Responding to bushfire trauma – online PD

The air is hard to breath, the sky heavy over the playground. The mood is subdued, the students safely inside. Everywhere is tinder dry and the town’s water supply is low. In late 2019, students and staff alike were tense and worried about the possibility of bushfires. Some on the mid north coast had already begun their battles against fires in August.

Members told the union of their feelings. They recalled times when they’d had to evacuate. They spoke about the fear in children who had already experienced bushfires, of their own anxiety on top of that.

When we developed the course, Responding to Bushfire Trauma, we weren’t aware of the magnitude of what was to come. That we’d lose more than 30 lives, 35% of NSW’s national parks, 1.5 billion native animals would perish, 12% of our sheep, 9% of our cattle and incur an estimated $100 billion damage to property. We originally wrote the course for those who had been in the proximity of the fires, but it will now consider the wider impact this season has had on all of our communities.

The gravity of the on going situation cannot be underestimated, and everyone is exhausted. Students will be returning to schools this week, some of which are in temporary buildings, others which have been host to regional evacuation centres or rallying posts. Some children will be returning to school but have none of their clothes or belongings, or their own home to return to. Many more will have been frightened by being close survivors of a blaze, others more by what they’ve seen on the media.

In among traumatised students returning, staff in schools and early childhood centres will be looked at by the community as leaders of the process of returning to normal – as the providers of safe havens amongst the grief. Many of the staff being relied upon to provide that service will be survivors themselves and will be as uncertain of the future as the parents and children in their classes.

Professor Lisa Gibbs and Jane Nursey of the University of Melbourne authored the study Delayed Disaster impacts on Academic Performance of Primary School Children in 2019. It looks at the lasting impact of the Black Saturday fires in Victoria and found that children demonstrated outcomes between one to five years below their age group norm.

The PD course will outline strategies and resources that will assist schools and early childhood centres, their staff, students and their communities towards recovery. Physical, academic and mental recovery will all be discussed.

Join us on 11 February from 4-6pm for this important union PD.

The course will be online to allow participants from all over NSW and ACT to attend, 500 free seats are available to members of the union.

The course is NESA Registered and ACT TQI Accredited for two hours at Proficient.

To book, follow this link:

If you can’t attend the course on the day, a recording will be available from

Amy Cotton
Professional Officer