Tracey Butter, Tarlee Primary School Chaplain at the When Disaster Strikes launch

Tracey Butter, Tarlee Primary School Chaplain at the When Disaster Strikes launch

"I was at home with my husband on Wednesday 25th November when the Pinery fire came through. We chose to stay and defend our home. It wasn’t until the Friday that I was able to leave my property, and I went early in the morning to Tarlee Primary to meet with staff. I organised a coffee morning so that I could comfort shocked parents who had arrived with their children, and then I went into class to listen to children speak about their experiences and provide support.

Hamley Bridge Primary was closed until Monday. That morning there was severe dust storms, poor visibility, and the ash and soot in the air was very strong. Parents and children were crying and distressed as they arrived. I remember the CFS siren kept going off because burnt trees kept reigniting, fire trucks were kept on the move. I provided comfort and support to children and parents, and reassurance that there was not another fire. Returning to a normal school routine for students, staff and families was helpful. Being together, we were all able to support and care for each other. 

In the weeks and months that followed the fire, I organised morning and afternoon teas for parents and community members to refer and connect them with services and support from a number of different government and community agencies.

SMG facilitated “Stormbirds” training for myself and other Chaplains, to enable us to be better prepared to respond to the needs of children and families impacted by the fire. Stormbirds is a small group program that allows children to examine how natural disasters have impacted their lives. The program enables them to develop coping, problem solving and other skills as they process and manage the changes they experienced as a result of the disaster.

During group times with children many spoke of continuing bad dreams, being fearful, sadness for their loss, and their sense of feeling unsafe.  Hand drawn pictures of what they saw before and after the fire were harrowing. Parents were very concerned for their children and I urged them to attend public talks by Dr Rob Gordon on disaster recovery.  Because of the connections I have across the community, I have been able to distribute a variety of donated items to assist families.

My work is far from over as recent storms and floods have also impacted families in this area.  Severe heat and fire danger days have us all on high alert. More than a year on I continue to work with and encourage parents and children as they recover from the fires.

 It is such a privilege to share and be a part of the Tarlee and Hamley Bridge Communities as we continue to recover from one of our states worst natural disasters."

Program Partners

‘When Disaster Strikes’ is proudly supported by Program Partners Beyond Bank Australia and Paradise Motors Mazda. 

Your tax-deductible gift to the ‘When Disaster Strikes’ program will have a positive impact in the lives of children, families and communities who are struggling after a disaster or crisis by funding emergency Chaplaincy Services like Tracey provided in her community during and after the Pinery Fire