday fires in 1983 through to more recent experiences. 
  • Kate Sclater, Head of Community Investment, Rātā Foundation, Christchurch NZ will share some of the funding initiatives they put in place following disaster events in the Canterbury region of New Zealand.
  • Nina O’Brien, Disaster Resilience and Recovery Lead at Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) Australia will also outline how they have responded to following disaster events in Australia, providing some particular examples of funding.


This event is for Philanthropy Australia and Philanthropy NZ members at all levels and is open internationally.

Please note: 

  • Discussing topics such as disasters can be distressing. Participants are encouraged to join with video off, and take time if needed to join while going for a walk, drink water, or take time at the end.
  • If anyone feels uncomfortable feel free to also reach out for support e.g. through an organisation Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or through Mental Health First Aid trusted organisations.
  • Presenters will share their thoughts and views in conversation, but this webinar will not offer any financial advice.
  • This session will be recorded.

Key Presenters

Kate Sclater – Head of Community Investment Rata Foundation

Kate is Head of Community Investment at Rata Foundation. Rata Foundation is the largest philanthropic funder in the South Island. Kate leads the Community Investment team, which builds relationships with stakeholders and communities, and distributes around $24m a year through community grants and strategic funding. Kate has been with Rata Foundation since 2014.

Before moving to NZ, Kate held a number of roles with the UK Lottery distributors; New Opportunities Fund and the Community Fund. Her roles included managing grant and partnership programmes, policy and external affairs, both in grant making and strategic funding.

Kate has worked across the not for profit, private and public sectors.

Dr Peter Rob Gordon OAM – Clinical psychologist and disaster recovery pioneer

Clinical psychologist Dr Peter Rob Gordon OAM has dedicated his career since the terrible Ash Wednesday fires of 1983 to helping traumatised communities and emergency service workers recover after disaster. 

Little was known about the lasting effects of trauma on communities before Rob started this work. He has built a body of knowledge to fill that gap. His person-centred, trauma-informed approach has shaped the way organisations such as the Australian Red Cross, government agencies and other groups work with traumatised communities after disaster and loss.

Rob’s kindness, generosity and expertise were recognised with a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2021. 

Dr Alexandra Williamson – Senior Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (ACPNS), Faculty of Business and Law at Queensland University of Technology

Alexandra is a Senior Research Fellow with the Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies (ACPNS) in the Faculty of Business and Law at Queensland University of Technology (QUT); and also with the Melbourne Social Equity Institute at The University of Melbourne. She holds a PhD and a Master of Business (Research) from QUT examining the accountability of philanthropic foundations, and a Master of Business (Philanthropy and Social Investment) from Swinburne University of Technology. 

Alex’s research is focused on philanthropic foundations, accountability and place-based giving, contributing to theoretical understandings of how foundations engage with stakeholders in community and institutional settings. Prior to commencing in academia in 2011, she worked for 14 years in philanthropic foundations and grantmaking, in roles which involved researching and implementing grantmaking strategies.

Alex is a Non-Executive Director of Australian and New Zealand Third Sector Research (ANZTSR), a co-Editor of the journal Third Sector Review, and a member of the Editorial Board of the international journal Voluntas.

Nina O’Brien – Disaster Resilience and Recovery Lead, Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR)

Nina leads the Disaster Resilience & Recovery team at the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) in Australia; a portfolio of granting and place-based development programs across remote, rural, and regional Australia. During 2021/22 FRRR supported nearly 1000 community projects across Australia, over which 60% of which were related to climate or disaster related impacts or preparedness. Based in regional New South Wales and having experienced floods last October in her local community, Nina works both at a strategic and practical level to build capability in communities in meeting the challenges of managing future climates.  

This webinar is co-hosted by Philanthropy Australia and Philanthropy New Zealand. Sadly, the occurrence of extreme weather events is becoming more frequent and being ready to support people throughout the long recovery is essential.

This event is for all Philanthropy Australia members and the public.

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