ECV2020 Keynote Speaker 8

Bushfire recovery program

Jacqueline Emery, Royal Far West, Australia (

Biography: Jacqui Emery is Executive Director – Business, People and Culture at Royal Far West, Australia. She is an experienced leader and executive with a demonstrated history of success across media, education and not for profit sectors. In December 2016, Jacqui was appointed to the role of Business Director at Royal Far West, with responsibility for the business and commercial functions of the charity. In 2020 Jacqui also took on responsibility for RFW’s people and culture strategy. Prior to joining RFW, Jacqui set up a new business team at the Australian Institute of Company Directors, to provide education and training to improve the governance of organisations across Listed, Private, Public and NFP sectors.


Background: The 2019/2020 Australian bushfires burned through more than 10 million hectares and affected tens of thousands of children and their families. Experiencing a disaster of this nature can have a devasting long term impact on a child’s emotional wellbeing and development- especially if they are not provided with the right support to process what they’ve been through in the days, weeks and months following a disaster.

Aim: The Bushfire Recovery Program is a multidisciplinary community development model that works with children (aged 0-12 years) and those key adults supporting children (parents, carers, educators and service providers) to improve resilience and wellbeing. and to decrease the likelihood of long-term adverse reactions as a result of Bushfires.

Method: RFW will deploy targeted mobile, in community mental health support teams to children and their families from 11 regions. This will include at least 2 communities for each region and will allow support to be offered to at least 2 schools and a preschool (and other organisations as appropriate) in each community.

Approximately 2700 people will be supported through this program including:

  • 700 children with direct psychosocial support, including 75 children who require additional support via therapy/case management utilising telehealth; and
  • 2000 parents, carers, teachers and health professionals with focused training/capacity building and support.

Expected conclusions/outcomes: Children and community members in bushfire affected regions develop skills to build resilience and recover from the effects of the disaster.The program promotes a sense of safety, calm, self and collective efficacy, connectedness and hope.Lower costs for government in the longer term through minimising the impact of PTSD, mental health incapacity, suicide and community dysfunction arising from unchecked trauma and the need for acute mental health services.

Implications for children:  It’s OK to feel scared but we will help you feel safe again and not so worried about mum and dad. Soon you will have lots of exciting things to look forward to

Implications for families: You will have strategies to support your children during and after a natural disaster event, including recognising emotional and behavioural signs that your child might need some additional support. You will also feel more confident to access support for yourself or your family

Implications for practitioners: As teachers and health professionals you will have the knowledge and skills to be confident to support the children in your care in relation to the impact of the bushfires.

Funding: Philanthropic funding from UNICEF Australia and Paul Ramsay Foundation

Key words: natural disasters, community trauma, mental health, resilience, children’s voices, families’ voices, professionals’ voices, Indigenous voices, innovations, wellbeing, health, vulnerable communities, regional/rural communities,  COVID-19

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: