Help for those affected by fires

By Greg Whitby, 12 February 2020
Greg Whitby AM is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.


Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

We have all been affected by the terrible bushfires that have had so many of us glued to our ‘Fires near me’ app over spring and summer. Such stories of loss and despair, but also ones of inspiration and generosity. The last four months have reminded me, again, of how important schools are to our community. They are places where many people turn when they are confused, uncertain or seeking comfort.

The toll that bushfires have on the wellbeing of young people can’t be underestimated. Schools are well prepared to support their students and staff manage the complex emotions that are caused by events like bushfires. And teachers are so great at spotting those who are feeling sad or fragile about what is happening, either checking in with them or putting them in touch with a school counsellor. How good are our teachers!

I was moved recently when one of our schools got in contact to tell me they are keen to make a long-term commitment to one of the small government schools on the NSW South Coast that was lost to the fires. All of our schools are currently planning fundraising activities that, hopefully, will make life just a bit easier for affected communities. I know this is happening in schools and workplaces right across the country.

Some parents are also looking for advice about how to talk to their kids about these matters. A website I found recently that had some great information is The Student Wellbeing Hub at Headspace ( and Kids Helpline ( have some good stuff as well.

Passionate and committed young people and staff everywhere are standing up for those who need our support. We salute them.

Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
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