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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

Support for teachers and students post bushfire

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The consequences of this summer’s bushfires will reverberate for many years into the future and schools will be getting extra help to get them through.

Non-government school teachers, early childhood teachers and support staff who have experienced bushfire trauma or are teaching students who have been through bushfire trauma will get extra support through an innovative online course provided by their union, the Independent Education Union of Australia (IEUA).

The IEUA has taken a proactive approach by designing the online professional development to respond to an urgent need for members to address their own wellbeing but also assist their students/own children to recover after a bushfire.

The course, Responding to Bushfire Trauma,  will be conducted by Professor Lisa Gibbs and Jane Nursey of the University of Melbourne, authors of the study Delayed Disaster Impacts on Academic Performance of Primary School Children (2019).

Recent studies into those affected by Victoria’s Black Saturday catastrophic fires have shown that children suffering bushfire trauma demonstrate outcomes one to five years below their age group norm. Staff affected by bushfires are more anxious and have poorer overall wellbeing than staff in comparative settings.

IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Secretary Mark Northam said that the online course, teachers and support staff will learn how to take care of themselves and each other as well as their students, to help communities get back to normal routines and learning as quickly as possible.

‘Delaying acknowledgement of trauma can only lead to more long term problems down the track, and this union has taken responsibility for its members’ wellbeing to try and provide whatever help it can,’ said Northam.

‘Schools and early childhood services often provide a lighthouse to communities under stress, and we want to ensure our members have the best chances supporting their community by looking after their own welfare too.’

IEUA is also claiming up to five days paid leave per year for employees unable to attend work due to a natural disaster in its current negotiations for the NSW and ACT Catholic Systemic Schools Enterprise Agreement 2020-2022.

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