Flood sector support program CELA

Throughout the flood crisis, early childhood education peak bodies have been working with impacted services assisting them to get back on their feet.

Image: Children building and working with objects at preschool

CELA, along with CCSA and Network, have been engaged by NSW Department of Education to deliver the Sector Support Flood Impact Program.

Michele Carnegie, CEO of CELA discusses the experience of her team as they provide support to services across Northern NSW.

“Sector support is incredibly important for services to know their voices are heard where it counts,” Michele said.

“Our role is to identify issues faced by services, provide feedback to the Department on the key issues and potential solutions and help services navigate the complex problems they are facing, both after the disaster hits and throughout recovery.”

Having provided support to services through the 2019-2020 bushfires, COVID-19 and now the floods, Michele reflects on the sheer resilience of the sector as they work hard to ensure children who have lived through so much are supported with strength and stability.

“The strength of the community sector is never more evident than in times like this, everyone wraps around each other,” says Michele.

“It takes incredible resilience and courage to reopen the doors of a service and staff do this as soon as humanly possible because they know that the most important thing after a crisis is stability and continuity for children.”

“Our community-based services carry a significant role in linking families, parents and carers with current support services and information.”

“They provide a safe place and an empathetic ear to listen to families’ harrowing stories, ensuring that the educational program is one that allows children to just play and be, which is an important part of their recovery, while at the same time dealing with many and varied personal impacts and loss.”

Whilst times of crisis are incredibly challenging, Michele says that they also present learnings for all services, including those unaffected. Michele recommends:

  • All services have both physical and cloud-based copies of key operational documents so that when the internet is available, these can be quickly accessed to contact families and submit emergency applications.
  • Ensure that you have a crisis management plan and that all staff are aware of what to expect if a crisis hits and what role they play if it is possible to do so.
  • Services should work mobile phone that can be used in a crisis and ensure that all contact details are updated with their Peaks and the Department, so as they can make contact with you.
  • Inaccurate information is contagious! Access information from reliable sources such as Government Departments and Peaks. Peaks can help you do the heavy lifting on issues you may be facing, so ensure that you make contact and use their carefully considered resources and sector experts to help you through.

“Throughout the past couple of years, people have shown they are really more resilient than they ever thought possible,” reflects Michele.

“There is a strength that is drawn from being connected to each other; while it is a varied experience, it is a shared experience.”

“In times like this, everyone steps up and plays their role. This has happened in the floods; there is highly effective support from each other, peaks and government. Having the right mix of people and influence to lean on is incredibly important to sustain each other.”

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