Education prepares supporters for the challenges involved and provides knowledge and tools to perform their role and safeguard their wellbeing. It can take many forms including compulsory induction, workshops, regular team development sessions, sector-wide education sessions… Ideally education begins prior to commencing a role and then is ongoing, but is helpful even for those further down the track.

Education should include the likes of:

  1. The biology of stress (normalising stress responses) and tools to support wellbeing
  2. Disaster recovery concepts - typical trajectories, community processes, complexity, psychosocial recovery and useful messaging, tools and strategies to support wellbeing and manage stress which can be used in their role with communities
  3. Realistic expectations – preparation for possible anger and frustration reactions from residents, and knowing what is feasible in terms of expected achievements
  4. Role boundaries - a clear understanding of the role, including aims, limits, issue escalation referral pathways and supports, and their place in someone’s recovery, for example a rescuer/fixer versus a supporter
  5. Local awareness – development of a local cultural understanding, including an appreciation of the heterogeneous nature of the communities, local priorities and sensitivities

Market education sessions in relation to benefits to the disaster-affected residents, because those with a role in recovery are more likely to prioritise their valuable time with those they support in mind.

Enlist an experienced and well respected person from within or without the team – someone venerated for their skills and knowledge, who is willing to share their personal cautionary tale of negative stress impacts. It is incredibly powerful to know that these impacts can happen to someone who is amazing at what they do and is not a function of weakness or ineptitude. This allows people to feel able to professionalise looking after themselves, admitting their limitations and putting their hand up for support if needed.

And I have been doubting and blaming myself and thinking that I am weak. Now you are telling me that other people feel these things too? I realise now that I am human. I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.  Anon - Japan

During induction have staff shadow others, attend community meetings, read reports to gain an understanding before getting let loose. Take time to develop a cultural understanding and realistic expectations of the reality including preparing themselves for the level of anger they might experience. Have them go into the community, volunteer on people’s blocks, hear from locals first-hand about their challenges. Take time to understand the culture and understanding the complexity is so important.  Greg Ireton – Advisor, Victorian Government