"Storm birds are believed by the aboriginal people of different continents to foreshadow coming storms by their calls or behaviour. There are many eyewitness accounts of birds and animals migrating before seismic waves, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, thereby remaining unharmed by these catastrophic events. Western science does not accept the idea of a “sixth sense”, believing instead that animals and birds have more highly developed, but known, sensory perceptions that pick up vibrations or changes in atmospheric pressure or magnetic fields to foretell coming catastrophes in a way that humans are not able to. Nonetheless they remain unable to explain within the framework of known forms of communication the everyday extraordinary behaviour of starlings in synchronised flight.”
Rebecca Anweiler Artist
Stormbirds® is a small group program that is based on the belief that change, loss and grief are a normal and natural part of life. It provides the opportunity for children and young people to examine how natural disasters, such as bushfires, floods, cyclones and earthquakes have impacted on their lives.
Stormbirds® supports young people in understanding and managing the changes they experience as a result of a natural disaster. The program enables them to develop coping, problem solving and decision making skills in an atmosphere of like-to-like peer support. Two levels of the program cater for the different needs of younger and older children.
Teachers, professionals and volunteers undertake one day training to equip them to facilitate the Stormbirds® four session program. The training enables adults to learn about children’s normal and natural reactions to natural disasters, and prepares them to facilitate the safe and creative processes used in the Stormbirds® program to explore change, feelings and memories, support networks, and looking toward the future with hope. The one day workshop also allows teachers to process their own experience of the disaster and its impacts on both their students and their community.
Stormbirds® has been used successfully by schools after the Victorian bushfires in 2009, Cyclone Yasi and the Queensland floods in 2011 and by schools in Christchurch, New Zealand after the earthquakes. In these settings nearly 2000 children have participated in the program. Consistent with Good Grief’s commitment to ongoing program evaluation, data has been collected from over 300 students and focus group discussions have been conducted with the trained teachers after program implementation.
In 2011-2012 Professor Brett McDermott from the Statewide Mater Child and Youth Recovery and Resilience Team in Brisbane monitored and evaluated the implementation of Stormbirds® after the Queensland floods. In summary, data from pre and post testing revealed that the program made a statistically significant difference to children on a number of variables including “feeling safe”, “feeling OK”, and “things are getting better”. Students also recorded positive changes on the variables “people can help me”, “I can talk about my feelings”, and “I can solve problems and make things better.”
Stormbirds® in your school or community
Through the generosity of Good Grief’s many supporters, Stormbirds® training and materials are available free of charge to schools and agencies supporting children and young people after a natural disaster. Please contact the Good Grief National Office for more details about accessing Stormbirds® for your school or community. Donations in support of this program are gratefully received and can be made here.
“I’ve learned that even when stuff gets hard you’ve still got people to look after you.”
(Primary student, Christchurch, New Zealand)