Building skills for resilience in disaster recovery In Focus webinar, presented by Ben Rogers, Sharleen Keleher, Owen Ziebell and Heidi Yelland on 22 March 2022.
Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to our Be You Bushfire Response Program webinar for today, Building Skills for Resilience in Disaster Recovery. My name is Ben Rogers and I'm the manager of Families & Education at Emerging Minds. If you haven't attended a session like this before, hello to you. You'll notice that you won't be able to use your mic, webcam or the chat box, and that you're in listen only mode, and this is due to the large number of attendees online today. You can ask questions or write comments in the Q&A box, and we have some of our wonderful colleagues online to answer those today.
So I wanted start off by acknowledging the Traditional Custodians of the land in which we meet and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging and extend our respect to all Elders in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia. I'm meeting on the beautiful lands of the Kaurna people today of the Adelaide Plains. And also I'd like to acknowledge that our presenters are meeting on different lands across the country. And wanted to pay our respects to the Taribelang, Bunda, Gurang and Gooreng Gooreng people, the Wurundjeri people and the Ramindjeri people.
So remember that your own wellbeing is a priority. And we know that some of you today are joining us from flood affected regions through New South Wales and Queensland, and just wanted to let you know that we're thinking about you and the many communities that were impacted and are impacted at the moment. And hope that you're going okay and getting the support that you need at the moment. And for everyone attending today, just if any concerns arise as a result of this presentation, please refer to the wellbeing tools for educators which are available on the Be You website, along with your employee assistance provider program. And please take care of yourself and take a break if you need.
I think it's really important before we dive into this topic today that we remember when we're talking about mental health, in any context, particularly community trauma and trauma, it can affect us in different ways. So you'll all come with your own unique experiences. So if there's anything that we cover today that raises any uncomfortable feelings at all, feel free to take a break or opt out of the session. And as you can see on the visual infographic on the screen, there's a lot of different ways of connecting in as well as acknowledging your own support networks that are available to you. A reminder that today's session is recorded. So you'll be able to watch it at a later stage as well.
So as you can tell, I'm really excited to be a part of this webinar today. This webinar presented by the Be You Bushfire Response Program and hosted by Emerging Minds. You can see the learning objectives that we're going to cover. And we're looking at developing and understanding of the key research related to social and emotional wellbeing to build resilience as part of supporting disaster recovery. And we'll start exploring the role of educators in building resilience, as well as amplifying the voice of children and young people in disaster recovery. And we'll get really practical on it as well. We're going to look at the key practical strategies and approaches aimed at building resilience.
Before we dive into meeting the panellists, it's really important we talk about this program that's been around for the last few years. It's funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health. The Be You Bushfire Response Program provides targeted support and content to early learning services in schools impacted by the 2019 to 2020 bushfires. So since 2020, Be You has supported more than 480 learning communities following the impact of the black summer bushfires. And we wanted to acknowledge that many of you attending the webinar today are from these communities. So a big hello to each and every one of you, led by Beyond Blue and delivered in partnership with Early Childhood Australia and headspace.
The program acknowledges the context for learning communities two years on from the fires, as well as acknowledging the cumulative impact of COVID, floods, drought and other experiences of community trauma. So the Be You Bushfire Response Program is in a transition phase until June 2022. So if you or your learning community would like to connect and continue to receive support through the Be You program, please ensure that you're registered with Be You. So as you can see here on the screen, Be You is freely available to all educators and learning communities. And the registration information is on the slide as well as one of our wonderful colleagues has added it into the chat box.
So now I want to welcome our wonderful panellists to the webinar. Wonderful seems to be my key word for today, but it's true. I really wanted to welcome Sharleen, Owen and Heidi. So before we get into your presentations today, I wanted to invite each of you to share with the audience what's captured your interest in exploring resilience in the disaster recovery space. And Sharleen, we might start with you. As a researcher and educator, what's drawn your interest into the area of resilience and disaster recovery?
Hi, Ben. So there's so many different things. From my experiences having been a teacher, but also having lived and worked in communities that have been impacted by the disasters, I've really seen that important role that learning communities play in helping children and young people process and recover from these stressful and traumatic experiences. I also wanted to acknowledge that we are looking at really the importance of including the early years in this space with the Queensland centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health, knowing that our youngest children are some of the most vulnerable in the context of disasters. So really highlighting that it's important to make sure us as educators and other professionals working in this space recognize and find ways to support our babies and young children.
Thanks, Sharleen. Owen, you work for the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience working in this space?
Hey, Ben, thanks for having me. Yeah, like you said, I work for the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience. And the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience is the national institute for disaster risk reduction and resilience. And we collaborate across sectors to strengthen resilience of Australian communities to disasters. I've got a slightly similar background to Sharleen. I'm a former high school teacher, but I'm also a former police officer down here in Victoria. And I've lived and worked in communities impacted by natural hazards, namely the 2015 fires that impacted the Great Ocean Road and the 2019/20 black summer fires. And from having seen the impact on communities and the impact on young people through the lens of a teacher and also through the lens of emergency services, the need for better preparedness and the importance of disaster resilience, just came to the forefront of my mind. And that's led me here to my role at the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience, managing our education for the young people program, which really promotes the disaster resilience as a vital component of children and young people's learning.
Thanks, Owen. Look forward to hearing your presentation today. And Heidi, you've been supporting bushfire affected communities over the last couple of years. What's drawn your interest into this type of work?
Thanks, Ben. So since 2020, I've worked within the Bushfire Response Program and I've been supporting bushfire impacted schools in South Australia. And I've come across some incredibly resilient communities. Before Be You, I taught for over 20 years in country, South Australia. So I've had the privilege to work with thousands of children. And what I noticed over that time was the different capacity of individuals to deal with similar events. And I once thought that some children were just more resilient than others, and that's the way they were. But over time, I did realise that resilience is like a muscle, it can be built. And I believe that it's our job as adults in young people's lives to provide that safe supportive environment for them to grow that muscle. And as life throws them curve balls, like it will, they'll be better able to cope.
Thank you, Heidi. Please join me in giving our panellists a very warm virtual welcome to today's webinar. We're going to start things off today by hearing from Sharleen, who'll explore some of the key research related to social and emotional learning to build resilience as part of disaster recovery. So over to you, Sharleen.
Thanks, Ben. To begin, I really wanted to take a moment to focus on this concept of resilience, which is a commonly used, but sometimes misunderstood and challenging concept. So often people refer to resiliency as that ability to bounce back after adversity. The definition I've included on this slide views resiliency as a person's capacity to access resources that support their wellbeing. These resources can be internal or external and are used to cope with, process, and recover after adversity.
It's important also to consider resiliency in the context of post traumatic growth. So where we see people developing new and strengthened coping strategies and support structures as part of their recovery process. So let's take a moment to consider the impact of disaster on children's wellbeing and the opportunities there are for developing resilience. There's strong evidence demonstrating the negative impacts of experiencing disasters for children showing that children are more at risk of presenting with emotional and behavioural difficulties, declines in academic performance, delays and sometimes regression in development after experiencing a disaster.
Children growing up today are estimated to be around seven times more likely to be exposed to a disaster event than their grandparent’s generation. The COVID-19 pandemic along with cumulative disaster experiences have really increased the potential for these negative impacts for children's wellbeing. Research has shown that disaster resilience education programs provide a range of benefits that align with social emotional learning ranging from things like increased self-efficacy, supporting children's agency and reducing anxieties related to disasters and natural hazards.
On this slide, I've included an established framework for some social emotional learning. This framework was developed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, and has been adopted as a foundation for the Be You program. Knowing that disasters can significantly impact children's development, wellbeing and educational outcomes, disaster resilience education, which I'll also refer to as DRE, can be harnessed to reduce these risks. And one way this can be achieved is through using social, emotional learning as part of DRE programs to strengthen those protective factors and the support structures children can draw on if they do experience a disaster event.
Research shows that around 80% of children who experience a disaster or other disruptive event generally will recover with the support of caring adults. Disaster response and recovery programs can play a part in providing the space that children need to be supported in their learning communities and to process their experiences of disasters. An example of this being the Be You Bushfire Response Program. Whilst the majority of children are likely to recover in time with the support from the adults in their lives, about 20% of children will be in need of additional support.
Integrating social emotional learning into disaster resilience education can act to support those children who are struggling to process their experiences of disasters. It can also act as a vehicle to identify these young people who might be in need of that additional or targeted support and provide referrals. I've also noted on this slide the inclusion of social emotional learning as part of the Australian approved learning frameworks. And Owen and Heidi will provide examples of how DRE can contribute to these curriculum frameworks in everyday practice.
So disaster resilience education programs are typically implemented within either one or more stages in what's referred to as the disaster management cycle. So this cycle includes preparedness, response, so when a disaster occurs, and recovery, both short and long term. Each phase of this cycle lends itself to particular aspects of social emotional learning. On this slide, I've provided some examples of how social emotional learning can play a role across these phases. So looking at preparedness, we look at developing coping strategies, supporting protective factors, everyday preparedness, children's agency and developing emotional literacy.
In the response phase, we really focus on supporting the children's processing of their experience and adopting principles of trauma informed education and psychological first aid. And then when we are looking at recovery, again, it's really important to adopt those trauma informed approaches in this phase and focus on building and maintaining connections and relationships for children. The Birdie's Tree Early Learning Program is an example of a disaster resilience education program that places social emotional learning at the centre. So this program and the Birdie's Tree resources have been evaluated. And the outcomes of this study highlighted the value of supporting children's developing coping skills, the importance of educator wellbeing, adopting child led and play based DRE learning experiences, creating safe spaces for educators and children to explore challenging topics like disasters, and supporting children's developing emotional literacy as key elements of DRE in the early years.
And to close, I thought I would share some quotes from educators who have explored social emotional learning through disaster resilience education as part of The Birdie's Tree Early Learning Program. So the quote on this slide shows how educators were able to transfer their learning about DRE to supporting children's needs outside of what they considered to be, the original focus of the program being disasters. Other educators in this program talked about the benefits of storytelling as being really useful as the children learn to recognize different emotions and feelings and be supported to communicate these feelings.
And then lastly, I wanted to share that we had a report from educators that they had increased awareness of needing to allow that time and space for children to process their emotions and increasing their talking to the children about what was happening and listening to the children about what they felt and what they thought was happening. In this situation, the educators were more confident to initiate conversations with children's parents about upcoming transitions. And in this, the educators had felt that this conversation may not have happened otherwise. Okay. Thank you. I'm going to pass on to Owen now, who is going to talk about the role of educators in disaster recovery.
Thanks, Sharleen. As previously mentioned, research from around the world has demonstrated the disaster resilience education or DRE for short, can deliver a wide range of benefits for children, young people and their communities. But just as importantly as the research, children and young people from across Australia have clearly indicated that they want to learn more about natural hazards and how they're directly impacted. The Our World Our Say report led by the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience, World Vision and other partner organizations in 2020 found that of the approximately 1500 young people surveyed, 88% think they should learn more about natural hazards and how to reduce the risk of disasters. Over 90% of young people surveyed, [said] that they'd lived through at least one natural hazard event. And over 60% felt that the disasters were occurring more frequently.
Young people in Australia don't simply need disaster resilience education, they want it. But what is the role of the educator? Where do they come in and how can they help build resilience and amplify the voices of children and young people in disaster recovery? There are seven key principles that need to be considered when implementing disaster resilience education programs for young people. And they're outlined in AIDR's Disaster Resilience Education for Young People Handbook.
The Disaster Resilience Education for Young People Handbook was published in September 2021. And is part of the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience's handbook collection. The handbook outlines the principles, approaches and core elements of effective DRE for children and young people. The purpose of the handbook is to provide guidance for those seeking to engage young people in learning and action for disaster risk reduction and resilience. Through participation in education, young people can act as agents of change, noting that responsibility for disaster resilience is shared and appropriate DRE takes place in the context of broader strategic policy and action.
Today, I'm going to expand on the key principles from the Disaster Resilience Education for Young People Handbook, and discuss how they can help guide your role as an educator when it comes to DRE. Every educator is different, every education setting is different. Everyone will find their own unique way to engage children and young people to build resilience and amplify voice. However, the principles from the DRE for Young People Handbook provides the best guidance as to the role of the educator.
There are seven principles outlined in the disaster resilience education handbook. And they are to place the learner at the centre, to reflect the local context, to be inclusive, to establish and strengthen partnerships, engage and challenge learners, to focus on action and to build capacity. It's also important to note that disaster resilience education programs require clearly defined aims and learning objectives. For the purpose of this presentation, I will discuss the principles in two groups, student centric and community centric. In addition to this, I will discuss the first principle, place the learner at the centre on its own, given the importance of it.
So place the learner at the centre. The safety, wellbeing, perspectives and priorities of young people are the focus of effective learning design. This is no different for disaster resilience education. Effective DRE requires the educator to give young people the opportunity to influence learning design, implementation and evaluation. Learner's existing experiences, interests and questions about hazards should be considered when planning. The learner's voice can also be strengthened through negotiated learning objectives and success criteria. Remember to provide an effective learning experience to children and young people. Activities that you implement need to be appropriate for the developmental age and stage of the young people.
Finally, put trauma informed safeguards in place. So the wellbeing of learners is actively monitored and supported. When delivering a DRE unit of work, activities should be designed to eliminate or minimize learner exposure to harm and distress. Activities should align with child safe principles and trauma informed practice. When it comes to children and young people, there are three additional principles that are student centric, that are centred around the child or the young person. The first is being inclusive. All children and young people need to learn about natural hazards that they may be exposed to. As such, it's imperative that a unit of work on any natural hazard is inclusive and designed to be accessible for all learners. The educator needs to identify any potential barriers to learner participation. These potential barriers to learner participation may include, but are not limited to language, culture, disability, special learning needs and social and behavioural challenges.
Secondly, we need to engage and challenge learners. Build on the existing capacity of learners so that learning is relevant, engaging and challenging. The educators should provide learners with the best opportunity to strengthen their skills, knowledge and experiences to improve their own resilience and that of their local community. One of the best ways to do this is to set clear and challenging learning objectives for all activities. Thirdly, build capacity. A disaster resilience education program should build the capacity and capability of children and young people. Assessment tasks and activities should be designed to help children and young people build their knowledge, skills and understanding of the hazards and risks that they're exposed to. The capacity of children and young people to act and contribute to disaster resilience in the community, be that the school community or wider local community, should grow and develop over the course of a unit of work on disaster resilience education.
The building of capacity should also focus on the empowerment of young people. Young people are agents of change and should be given the opportunity to make an impact on their community when it comes to disaster resilience education. As an end goal to a unit of work, young people should be empowered to carry out safe and resilient actions before, during and after an emergency or disaster. These actions will vary from person to person. Some may want to become active members of their local volunteer emergency service agency or state emergency service branch, and others may help their families to reassess their fire or flood evacuation plans, for example.
The next set of principles are those that are community centric. And the first is to reflect the local context. You, as the educator, know the local context, your school or learning centre and its children and young people best. It is you who is in the best position to ensure that a disaster resilience education program reflects the local context of this community. You should consider what local hazards and risks exist in the area, because these are the hazards and risks that children and young people in your class are most likely exposed to. It's also important to note that you should understand the history of the local area. Developing your understanding of the history of the local area, in which you teach will allow for greater reflection on the local context in the unit of work. Other key considerations include demographics, socioeconomic status and the strength and vulnerabilities, both environmental and infrastructural of the local area.
Secondly, focus on action. When delivering a unit of work on DRE, consider if there are opportunities for individual and or collective action. If possible, children and young people should be provided the opportunity to take action in their community, be that the school or wider local community. Opportunities for children and young people to take action include, but are not limited to contributing to school emergency or disaster management plans, developing community information leaflets on newsletters on local hazards, engaging with local council or other levels of government to raise awareness for a local hazard or risk or sharing the knowledge with children and young people in your lower year levels.
And finally, you need to establish and strengthen partnerships. You, the educator, are the expert when it comes to children and young people and how to teach them. However, you may not be the expert on fire, flood or another natural hazard. Don't let this dissuade you though from teaching a unit of work on disaster resilience education. Instead, establish and strengthen partnerships with subject matter experts and connect with external organizations. In the context of disaster resilience education, subject matter experts include fire and emergency service agencies, hazard management experts, First Nations peoples, health and wellbeing organisations and groups and other local networks. When designing a unit of work, you should also consider if long term and sustainable partnerships with those subject matter experts can be reflected in the design of the program. Doing so will allow for a unit of work to develop over time and enhance the learning opportunities for children and young people.
Young people have unique capabilities to help themselves and their communities, protect themselves and their communities from the impacts of natural hazards. Providing young people with the knowledge, skills and opportunities to share their learnings and take action enables them to contribute positively and to safely ensure the resilience of the people, places and their natural environment. The educator's role is to create a learning environment in which children and young people can become empowered to take action and to safely contribute to the resilience of their community.
By incorporating the seven principles for disaster resilience education, which are to place the learner at the centre, to reflect the local context, to be inclusive, to establish and strengthen partnerships, engage and challenge learners, focus on action and build capacity, you'll be better placed to do just this. I now have the pleasure of passing over to Heidi, who will discuss some of the practical applications of disaster resilience education in the classroom.
Thanks, Owen. Thank you both for your wonderful presentations. It's really great to hear about the dedicated research and resources into disaster resilience now, and hear about the importance of social and emotional learning and empowering young people with student and community centred disaster resilience education. It's fabulous.
My focus for today is to share some classroom strategies that hopefully you can implement into your classrooms tomorrow and help build that general and overall resilience of children and young people so that if they are impacted by disaster, their ability to do well during and after the event is increased. A good place to start is to recognise that it will take explicit teaching of social and emotional skills. And it's powerful to capitalise on those incidental teaching moments. Sharleen, gave a great definition of resilience and we can begin by teaching our children and young people the meaning of resilience. What is it? Explain it in simple terms with everyday examples and highlight the fact that resilience can be built and it can change over time, and that just because you might not handle a particular situation well or you might struggle with something, doesn't mean that you're not resilient.
I've taught with many effective educators over the years and all of them have prioritised building great relationships, which helps build resilience in children and young people. Spend some time getting to know your students, be interested in their hobbies and families and learn about their strengths. There's a strategy called the two by ten, where educators spend two minutes a day, one on one with a child or young person for ten days in a row. Let them just talk and you listen. Ask them questions and build that connection. The time invested in this exercise will be so worthwhile, as when you have a strong connection with that student, you can better support their mental health and wellbeing and their learning as well.
Teach by example. Consistently show through your actions the kinds of caring, respectful and responsible behaviours that you know will help children and others. Try and greet the students every day by their names with a smile. Model that inclusive behaviour and language, and be considerate of cultural differences. Be firm fair and flexible, meaning having high expectations of positive behaviour and consider that sometimes we do need to take into account an individual circumstances and negotiate some strategies like having some time out if needed.
Model coping skills. In emergency situations, an important way to alleviate a child's stress and anxiety is by coping well yourself. We can show students, children and young people, the skills that are needed to help them regroup and recover. For example, if you are tested in a classroom, try and use coping strategies like some deep breaths, speaking calmly or calling someone for assistance. In situations when things go wrong, it's useful to model that healthy thinking. If you're facing a difficult task, you might like to say, "I'm feeling really frustrated right now, but I've got the confidence, I can work it out. Or maybe I could ask someone to help."
Children and young people learn social and emotional skills most effectively when they're reinforced at home. You could build that bridge between home and school and share those key strategies in diaries or newsletters, set homework tasks to practice a certain skill or share good news stories about their child or young person using that skill in a particular social situation. As mentioned before, high quality relationships are fundamental to children's resilience and you can help them build great relationships, not only with you, but with others as well. There are so many fantastic programs that teach explicit social skills and they can be skills like how to greet people in a friendly way, how to enter and exit a conversation, how to give and receive compliments, particular conversation skills, how to read body language and use your own body language in a friendly way.
We sometimes think that these skills will just be learnt by experience and time, but we do actually need to explicitly teach a child or young person how to interact in a friendly way to help them build those great relationships better and faster. Encourage cooperation and social connections in your learning space by working in pairs and groups, help them find common ground with others during circle time or class discussions. In the early childhood sector, free play is such a great way for children to connect with others who've got similar interests to themselves. And for older students, working on passion projects or community events, will help build connections with others that they're working with. You can also support involvement in lunchtime activities or after school clubs.
Conflict is a normal part of learning communities. And specific skills need to be taught depending on the developmental age of the child or young person to encourage them to successfully manage conflict themselves. Skills such as understanding and having empathy for other people's perspectives, saying clearly how they feel and working out a solution that both parties are content with. You can also teach empathy through role plays and storylines and characters in books are a great springboard for discussions on empathy. Help children to appreciate diversity by talking openly and positively about differences and encouraging mutual respect and valuing one another. Find out the social and cultural backgrounds of families and look for ways that you might be able to celebrate them within your learning community.
We can help students identify their own strengths and brainstorm how they can use those strengths in a challenging time. Ask them to share their strengths with others and track them, because sometimes they change. And finally, building a network of peer to peer support can look like cross age tutoring programs, mentor buddies to assist with transitions, buddy bench monitors or playground mentors. A number of schools that I've worked with have trained their older students in psychological first aid so that they're ready with skills just in case the school is impacted by a disaster.
The strategies on this slide here, most effective educators do very well, but they are worth highlighting. So have a little think about your classroom. How do you create that sense of community and belonging? Is your space inviting and welcoming? Can the children and young people see themselves in the space? Is there artwork displayed? Are there photos of them? Is their work displayed, their writing on the wall? Can they negotiate parts of that learning space? So can they negotiate where they sit or in what manner they sit? Have they contributed to the class rules or a class manifesto, values or a set of expectations?
We've all mentioned today the importance of social and emotional learning. So have a little think about how you can embed this learning every day. Self-regulation is a skill that many children and young people need specific guidance on, and you can help them identify warning signs in their body like their heart racing or heavy breathing, and then ask them to express how they're feeling either verbally or non-verbally. Continually check in. And you can use regulation scales or cards on desks or charts in the classroom or a simple thumbs up for feeling good, thumbs to the side for feeling a bit wobbly or a thumbs down for feeling lousy. Teach a range of strategies for coping and coping to get through that distress, like having a safe place to retreat, some deep breaths or having a movement break.
The final two points on this slide are about allowing children and young people to reach their potential. Recently, Ash Barty's mindset coach, Ben Crowe, shared a quote that said, "Be brave enough to be terrible at something new." It's so easy for adults to do for children and young people what they could do of themselves. Encourage independence at every stage, guide them to set high goals for themselves and allow them the gift of not being great at something and sit in a discomfort of it not working out. But then support them and guide them to eventual success.
Just a final word on adversity, which can be anything from dealing with the disappointment of not getting invited to a birthday party to illness, lockdowns or experiencing great loss due to a flood, fire or other natural disaster. Children and young people need support and strategies to overcome these tricky situations. At the moment, there are many people going through incredible hardship coping with the floods in New South Wales and Queensland. And while it's so important to acknowledge the devastation with children and young people, we can also inspire some hope by looking for the helpers. So many people have given their time and resources to assist with the rescue effort and clean up. It is nothing short of inspirational.
Adversity for everyone can bring up some big feelings. And we can encourage children and young people to get help when they're going through a tough time. Help them identify who they could call on. Could it be a school-based support, such as a teacher support, any other support staff, chaplain, school counsellor, someone in leadership or they could speak to a family member or professional like a GP, they could access their local headspace centre or find a national helpline like Kids Helpline, eheadspace or Beyond Blue. And once they've identified that, share that information with families as well, because they might be needing support also.
Explain to children and young people that facing challenges in life can be useful. With the right support, some situations can help us grow as a person and give us the knowledge and skills that help make us better prepared next time something else challenges us. And with that being said, I'd like to hand back to Ben for some questions and answers.
Thank you, Heidi. And thank you to Sharleen and Owen. Such interesting and insightful presentations. So thank you to each of you guys. And now we have really spacious time to talk through some questions from the audience. We've had a few come through. And I want to start with you, Sharleen. One of the key things that, and you mentioned this in your presentation was talking to children and young people about what they're experiencing. And one of the participants is questioning, I'm worried about I'm going to say the wrong thing, I'm going to re-traumatise children when talking about disasters. So do you have any advice for educators focusing on this work, but also in that young, children and infants and toddler space?
Yeah, absolutely, Ben. I think that is a common concern that people have is, am I going to say the wrong thing? Should I not say anything to avoid that? And I think the most important thing, and it was reflected across all of the presentations today, was around relationships. And you being there as a caring adult in the child's life is the most powerful thing when we're looking at how you can support a child. So it is better to talk to the child about what they're experiencing and use those strategies of listening, showing empathy, naming their emotions and also sharing that yeah, I can be a little bit scared too, and this is what I do to help me when I'm feeling a little bit scared. And we see that across. Sorry, I just wanted to acknowledge the age range. So I think that's important across all ages when we are working with very young children right through to adolescents.
Yeah. Thanks, Sharleen. Owen, stepping into the shoes of educators who are new to this type of work, what advice or guidance would you have for those educators who are new to this work?
Thanks, Ben. I think I maybe build on something that Heidi mentioned at the end, don't be scared of failure, don't be scared of doing something new. I think those educators who are new to teaching disaster resilience education should really dive in with two feet, for want of a better term. But there is a myriad of resources and networks that are available to support you. So as part of the education for young people program at AIDR, we have a website that's dedicated to disaster resilience education. And there are resources that go from early learning all the way up to upper secondary that cover off on science, humanities, health and physical education curriculum. So there's a wide range of resources available.
But then there's also some great networks that are available for people to join. One of them that we managers called the DRANZSEN Network, the Disaster Resilience Australian-New Zealand Schools Education Network. It's a bit of a tongue twister, but it's a national initiative that was started by AIDR a couple of years back. And it brings together educators, emergency services, community organisations, researchers and other people working with young people. And has a wide range of webinars, newsletters and other resources. So my best advice is to dive in with both feet and use all the resources that are available.
Yeah. Thanks, Owen. And we'll be able to send out with the resource pack to follow some of the resources that Owen has mentioned. Heidi, you focus so well on the practical elements and talked about a couple of areas I'm really curious of unpacking. But for those educators who are thinking of integrating this into the whole of school, a whole of early learning service environment, where would you start with this work? Where do you recommend that? What strategies you've talked about today or extras that they could blend into the whole of learning community?
A really good place to start, Ben, would be for all educators to connect with their Be You consultant. The Be You consultant can guide schools and learning communities and early childhood services to appropriate resources, to surveys, to professional development, and really nail down where exactly are the needs. And if it is resilience, you can build a whole action plan around resilience and workout some strategies that will be specific to your particular site.
Thanks, Heidi. I really like you were talking about the two by ten and a few of those other strategies that you mentioned. Yeah. And obviously a key part of, we've talked about relationships, and Sharleen mentioned that as well. And I'm thinking a lot about, and some of the questions, probably feedback a bit to you, Sharleen, looking at infants, and thinking about parental wellbeing in that space as well. But what guidance would you have for educators who are supporting infants during the disaster recovery process?
Yeah, absolutely. I think this is obviously somewhere that I'm passionate about working in this space, because up until recently, a lot of people didn't recognise that disasters do impact on our youngest babies and toddlers. I think it's really important again, to firstly, recognise that they are affected and that children at all ages are looking to the adults around them about, should I be scared? How should I respond to this? Am I safe? So that having those caring and responsive relationships is really important, supporting a very young child. Tuning into the cues that the child is communicating to you. And this is obviously not always verbal, it can be through their body language, it could be all sorts of different cues that you could be picking up on.
When we're looking at the response, so when a disaster has just occurred or during a disaster, you are looking at tuning in recognising that re-establishing predictable routine so the child gets that sense of safety through knowing what to expect as much as they're able to. And then communicating with parents. So what are the changes the parents are noticing at home? Are there any regressions in meeting developmental milestones? And are those regressions maintained? So we would normally see some changes in behaviours as a result of experiencing a disruptive event. That is normal. But when those change are maintained or they're causing significant distress to the child and the parents, that's when you need to be looking at some additional support there.
Thanks, Sharleen. Owen, I wanted to unpack a little bit of the disaster resilience education work that you mentioned, and yeah, I guess any feedback that you might have for educators on how they could connect this into the curriculum?
That's a great question, Ben, because as a former teacher, I can completely empathise with those who are probably watching and thinking, this is really interesting, but how do I actually make it fit the curriculum, because these busy lives of teachers we don't want to make them busier? There are a myriad of ways in which it can be connected to the curriculum. Keep in mind that the current curriculum is due to be updated, well, potentially in the coming weeks when it'll be released in April. But across the humanities, the science and the health and physical education domains, there's a wide range of spots within the curriculum, where there are specific content descriptors that align with disaster resilience education.
So it's really quite easy to match up a program on disaster resilience education to the Australian curriculum. And again, the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience has mapped out where those specific descriptors are into a handy little PDF that again, we can definitely send out to people after the webinar.
Great. Thanks, Owen. Yeah, it's going to be great for our participants of this webinar to have a resource pack and different things that they can access. So thank you for that. Heidi, I might circle back to you. Thinking about those learning communities who might identify as being more high risk, whether that's to bushfires or floods or other disasters, and then wanting to start preparing, Sharleen talked about that in her presentation about preparedness. So how can we best prepare students, children, young people for this high risk or coming into a bushfire season and those kind of things?
It's important to know that bushfire preparedness and other disaster preparedness to be prepared practically as well as psychologically is both equally important. Involving students in that process, not just having a bushfire action plan, running a few fire drills and thinking that, that's enough. Involving the students, so whether you could set up a reference group, a student reference group to look at the bushfire action plan with the leadership and consider the practical steps that they can do, like they could be auditing emergency supplies or doing environmental risk assessments as well, practicing emergency drills. Children and young people actually want to do these things, they want to practice and they want to be involved. You could ask them for suggestions on how to make it better or improve those drills. And as Owen said, providing opportunities for them to learn about their local context and consider the risks that they face and provide guidance around resources about them being prepared, not only at school, but also at home and going back and teaching their families some strategies as well.
Thanks, Heidi. Owen, in a moment, I want to circle to you about the flood resources from AIDR, but I guess the flip side of what Heidi mentioned was for you, Sharleen, looking at potentially those learning communities who aren't experiencing severe disasters and they're looking to prepare and prepare their learning communities for experiencing a disaster, what kind of things can they do to engage in this preparedness work?
Yeah. And I think that's something that certainly within our work at QCPIMH, we are really encouraging people to explore what this looks like in the absence of disaster as well, because when a disaster occurs, often your focus is immediate safety, establishing or re-establishing that environment and getting back to a sense of normality. And often the children, educators, families don't have the capacity to take on more information.
So if you explore these kinds of things to find some strategies that will work for your context, it's helpful also to get a little bit of buy-in and going, okay, well, why is this important? Why is this important to me? So looking at what are the children's interests in that regard? I know we had some very young children, so looking at kindergarten age where the children were really, really interested in the impact of drought. These children live in a capital city, perhaps some of them may have had direct experience of drought, but they had been hearing about it on the news, seeing things shared through social media, hearing people talk about it or going on holidays. And they actually came up with this fantastic being water warriors, and use that as an exploration of what this concept of drought is, how it impacts on people in other areas. And they were able to find that buy-in in the children's interest and explore that and connect with kindergartens in drought affected areas. So it's taking it back to what the children are interested in and finding those ways to extend on that.
Thanks, Sharleen. Yeah, Owen, I'm aware that many of our participants today come from flood affected regions of New South Wales and Queensland. And just you mentioned that to me offline, that you've got some resources that AIDR has developed in the flood and support space around that. So do you want to highlight some of those resources for us today?
Yeah, of course. Yeah. AIDR, which I probably should have mentioned earlier, is short for the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience, has recently developed a flood recovery resource pack in response to the recent flooding. And the page is freely available online on the AIDR Knowledge Hub. And it brings together a comprehensive collection of key guidance material, research information and useful tools for supporting communities recovering from major flooding events. So that includes AIDR handbooks and knowledge into action briefs, links through to other relevant pages, including the After the Disaster podcast, which is a great podcast series, monitoring and evaluation tools, spontaneous volunteer management resource toolkits, which can be applicable at a community level or at a school that might be getting a lot of spontaneous volunteering post a flooding event. And also educational resources, including lesson plans for primary and secondary schools developed by the New South Wales State Emergency Service following the 2020 floods. So there's a wide range of resources that are available on the recent floods.
Thanks, Owen. Probably got time for a couple more questions. And one thing that's really sticking out for me is thinking about the wellbeing of educators. And each and every one of the participants today, I think that's a really important piece to reflect on with everything that's happening. We talked about the cumulative traumas of COVID and droughts in some regions, bushfires and floods. Heidi, Sharleen and Owen, I just wanted to open that question up if there's any reflections for educators at the moment in this space and anything, resources or supports that we can direct them to.
I'll jump in there. Be You has some amazing supports for educators. And considering their own wellbeing, they've got an editable PDF plan that educators can fill out, highlighting their strengths, where they can document their coping strategies, where they can get help. Obviously, also connecting them to the EAP, the Employee Assistance Program. It's particularly important for educators to look after themselves when they've been impacted by a disaster, because they're the ones supporting the children and if they're not being supported themselves, then we can't support everyone else. Can we? So yeah. So I look on the Be You website. I'm sure we'll link it in the notes at the end.
Can I just tag into that as well? So I think it's always helpful to keep in mind too, if the children have been impacted by the disaster, the adults in the community have been impacted as well, including educators. So keeping that in mind, when you, as an educator, often you are there wanting to be everything you can be for the children and to support them. But in order to do that, as Heidi said, you need to be able to look after yourself to have that capacity and that energy to be able to give to the children what they need. So drawing on those support structures, having those conversations in your learning community about, hey, well, I'm really struggling today, who do I call on? Can I call on someone who can maybe just look after my class for a couple of minutes while I just take a deep breath, grab a cup of coffee, whatever I need to just stop, recognise in yourself that you need that, get some sunshine, whatever helps and then be able to return and feel calm.
It is really great to be modelling those coping strategies to the children as well, because even though we are saying often showing those positive skills around being happy, coping, all that kind of stuff, it's a normal human reaction to feel upset, distressed, and modelling that, recognising that in yourself and going, okay, I see that I'm feeling really overwhelmed right now, these are the things I'm going to do to help me, can be a really powerful thing for children to see.
Thanks, Sharleen and Heidi. We might finish with you, Owen. And there's a lot of wonderful work that's happening across Australia in learning communities. And I know that AIDR have the Resilient Australia Awards. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that to finish today and how a learning community could enter this?
Yeah, of course. So AIDR does run the Resilient Australia Awards. And the awards have been going for about 23 years now. And they highlight the initiatives to build resilience and inspire others to act. And there's a range of different categories from community awards to business awards. But obviously for the context of this, there's the school's award. And the school's award recognises some of the amazing programs that schools across the country have brought in, whether they be last year's winner, which was Pimlico State High School in Queensland, which had a great COVID recovery program or previous winners like Strathewen Primary School in Victoria that focused on bushfire awareness. There was highlight of the amazing work, and they're now they're now open. [Note: The National School Award is open to all public and private pre-school, primary and secondary schools in Australia.]
So if you're a school or a community education setting that's got a great program, you can enter and there's information on the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience website. Or you might know about a program that's being run at a different school or setting and you can nominate them and we'll get in touch and assist with the application.
Thank you. I feel like we could keep going, everyone, but we'll finish there today. And thank you, Sharleen, Owen and Heidi for this really insightful presentation. To the participants from learning communities across the country, thank you for your time today. And I hope you've taken away some learnings from our knowledgeable speakers. Keep an eye on your email as we spoke about lots of different resources. You have a link to this recording coming through a post webinar handout, and we'll be forwarding out a survey. And so we hope you find all this useful. So thank you. And yeah, we'll see you next time.
Building skills for resilience in disaster recovery
Last updated: June, 2022