Since the devastating impact of the 2019 Queensland monsoons and flooding, the Queensland Catholic Education Commission (QCEC) has strived to ensure that an appropriate response exists to assist students coping with natural disasters. Stormbirds and Seasons for Growth fit the bill perfectly: they are evidence-based psychoeducation programs that assist children and young people following change, loss, grief and natural disaster events.
In 2020, QCEC collaborated with The MacKillop Institute and MacKillop Family Services to deliver the programs to students in the dioceses of Townsville, Cairns and Rockhampton. The project was made possible following the successful application for funding through the Commonwealth / State Disaster Recovery Funding - FNQ and NQ Monsoon Trough - Category C Flexible Funding Grants Program. This meant that the usual challenges that schools face when seeking access and funding of resources were largely avoided.
For the 29 schools within Townsville Catholic Education in the Townsville Diocese, the outcome was that all guidance counsellors were trained in delivering the Stormbirds and Seasons for Growth programs.
“I really wanted to have as many staff as possible trained and also to extend this opportunity to others such as Chaplains and pastoral staff”, said Annette McCarthy, Student Support Services Coordinator.
Centacare staff were encouraged to access training too due to the positive impacts the programs can have on the whole family dynamic.
The Stormbirds and Seasons for Growth programs provide a structured series of sessions that can be utilised easily and effectively with students in the school setting. They provide a safe space for young people to give voice to their experiences, understand their feelings, learn problem solving and decision-making skills, develop friendships, and recognise they are not alone.
The feedback so far has been positive from everyone involved. Trained staff appreciate the resources provided to accompany the program curriculum and the guidebooks are well received by children. There is positive collaboration between staff as well as therapeutic connections being established between staff and students. Everyone now sees change and loss from many different perspectives.