How can we best support our children and young people in the wake of natural disaster?
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Forbes Public School counsellor Sophie Limbert has been awarded a scholarship to travel internationally to find out.
Ms Limbert, who also works with Forbes High School and Eugowra Public School, has been awarded the NSW Premier's Anika Foundation Youth Depression Awareness Scholarship.
She will use it to study natural disaster intervention programs and their impact on long-term mental health outcomes for students.
Ms Limbert worked with all three school communities in the wake of the 2022 flood events. With the insight she's gained working with students over the year since, she is eager to look at what schools around the world do.
Schools are so central to our children's lives and that held true in the wake of last year's flooding, and Ms Limbert wants to ensure they're as well equipped as they possibly can be to support students.
"In one sense, schools are at the epicentre of recovery post-disaster as a lot of them become evacuation centres, the place you go to get resources," Ms Limbert said, with Eugowra Public School one such case for the community there.
Students from all three schools were displaced, lost homes and possessions. Students from Forbes Public also lost their classrooms and were welcomed in at Forbes High in a program that's already been acknowledged with a NSW Education Secretary's Award for School Achievement.
The Department's specialist trauma counsellor was brought to the central west to work with students, and Rural Aid's Storm Birds program rolled out in the months afterward.
Ms Limbert hopes she will be able to look at the long-term effects of some of the intervention programs used internationally: in New Zealand following earthquakes; in the United States following tornados; in Canada following wildfires.
There is also the full breadth of ages from kinder to Year 12 to consider, with the different areas she's hoping to travel offering that opportunity.
Ms Limbert will have about five weeks for the study tour, then a number of weeks after that to bring her findings together.
She'll then present those to schools and teachers, as well as through the Anika Foundation, which was established in 2005 to raise funds for the purposes of supporting research into adolescent depression and suicide.
"It will be good for schools to have that knowledge to support (their communities) even more than they already do," she says.
The Premier's Teacher Scholarship recipients were presented at a reception at The Mint on 17 October 2023.
NSW Department of Education Secretary, Murat Dizdar, has praised recipients of the 2024 Premier's Teacher Scholarship as outstanding educators who are transforming the lives of students.
Mr Dizdar said the scholarships provided an excellent opportunity for teachers to collaborate with other world-class educators and expand their own knowledge and expertise.
"I'm proud of our public school educators in NSW who are deeply committed to ensuring our 800,000 students belong, succeed and thrive in public schools," Mr Dizdar said.
"These scholarships are a great opportunity for our outstanding educators to continue to develop their skills and achieve the best learning outcomes for our students."
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