News from the CRC

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NSW RFS Schools Program, photo by Ben Shepherd NSW RFS
NSW RFS Schools Program, photo by Ben Shepherd NSW RFS
Release date
18 Dec 2017
More information:
Loriana Bethune
Utilisation and DELWP Program Manager

A child-centred view of disaster education

Educating children and youth about disaster risk reduction and resilience is now front and centre around Australia, based on research that has identified the valuable role that children play in the safety of their households and communities.

The importance of educating children on hazards and disasters was recognised both in the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission and the 2011 National Strategy for Disaster Resilience. CRC research led by Prof Kevin Ronan (CQUniversity) and Dr Briony Towers (RMIT University) has evaluated disaster risk reduction and resilience programs in Australian primary and secondary schools to find out how these programs contribute to the mitigation and prevention of disaster impacts on lives and property.

Bushfire education has been evaluated in several states including New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. In Victoria, the Country Fire Authority and State Emergency Service used the research to co-design a student-centred, inquiry-based disaster resilience education program for students at year levels 7, 8 and 9.

CFA’s Survive and Thrive program for students in Grades 5 and 6 has also been evaluated in both Anglesea and Strathewen, with the findings informing the development of community-based approaches to tailoring experiential bushfire education to specific high-risk areas around Victoria. The Strathewen component has also demonstrated the value of bushfire education for children in fire affected communities and will provide a guiding model for future recovery programming.

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service is also using the skills, knowledge and expertise of the research team in a number of ways. A change in the NSW primary school curriculum now sees bushfire studied across the state by years 5 and 6 every two years. To assist in this educational change, the NSW RFS has redeveloped their schools’ education webpage to reflect inquiry-based learning principles, with information for teachers and students.

NSW Rural Fire Service also drew on the expertise of the research team to inform the development of the ‘Guide to Working with School Communities’, which supports volunteers and staff across K-12 classrooms.

The Guide follows the earlier publication of a CRC ebook, based on the same principles that if you educate children on fire safety, families and the wider community will also benefit.

The benefits are flowing outside traditional emergency management agencies too. The Australian Red Cross is using findings of a mixed-methods, pre-post study to refine its disaster resilience education program, the Pillowcase Project.

Additional evaluations are currently being finalised including in-depth evaluations of FireED programs for pre-school and primary students (Fire & Rescue NSW) and for bushfire education for primary students (Department of Fire and Emergency Services Western Australia).

This overall set of evaluations represents stepped change in the first four years of this program of research, with the next steps geared towards enhancing and implementing disaster resilience education in schools, with the goal of providing additional benefits for children, schools, households and communities.  

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