Support eases bushfire pain

MORE than one year has passed since the devastating Pinery bushfire, but for many locals the pain and memories are still raw.

For the Jenke family, who were forced to evacuate their home during the fierce fire, the grief is still fresh.

Mother Jessica said her three children, who attend Tarlee Primary School, remain “on edge” after being emotionally scarred by the ordeal.

“One has nightmares and is often screaming through the night,” she said.

“My two younger children were often drawing our house on fire, and using their toys to re-enact us evacuating our home.”

However, through the aid of School Ministry Group (SMG) chaplain Tracey Butter, Jessica’s children are slowly recovering and rebuilding resilience.

“Tracey was often at school in the mornings ready to talk to any kids who were upset or anxious, which was a massive help to my children as they dealt with their emotions and feelings,” Jessica said.

“Tracey has been a huge support to my family in helping us all cope with what happened.”

In response to the Pinery bushfire, SMG has launched a new recovery program aimed at providing chaplaincy support to local families following a major disaster or crisis.

SMG reverend Dr Lynn Arnold said the program was developed out of learnings from the 2015 Sampson Flat bushfire and Pinery bushfire, and will help communities continue to recover from disasters in the future.

“Our state has suffered recently with floods, storms and bushfires, where lives were lost, homes destroyed, families overwhelmed and communities reeling in the aftermath of those devastating events,” he said.

“SMG had nine school chaplains in the affected bushfire zone, and, one year on, those chaplains continue to provide pastoral and practical support to children and families in their local communities.”

Member for Light Tony Piccolo, who was among a host of representatives who officially launched the program last week, said, having chaplains present in the post-disaster period will help communities recover from emotional trauma.

“People react in different ways to crisis, some carrying the emotional burden for many years as they focus on the physical side of the recovery,” he said.

“Rebuilding communities from an emotional and resilience perspective is more challenging than the physical reconstruction.

“That is why it is important to have chaplains present as soon as possible after a crisis, but they need to be available for some time.

“Chaplains provide a safe and confidential ear, and shoulder to lean on, and can help children and adults to process their emotions at a time they are ready.”

Laura Tilley

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Laura Tilley joined The Bunyip team after completing her Bachelor of Journalism at the University of South Australia and working at sister newspaper The Murray Pioneer, Renmark, recently. Laura undertook a student exchange to the UK, where she studied journalism courses at the University of Worcester. She completed several stints across different media outlets where she found her passion for journalism.

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