As the anniversary of Australia's worst peacetime disaster approaches, expert guidance on how to reflect without retraumatising.
Photo: William West / AFP / Getty Images:
A farmer inspects the damage done to his property in Labertouche, Australia after the Black Saturday bushfires in February 2009. The fires were the worst peacetime disaster in Australian history, and their effects on individuals and communities will be a story for years to come.
Australia's worst natural disaster struck Victoria on Feb. 7, 2009, when the Black Saturday bushfires killed 173 people, injured at least 400 and affected countless thousands more. One year later, survivors and their communities reflect on lost loved ones, burned homes and physical and psychological injuries that continue to shape their lives, even as they cease to make headlines. News organisations writing the "anniversary story" can help make this time of reflection a healing one, but only if they consider how to report as respectfully and accurately as possible.
The Dart Centre has gathered lessons from other tragic anniversaries — 9/11, the Omagh bombing, Hurricane Katrina and the murder of Matthew Shepard — lessons from covering the bushfires themselves and general resources for covering traumatic events.
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Cait McMahon PhD (Cand.) is a registered psychologist and fulltime managing director of Dart Centre Asia Pacific, with headquarters in Melbourne, Australia and activities throughout the Asia Pacific region. McMahon has been interested in the nexus of journalism and trauma since working as staff counsellor at The Age newspaper in Melbourne, Australia in the mid ‘80’s and 90’s. This interest resulted in postgraduate research in the area in 1993 with subsequent publications.