Companion Profile Donna Constable

Moving forward together with Stormbirds

The changes and losses experienced by children from communities devastated by bushfires were traumatic and complex. Many lost family members, houses, pets and livestock.

Developed after the 2009 Victorian bushfires, the MacKillop Institute’s Stormbirds is an evidence informed program that helps children learn to share their experiences in safe and creative ways, understand their feelings, and learn skills for adapting and recovering.

Donna Constable, CatholicCare, helped deliver the Stormbirds program to children at a school on the NSW South Coast.

“Immediately after the fires, kids were not ready to talk, it was too soon. Initial sessions focused on building a rapport with students, using strategies that didn’t focus on the fires, but on wellbeing activities such as yoga and meditation. Stormbirds allowed us to move at the children’s pace.

“Six months later, the openness of the students was incredible. They talked about the range of feelings they experienced. Some felt guilty that their families were not so affected while their friends lost everything. Emotions were authentic and raw, but being together and listening to each other’s stories has been very helpful.”

Donna adds that some children were reluctant to take part in the program at the start, fearful that talking about the fires would trigger their anxiety.

“Stormbirds provided a gentle, practical support, equipping kids with strategies to deal with sensory triggers like hot wind, noise or sirens. It supported the school community to face the horror of what it came through, process those feelings and find the strength to look forward together.”

Donna Constable, CatholicCare, Diocese of Wollongong.

CatholicCare have long supported the Seasons for Growth suite of programs in the communities they support.