Collaborating in East Gippsland

  • Left: road trip. Right: Bluey character with Wendy Ronalds
  • Road trip.
  • School room with sign Seasons Space

In 2019 the East Gippsland region in Victoria faced devastating bushfires. Through the Black Summer Funding, Mackillop Seasons engaged Wendy Ronalds, a Community Resilience Officer. Our focus was to build local capacity in community recovery, wellbeing and resilience by training professionals in education and social services in the Seasons for Growth and Stormbirds programs.

These evidence-based programs built knowledge and capacity of professionals to provide a safe space for children, young people and adults to learn the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to understand the change, loss and grief individuals and communities face following adversity.

One of the highlights of the project was to develop several wonderful collaborations with local organisations to support the East Gippsland community.

Early in the project a trusted partnership was developed with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). When speaking with children and adults the RFDS identified grief and loss as significant concerns for communities. Wendy was privileged to train RFDS staff in the MacKillop Seasons programs and enjoyed helping them to support group implementation with children, young people and adults in communities.

It was also a pleasure to meet the team at Orbost Regional Health, a community grappling with the cessation of the timber industry earlier than expected, whilst still finding it’s feet following COVID and the devastating fires. A local exercise physiologist identified that many people attending her exercises classes were struggling with the grief and loss following these events. Following her training in our programs, she facilitated an adult seminar for the local community in collaboration with the Neighbourhood House. One of the participants said, “I was touched by the warmth that everyone had for their fellow participants and I would like to attend similar learning sessions if they become available”

The project also enabled professionals to connect across industries. Several support networks were formed, including a Young Professionals Network for East Gippsland, bringing young professionals together for social activities and support once a month.

Another collaboration was with the Emergency Services Foundation (ESF) who provide mental health support to the Emergency Services workers of Victoria by working across agencies to offer preventative mental health work.

It was a wonderful collaboration as both organisations have a heart for supporting communities following disasters, and a genuine care and empathy for the Emergency Services workers and their families. The Flourishing Families Program was born and aimed to promote the well-being of Emergency Services workers and their families in a relaxed and safe way. The Flourishing Families program provided families of Emergency Services workers a chance to discuss mental health but also learn how to support their children and young people following disasters. This took place through hands-on and engaging activities for the adults, and children learnt some new tools to support themselves through fun activities!

Terrific feedback was received from many communities. Scott shared. We’ve been grateful in our small community to have people come up from the big smoke to be part of us and our environment."

Community Resilience Officer Wendy reflected on the project, “It has been an enormous privilege to work with incredibly resourceful and resilient East Gippslanders, and professionals who would do whatever they could to support their children, young people, and each other in their community. Our evidence-based programs, were delivered sensitively and we were genuine and authentic as we built relationships with community and many other organisations. We believe these contributions will have long lasting benefits for the East Gippsland community."

The following videos capture some of the story of support in East Gippsland.

East Gippsland - Building community capacity and resilience to respond and recover following the bushfires | MacKillop Seasons

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