All children, young people and families in Australia are affected by the many natural disasters that occur here. In recent years there have been floods, bushfires and cyclones that have devastated communities across Australia as well as tsunamis and earthquakes occurring around the world.  

These web pages on Disasters and Mass Adversities bring together the most relevant and reliable information and resources that can be used to support young people and their families in preparing for, coping with and recovering from disasters.  

We have provided some direct links to factsheets, booklets and other resources that can be obtained from well-recognised Australian and international websites.

ACATLGN resources

Children, adolescents and familes: Grief and loss in disaster (pdf , 305.73 KB)

This booklet by Professor Beverley Raphael provides detailed information about grief at different ages and developmental stages in children. It also provides guidance on how to assist grieving children.

Continuing the healing journey (pdf , 205.47 KB)

This booklet by Dr Vicki Trethowan and Amanda Harris details common reactions that children and young people have during disasters and looks at the path of recovery following a disaster. 

The impact of the bushfires – Don’t think it’s over and forgotten (pdf , 8.33 MB)

Psychologist Michelle Roberts writes for DEECD's Shine Magazine. Read pages 38-42 of Shine's Issue 15, May 2010.

What works for children and adolescents after disasters: An evidence review (pdf , 147.38 KB)

This evidence review brings together research findings about what helps children and young people following a disaster. 

Other resources

APS bushfire response

Australian Psychological Society
Includes guidelines for those working with communities affected by the bushfires. Includes a summary of psychological first aid skills that may be used following disasters. Includes: Helping children who have been affected by bushfires (PDF 486KB)

Australian Journal of Emergency Management (pdf , 3.62 MB)

This issue is devoted to youth in emergencies and disasters.

Bushfires and children

Children, Youth and Women's Health Service, SA
Provides a brief description of the impact that bushfires may have on children at different ages.  

Child and youth post-disaster emotional responses: the Cyclone Larry Children's Project (pdf , 704.33 KB)

Prof Brett McDermott
Link to a powerpoint presentation by Prof Brett McDermott on findings from a research project looking at screening children and adolescents for emotional responses following Cyclone Larry.

First Aid for Emergency Situations [US based]

"When an emergency strikes, there's no time to start researching how to respond. For your own safety and the safety of your friends and family, it's a good idea to learn about emergency protocol and first aid methods. By learning in advance, you'll ensure that you can respond quickly and appropriately if there's ever an emergency situation. From natural disasters to traffic accidents, you never know when a situation will arise that will demand quick thinking, cool nerves, and a little bit of know-how."

Please note: this resource comes from a United States perspective, and not all information may be directly translatable to those living in Australia.

Helping children and adolescents cope with violence and disasters: What rescue workers can do; What parents can do; What community members can do

National Institute of Mental Health, US
Provides information on responses to disaster and violence by children and adolescents.

Mental health needs post disaster: Supporting recovery of children and families

Dr Elspeth Macdonald - Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, Vol 56 (2), 2009
This editorial discusses the issues important to health professionals when working with children and families following disasters.

National Emergency Management Strategy for Remote Indigenous Communities

Emergency Management Australia
A webpage link to Keeping Our Mob Safe: National emergency management strategy for remote Indigenous communities is a response to an identified need for a practical approach by government at the local, state/territory and national levels, and by Indigenous communities to address the community emergency management priorities of remote Indigenous communities. Importantly, the strategy also takes into account the broader community safety priorities and needs of remote Indigenous communities, as related to emergency management.

Prof Brett McDermott on children in bushfires

Beyond Blue
Transcript of an interview with Prof McDermott speaking about how children and adolescents may be affected by the bushfires, how their parents can assist them and where they can find additional help if needed. (You may also listen to this interview here).

PTSD: Mental health in the wake of disaster

Dr Claude Chemtob
This link is to a YouTube presentation of Dr Claude Chemtob, professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Dr Chemtob has worked extensively in the field of post traumatic stress, especially with children. In this video he discusses how traumatic events, like disasters, can cause post traumatic stress disorder, and how children can be affected differently to adults.

Taking care of mental health after bushfires

It’s common to feel stressed in the aftermath of a disaster, and bushfire is no exception. The good news is that for most people these feelings will fade with time. Our researchers have developed a practical guide to help you manage your and other’s mental health after the impact of fire – “ASK for help”.

The carers will need help too

Prof Beverley Raphael & Dr Penelope Burns
Australian Doctor, 19 February 2009

This article highlights the impact that working with individuals and communities affected by disasters has on health care professionals.

What you should know about the emotional impact of fires

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), US
Information on the emotional impact of fires on children and ways that they can be supported

What you should know about the emotional impact of floods

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), US
Information on the emotional impact of floods on children and ways that they can be supported


After the Emergency

Australian Red Cross
An online suite of multimedia resources to support young people - podcasts, videos, and links to resources.

Children and War Foundation

Promotes research, studies and knowledge on the impact of war, inner-city violence and disaster on children. Includes excellent resource and reference lists as well as free measures for assessing children and adolescents. Also access to Teaching Recovery Techniques manual that can be used with large numbers of children following a broad range of catastrophes.

Disaster and Trauma Resource Center

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, US
This website provides free resources for families and professionals, including fact sheets, clinical resources and online video education clips.

Psychosocial Support in Disasters

A website for health care professionals working with people affected by disasters.

Updated:  04 April 2020/Responsible Officer:  Director ACATLGN/Page Contact:  Director ACATLGN