BUSHFIRE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

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committed to the
Bushfire Community
Development Program

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LGAs will be the
focus of the program

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when the program is
scheduled to finish

OVERVIEW

The Society is using $2.2 million to implement a Bushfire Recovery and Community Development Program (BRCD) in several locations identified to be most affected by the bushfires and vulnerable to ongoing disadvantage.

A community development model was piloted in July 2020 in the Kempsey local government area (LGA), which was followed up in early 2021 by a wider scaleup in other LGAs. The BRCD program will be operating through to the end of 2022 in eight LGAs. 

This framework used research and data from our Kempsey Pilot, but also Resilience NSW and the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, as well other government agencies and service providers. It will take a community development approach to recovery and enable long term and sustainable development for communities. The BRCD Program has three main objectives:  

  1. To improve community and individual resilience and disaster preparedness capacity 
  2. To strengthen community cohesion and increase individual sense of wellbeing and positive outlook. 
  3. To support local environment rehabilitation, regeneration, and productivity 

The three objectives mentioned above are state-wide objectives that are operationalised through local workplans that are developed in consultation with local councils, local community groups and, of course, community members.

DRUMMING INTO YOU PROGRAM

During the Black Summer Bushfires of November Maudie Reid was a lady on a mission. She wanted to ensure that anybody in her beloved village of Willawarrin in the Upper Macleay Valley that required assistance in regard to the fire received it. She recalls the days of ‘’long hours and hard work’’. The Willawarrin Community Hall, with Maudie at the helm, was a hive of activity during and after the fires, providing locals with supplies, support and sadly a shoulder to cry on, even before any disaster response agency appeared.

The hall remained an outreach point for various agencies, including Vinnies, for months after the fires. The relationship between Vinnies and Maudie grew as she worked alongside us, ensuring that those who, perhaps, needed assistance but thought that others were more deserving engaged with Vinnies. “People around here think that somebody else is worse off and they don’t put their hand up, even if they are doing it tough.”

As the outreach drew to an end, Maude expressed her desire for the community to rebuild but not just in a physical sense. “Rebuilding had to be done emotionally and mentally, and this could be best done together.” Maudie and other Willawarrin community champions discussed with Vinnies and other agencies on how this could be best achieved. From this collaboration emerged the Willawarrin Women’s Group and ‘’Drumming into You’’ youth wellbeing program.

Maudie’s granddaughter attended the Drumming into You Program. It aims to assist children that may experiencing complex feelings as a result of the recent bushfires, flood, drought and Covid .The program’s intention is to help children develop healthy coping mechanisms and build resilience through social and emotional learning activities, many of them based on drumming. This will assist them to better understand and manage the feelings and anxiety symptoms they may be experiencing. Maudie is so convinced of the positive impact it had on her granddaughter, particularly in her general confidence and ability to discuss issues that are bothering her, that she is strongly advocating for the program to run again in the future. “I would like to see the drumming run again for the kids. In fact, I think it would be great for us adults too.”

Maudie has not missed one women’s group since its creation. “It always guarantees a good giggle and is something I know I look forward to. The group is made up of women from various backgrounds and ages but it works. Whilst the activities we do are good, it is more about the connection.” Willawarrin Women’s Group aims to assist local women of the Willawarrin and surrounding areas experiencing isolation, lack of community connection and moderate mental health symptoms. The program intention is to assist women with healthy coping mechanisms and build resilience through social connections through short-term capacity building psychosocial supports. Activities include crafts, games, guest speakers, mindfulness activities and wellbeing discussions. Group Interests steer the direction and activities of the group and the hope is the group becomes self-sustaining and continues well into the future.