To support the mental health of bushfire-affected learning communities, the Australian Government provided an additional $8 million to Beyond Blue through its existing national mental health in education initiative, Be You, to develop the Bushfire Response Program.
The program has engaged 25 Contact Liaison Officers (CLOs) through headspace and Early Childhood Australia to work closely with local schools and early childhood services in bushfire-affected communities across South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. CLOs work with communities to identify their needs and connect them to local mental health and wellbeing services and support, provide trauma informed information and learning, and support recovery planning.
As COVID-19 restrictions have begun to ease in some areas, the CLOs have re-commenced face-to-face engagement, where appropriate, to provide crucial support in a COVID-safe way.
In July, some of the CLOs visited early childhood services and preschools in Cobargo, Mogo and Narooma on the NSW South Coast. Seven months after the devastating Black Summer bushfires swept through their communities, many staff have been left grappling with the situation, having maintained their role educators but also becoming a ‘life-line’ to families within these communities.
The CLOs have provided wellbeing and self-care sessions to educators, giving them an opportunity to tell their stories and share their concerns about their own mental health. The focus of the program is on equipping educators and teachers with strategies to support their own wellbeing, so they can provide the best possible support for others.
Janet from Mogo Aboriginal Preschool asked the Contact Liaison Officers to, “Please come back soon.”
CLO Keri Baker says she looks forward to returning to the region again in late August. “The communities need our support, although the strength and collaboration of the communities we visited is incredible.”
Early learning services and schools are able to sign up to Be You at any time, free of charge, at www.beyou.edu.au. Learning communities are also encouraged to contact Be You if they believe their school or early learning service may benefit from support provided by the Bushfire Response Program.