I work from Doveton as a Family Support Specialist. Most of my work is done through the Play2Learn playgroups. Through playgroups, we support the children to get school-ready, while I work with families on some of their other needs, like identifying educational or employment pathways for the mums.
I also do home visits, providing support and referrals for families attending the playgroups with children experiencing autism, developmental delays, or family violence.
In early January 2020, I was in the same boat as a lot of Australians all over the country, watching the bushfire coverage, and thinking we need to do something to help. So I was grateful to be able to offer my support at the Child Friendly Spaces set up at Bairnsdale and Batemans Bay.
I was glad I was able to go and be of service and see the wonderful impact it's had on the children.
I first went to the Bairnsdale evacuation centre, in early January. Here, the disaster was still ongoing, and things were in flux, with a lot of people arriving every day, having to sleep at the centre, and having very intense emotions and reactions.
A month later, I went to the Batemans Bay recovery centre. Although the locals there were still in the thick of the disaster, the recovery centre served a different purpose. Centrelink, The Salvation Army, Australian Red Cross, Anglicare, and government housing services were all there for people to talk to. And while they got organised, people could leave their children with us in a Child Friendly Space.
Our Child Friendly Spaces are there to give children impacted by disaster a safe place to play, process their emotions and simply be kids.
I remember in Batemans Bay, I played with two sisters, aged 8 and 12. They spent a lot of time in our space while their parents and grandparents were getting help. When their parents came to get them, they didn’t want to leave. They said to me, “This is one of the best days I’ve had in recent times.” It’s not something you expect to hear from an 8-year-old.