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Tasmanian bushfires

31 January 2019, Emergencies

Save the Children’s Child Friendly Spaces are helping provide a safe place for children and families forced from their homes. 

The threat from a bushfire is a frightening experience for anyone, let alone a child. Our Child Friendly Space South of Hobart, is giving children evacuated from the path of the fire a place to play, to feel safe and to begin to process what they’ve been through.

The January fires have been relentless. 

Consecutive hot days and fierce winds have put enormous pressure on firefighters who continue to battle the various and widespread blazes. 

Evacuation can be traumatic for families. The disruption to normal life, the fear and the uncertainty can put enormous strain on parents as they try to temper the emotional distress for their children.

Save the Children’s Tasmania State Manager, Lisa Cuatt, says the Child Friendly Space can help children be children again. 

“We know that children are always among the most affected groups in any emergency, and this is no exception. It’s clear that the children coming to the child friendly space are facing a great deal of uncertainty, and they need a way to process and deal with this experience.”

Ms Cuatt said the Child Friendly Space was also a great service for parents. 

“It allows mums and dads to go and do the things they need to do like getting support or finding out more information about the fires, while knowing their children are being cared for. So far, we’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback,” she said.

Image: Simone Johns/Save the Children

Save the Children’s Child Friendly Spaces are providing support in a diversity of emergency settings all over the world. The main objectives of the spaces are to:

  • Protect children from physical harm and psychological distress in challenging environments  
  • Support children to process their experiences through play and activities 
  • Establish a sense of security, routine and normalcy after disruption 
  • Minimise the disruption to children's learning and development following a disaster 
  • Provide space for parents to focus on immediate needs as they rebuild their lives following a disaster
  • Identify vulnerable children and families and link them to complimentary services
For now, Save the Children staff in Tasmania remain on stand-by, should another Evacuation Centre require a safe place for children to play and recover. 

“We have an amazing group of dedicated staff in Tasmania who have a lot of fantastic skills to offer in a time like this,” says Ms Cuatt. “It’s great that we can put these skills and experience to good use to help children whose lives have been turned upside down because of the fires.”

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