Support after emergencies

Advice and assistance for parents, teachers and students following emergencies, such as bushfires and floods, impacting local communities.

Large-scale emergencies impact our school communities in many ways. Emergencies, including bushfires and floods, are unsettling and stressful for many people.

Distress may be related to:

  • having been directly at risk/exposed to danger (loss of homes, pets, personal belongings)
  • being concerned about family or friends
  • feelings and memories related to previous experience
  • other grief and loss.

Information for parents

Some communities may be directly, or indirectly impacted. Some have lasting trauma from past events. This will affect our students, staff and communities in different ways. Almost all distress or behavioural change following such an event is normal. There is no such thing as a typical reaction.

Children react in different ways depending on age and personality. Some may show much distress or ask many questions and appear preoccupied with the event. Some of these reactions may appear immediately, but others may not show themselves for weeks or even months later.

Reactions may include sleep disturbances, regressive behaviour (such as thumb sucking), nightmares, fear of the dark, clinging to parents/carers, loss or increase in appetite, physical complaints with no medical basis, aggressive behaviour, competition for parental attention, withdrawal and/or loss of interest in regular activities.

Children look to the significant adults in their lives for guidance on managing their reactions. Parents and teachers can help children cope, despite their own feelings, by remaining calm and reassuring them that they will be all right.

Importantly, most children are resilient and return to their previous level of functioning over time.

How you can support your child

  • Monitor how much your child is exposed to television/social media stories about the emergency, as children can be distressed by watching repeated images. Explain how news reports will repeat images and stories, so it may not be a good idea to keep watching.
  • Find out your child's understanding of the event and correct misunderstandings or confusion.
  • Include your child in planning for the future.
  • Support your child to stay connected to friends.
  • Keep to your regular routines and activities as much as possible.


Where to get help

While most children will bounce back after a traumatic event, some children may show prolonged distress and may benefit from professional assistance. School counselling staff are available to support students. Please contact your school to discuss.

If students would like to speak with someone anonymously, confidential sources are:

Video – Supporting children through a bushfire crisis

Duration – 2:22

Supporting children through a bushfire crisis

Information for schools and teachers

The ways to support students after a traumatic event are:

  • listen to the student's story, look for changes in their behaviour and check in regularly with any students you are worried about
  • remind and reassure them school is a safe place to be
  • return to classroom/school routines and activities as soon as possible
  • explore ways to link students together if they have been relocated
  • encourage students to reach out to friends for support as well as adults
  • answer questions in a simple honest way, using age-appropriate language
  • highlight your student's and communities' strengths and resilience, be hopeful and optimistic for the future
  • provide information about access to student counselling services and other outside school support services such as headspace/Kids Helpline
  • consult school counselling and support staff regarding any students you’re particularly concerned about.

Support for staff

School staff may also require additional support, especially if they have family or friends who have been affected by previous or current emergencies. Take the time to identify those affected and discuss the types of support available. There is no right or wrong way to feel. Remember to reach out to family and friends for support.

It's common for us to find everyday situations challenging after an emergency. Issues you would normally manage easily can suddenly feel a struggle. Don't ignore the need to care for yourself or to ask for more support. Anticipate the next few weeks will be a difficult time, be patient with changes in your emotional state and have a contingency plan for managing any other difficult situations.

Support options for staff


  • Health and safety

Business Unit:

  • Health Safety and Staff Wellbeing
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