Online bushfire trauma support for stations

May 26, 2020

A two story house lit by a burnt red bushfire sky at Mallacoota in December 2019

It was Australia’s Black Summer, an unprecedented bushfire disaster that turned daytime to nightime under glowing red skies.

At the height of the 2019/20 bushfires around 80 community radio stations found themselves at the frontline of a national emergency. Broadcasting for long hours and under extreme pressure these community broadcasters were driven by a deep sense of community responsibility and commitment.

We know that the personal impact and trauma many broadcasters and stations experienced in those fire affected communities has been profound.

This week the Royal Commission into Natural Disaster Arrangements (Summer Bushfires) started hearing submissions, many of those submissions have come from impacted broadcasters and stations, and the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA). This also triggers challenging responses for many people in our sector.

Since January, the Community Broadcasting Foundation has been working with the DART Centre for Journalism and Trauma (Asia/Pacific) to develop a trauma literacy and resilience program for community broadcasters impacted by disaster reporting and broadcasting – the first of its kind in our sector.

Earlier this month, we adapted the planned face-to-face program due to COVID-19 protocols to trial a new online model. DART’s expert facilitators Dr Cait McMahon & Kimina Lyall delivered the introductory session online to a small cohort of community broadcasters from seriously affected community stations in Victoria and New South Wales. The feedback was overwhelming positive, with discussions around how trauma impacts on each person differently –  a key take-away learning from the session.

This is the first of what we hope will be ongoing trauma and resilience support for our sector. We are currently seeking support from a number of bushfire relief funds  that will enable us to deliver a more comprehensive pilot program in the coming months.

Our deep thanks to DART Asia/Pacific for generously facilitating this session, and to community stations 3MGB Mallacoota, 3REGfm East Gippsland, 3HCR Omeo, 2EAR FM Moruya, 88.9 Braidwood FM, Highland FM Bowral. Special thanks also to Peter Weeks from UGFM Radio Murrundindi for sharing the learnings from broadcasting during Black Saturday in 2009. We’re especially grateful to all the stations involved for your trust and participation in this process.

Photo: Mallacoota 31.12.2019 by Mariska Ascher

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