Emerging Minds

Supporting secondary students following a disaster or community trauma

About the course

This course was developed by Emerging Minds in partnership with Beyond Blue, Be You.


Following a natural disaster or community trauma, a young person’s secondary school remains an important protective environment for supporting their recovery.

This can feel overwhelming for educators, who are often impacted themselves and are required to coordinate a variety of supports and services for students and families – in addition to their regular role within the school.

This course has been developed to provide educators with a foundational understanding of their role in the recovery process. It offers a practical framework and tips for supporting young people in the immediate aftermath, short-term and long-term following a disaster or community trauma – as well as preparedness skills and knowledge you can use in your daily practice and programs.

This course is part of the Community Trauma Toolkit, originally co-produced by ANU and Emerging Minds.

Who is this course for?

This course is for secondary school educators working with young people affected by natural disasters (e.g. fires, floods, storms, drought) and community trauma such as terrorism, critical incidents, community violence and the impacts of pandemics.

It has been specifically designed for secondary school educators and is based on their experiences. If you are an early childhood educator, please visit Supporting children in early learning following a disaster or community trauma. If you are a primary school educator, see Supporting primary students following a disaster or community trauma.

Learning outcomes

As you progress through this course, you will be able to:

  • understand the potential impact of trauma caused by natural disasters or community trauma on young people
  • recognise young people’s responses to natural disasters and community trauma in the immediate aftermath, the short-term and the long-term after the event
  • identify how schools can support students and families to recover from a natural disaster or community trauma in the immediate aftermath, the short-term, and the long-term; and
  • incorporate trauma-responsive strategies into the educator role and school community following natural disasters or community trauma.

A framework for supporting resilience and recovery

A diagram with four green circles representing the four parts of the framework: Educator wellbeing, daily approaches, monitoring progress, and activating support. In the centre is a blue circle labelled child wellbeing and learning.

This course uses a framework to guide you through the steps for supporting young people following a traumatic event.

The four phases of the framework are:

  • Educator wellbeing
  • Daily approaches
  • Monitoring progress; and
  • Activating support.


Experiencing a natural disaster personally, and/or being a secondary school educator in a community that has recently experienced a natural disaster or community trauma, can be overwhelming.

It is important to take care of yourself and your family by creating strategies that promote resilience, and by putting boundaries in place to ensure your own safety. This will allow you to provide effective, long-term support to children during overwhelming adversities.

As you work through this course, it is important to be aware of your own emotional responses. Please follow the self-care tips below and seek help if needed:

  • We do not recommend undertaking the entire course in one sitting. Give yourself some breaks. Even if you don’t feel like you need a break, it’s a good idea to take one anyway and come back later.
  • Be aware of your emotions as you progress through the course and take action if you are starting to feel stressed or worried about your emotional reaction.
  • Be aware of your emotional responses after you complete the course.

If you find you are struggling please seek help, speak to your supervisor, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, or SANE Australia on 1800 18 7263.


For the purpose of this course, the term parent encompasses the biological and adoptive parents of a young person as well as individuals who have chosen to take up a primary or shared responsibility in raising that young person.

Social and emotional wellbeing refers to the way a person thinks and feels about themselves and others. It incorporates behavioural and emotional strengths, and is a facet of young people’s development.1

In broad terms, social and emotional wellbeing is the foundation for physical and mental health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is a holistic concept which results from a network of relationships between individuals, family, kin and Community. It also recognises the importance of connection to Land, culture, spirituality and ancestry, and how these affect the individual.2

Social and emotional wellbeing is also used by some people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, who may have differing concepts of mental health and mental illness.3

Social and emotional development involves the development of skills required to:

  • identify and understand one’s feelings
  • read and understand the emotional states of other people
  • manage strong emotions and how they are expressed
  • regulate behaviour
  • develop empathy; and
  • establish and maintain relationships.4

A traumatic event is any incident that causes physical, emotional, spiritual, or psychological harm.5

A community trauma is any traumatic event that affects an entire community of people.


The information in this course is based on the following four timeframes of a natural disaster or community trauma:

  • Preparedness
  • Immediate aftermath
  • Short-term recovery; and
  • Long-term recovery.

It focuses on strategies to support young people in the immediate aftermath, short-term and long-term.


NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) accreditation will be available following the release of their new guidelines and processes later this year.


  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2012). Social and emotional wellbeing: Development of a Children’s Headline Indicator. Cat. no. PHE 158. Canberra: AIHW. Available here.
  2. Commonwealth of Australia. (2017). National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce Strategic Framework 2016-2023. Canberra: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, p.6. Available here.
  3. Everymind. (2020). Understanding mental health and wellbeing. Newcastle: Everymind. Available here.
  4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2009). A picture of Australia’s children 2009. Cat. no. PHE 112. Canberra: AIHW. Available here.
  5. Cafasso, J. & Kim, S. (MD). (2017). Traumatic events. Healthline. Available here.

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