The changes and losses
experienced by children from communities devastated by bushfires were traumatic
and complex. Many lost family members, houses, pets and livestock.
Developed after the
2009 Victorian bushfires, the MacKillop Institute’s Stormbirds is an evidence
informed program that helps children learn to share their experiences in safe
and creative ways, understand their feelings, and learn skills for adapting and
Donna Constable helped
deliver the Stormbirds program to children at a school on the NSW South Coast.
“Immediately after the
fires, kids were not ready to talk, it was too soon. Initial sessions focused
on building a rapport with students, using strategies that didn’t focus on the
fires, but on wellbeing activities such as yoga and meditation. Stormbirds
allowed us to move at the children’s pace."
“Six months later, the
openness of the students was incredible. They talked about the range of
feelings they experienced. Some felt guilty that their families were not so
affected while their friends lost everything. Emotions were authentic and raw,
but being together and listening to each other’s stories has been very
Donna adds that some
children were reluctant to take part in the program at the start, fearful that
talking about the fires would trigger their anxiety.
provided a gentle, practical support, equipping kids with strategies to deal
with sensory triggers like hot wind, noise or sirens. It supported the school
community to face the horror of what it came through, process those feelings
and find the strength to look forward together.”