Australia Bushfire-affected schoolchildren to find it tough going back to class this week
WA convoy carrying thousands of donated hay bales heads to NSW to help bushfire-affected farmers
Organisers say the community's support has been overwhelming, with almost a dozen trucks stocked with more than 2,000 bales of donated hay and fodder and a raft of supplies like clothes, blankets and nappies.Organisers of the Harvey Hay Run put out the call for help just two weeks ago and scores of local farmers, truck drivers and community members answered.
Families in areas that bushfires ripped through over summer are preparing to send their children back to class today — and schools are getting ready to take them.
Like many people around the nation, Sierra Bowen and her family have not had much of a holiday after their home — on 1.6 hectares of farming land at Mount Torrens in the Adelaide Hills —
"We found out in the morning when we came back via a farmer who lives near us that our whole property had been wiped," Ms Bowen said.
"It was really tough — the kids didn't really know what was happening, they were also very scared."
Govt to decide bushfire relief packages on 'business-by-business' basis
Council of Small Business Australia CEO Peter Strong says governments will have to make some tough decisions when it comes to relief packages for small businesses affected by the bushfire crisis. On Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced small businesses in disaster zones would be offered grants, concessional loans and tax relief under a suite of new measures. Small Business Minister Michaelia Cash said the measures were aimed at those who were under-insured but the government was eager to discourage business owners from bypassing insurance all together.
The family now lives in a smaller rental property in Lobethal, but the scorched land of the Adelaide Hills is still their backyard.
"Bringing them back especially to the whole hills, not just our house but the whole area that's been extremely affected, was really difficult and they still find that difficult now, driving around and seeing the devastation," Ms Bowen said.
Her seven-year-old son Zade said it made him sad seeing the blackened trees that line the Adelaide Hills.
"It feels like everything has burnt down … but we have a warm, tight house," he said.
Retired teachers an untapped resource
Australian Primary Principals Association president Malcolm Elliott said teachers around Australia were now trained to identify anxiety in students, as students will respond differently.
Bushfire donations likely won't cover repair bill, St Vincent de Paul chief says
St Vincent de Paul Society chief executive Jack De Groot says the more than $250 million donated to charities for bushfire relief in recent weeks is "probably not enough" to repair the damage caused by blazes across the country.As fires continued to burn across New South Wales, Victoria and on Kangaroo Island, St Vincent de Paul Society chief executive Jack De Groot said the amount of money given to help those affected had been overwhelming.
He said teachers were now on the front line and it was important they too were counselled.
"Students are likely to spontaneously offer up their feelings, and what it is that they know, or their fears about what's going on, and this will be to the people they trust hugely — and that is their teachers," he said.
"There's no rule that says that children aren't to mention what's happened to an uncle, an aunt, or a close family member, or the loss of their house."
Mr Elliott said school represented a touchstone of normality and an expectation that life would continue to move forward.
"School gives children an atmosphere in which they're looked after, they're learning and their lives are progressing, while at the same time parents are perhaps free to continue their working life or make repairs to their property damaged by the fires," he said.
"There will be cases where some children will be attending schools other than the one that was originally in their locale because it's been damaged or in."
Bushfire victims receive first donations from $28.6M appeal
The first allocation of funds raised through Bendigo Bank's national Bushfire Disaster Appeal, in partnership with The Salvation Army, have been released to affected Australian communities. The appeal, which raised $28.6 million from 131,000 donors, will see 100 per cent of the funds distributed directly to affected communities.Local communities will have input into where the funds are spent, with plans to release money to meet specific needs as they change over time.
Mr Elliott said there were discussions happening with the Federal Government about the possibility of engaging retired teachers and retired school principals as extra support in schools in bushfire-affected areas.
"Teachers will now have roughly 25 students in their class, all of whom will have, to a greater or lesser extent, the effect of bushfires playing in their minds," he said.
"Whether it's a school a long way removed from the bushfires, this is a very big news item and there's concern not only about the loss of life and loss of property but of course what's happened to the animals."
A spokeswoman for the federal Department of Education said the Government was providing $8 million for support through Beyond Blue for the 1,800 early childhood services and 1,400 schools impacted by the bushfires.
"An extra 25 mental health liaison officers and support clinicians will work with local schools and early childhood education and care services in bushfire-affected communities," she said.
'Hope takes teamwork'
The Adelaide Hills' Lobethal Primary School was one school where the fires came too close for comfort.
Cheaper petrol prices for NSW motorists
NSW motorists are enjoying cheaper petrol prices ahead of the Australia Day long weekend getaway. An oversupply of oil on the Asian market has flowed through to lower prices at the bowser across the state.Australia's international benchmark price – Singapore Mogas – has dropped from US$77.5 a barrel to US$70.3 a barrel, the lowest in two-and-a-half months.The NRMA says falls of up to four cents per litre should flow through to servo forecourts in the coming weeks.Sydney drivers should see bowser prices drop to about $1.32 per litre for regular unleaded petrol over the next two weeks.
Principal Toni Burford said two dads and the CFS defended the school as the fire crept towards the playground.
"It came way too close, it's come up over the hill, threatened homes — there's homes lost only 500 metres away from the school," she said.
"The children were very distressed when I saw them two days after the fire had happened they were really teary and scared that we came so close to losing the school."
Ms Burford said staff have met with social workers and support staff from the Department for Education to train them in more depth about mental wellbeing for students.
"We learnt to recognise symptoms of stress and anxiety, what's a common reaction and what's a not so common reaction as time goes by," she said.
"To know what to look for, how to help them build resilience and have that balance of not rescuing them but helping them to bounce back."
She said the school would be working hard to have more opportunities for mindfulness activities to de-stress and build resilience.
"We know there are many layers to what children and families have experienced … so we'll give time for children to talk about it," she said.
Ms Burford said the primary school would use the mantra this year of "Hope takes teamwork" to give children the sense that together they can create change.
"I think they've seen that living in action in their community," she said.
"Lobethal has responded remarkably — they've been a generous community — so the children would have seen hope takes teamwork already — and I want to build on that
Barnaby bucks on climate 'hobby horse' .
Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce says the bushfire crisis shouldn't be used by people to push "hobby horse" issues as climate activists protested outside parliament. Nationals backbencher Barnaby Joyce has warned colleagues against allowing bushfires to be used for advancing "hobby horse" issues, in a thinly veiled reference to climate change. At a joint coalition partyroom meeting on Tuesday, Mr Joyce said his NSW electorate had been dealing with drought and bushfires.He said some people were trying to push their "hobby horse" issues out of the tragedies.
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