I wasn’t sure if I was going to be writing these words. I wasn’t sure if this blog had a future, as at the end of last year i didn’t have the energy to think let alone write. And I wasn’t sure if I had anything useful to say anymore. As you’d all know, last year was a pretty challenging year, with seemingly one thing after another. But with a great GP and psychologist, supportive family and friends, and an incredibly restorative break over summer, i have returned a new person, with a new lease on life, and clarity. And recently i have had a couple people comment on how they enjoy the blog, and I can see people are still reading it, even if I have not been writing. So, here I am, back.
I have been looking at my work goals, with a bit of a framework that I read in Louise Harms terrific book, Understanding Trauma and Resilience. There are four areas of this framework
- Sense of competence, control and pleasure in work
- reviewing a personal sense of death and illness
- .Focus on lifestyle arrangements, focusing on stress relieving activities, distinguishing between personal and professional
- Reviewing motivation for working in the area
These have really forced me to think. Do I want to keep working in this area?. What’s my motivation for doing this work? It’s not just simply “I want to help” I feel at this stage of my career it is really about truly understanding how awful the long term impacts of disaster are, and bring about societal change to embed this. I am also motivated by being a mentor, a sounding board, a reflector of ideas, a learner, transferer of knowledge. I cringe at being called an expert. I recall going to a masterclass with Bill Frisell, my favourite jazz guitarist. He came on stage and sat nervously and looked at us all. “Um, this is a masterclass. We all play guitar, right” “Yes” we all nodded ” well, in our way we are all masters” He then proceeded to play something extraordinary. I felt awful recently at making one of my colleagues feel uncomfortable in my presence as he was running a debrief for a awful incident I was involved in. We are all people with experiences and approaches. The debrief was fabulous, beautifully and sensitively run. Helped me immensely.
Working with my psychologist, he has helped me understand what my role is in all of this, and helped me work on my self esteem. “You say “we” a lot” he said, but it was you that was the key note speaker at an international conference, they sought you out, and it was you that led that book chapter, published internationally. You need to let the “I” come to the front a bit. Which is a bit challenging for male that grew up in Australian suburbs, in the 70s, where you were always reminded if you did get ahead of yourself.
What I really enjoy in this work is the extraordinary people that I work with, the staff, the volunteers. People who are passionate about what we do, and always looking for new ways of doing things, because they care. This is where I like to be a reflector, as it’s often helping people hone great ideas, like the work my colleagues Karen and Clare are doing in the west, using population surveys to determine levels of preparedness, then wrapping prep activities around communities, or what Michael and Anne are doing in South Australia, creating a new language and conversation around people with less capacity, and building a positive framework to support people, or Lea and Sue in Victoria reviving the terrific Redicommunity program. The list goes on.
I’ve reflected before that when I started in this field, I would not be able to have written the words above, because these people wouldn’t be working on these projects. There were only a handful of us.
I was in Perth recently for a workshop which was focusing on catastrophic disasters. Many of the key issues being worked upon were, how to promote community connection, how to recognise and support the psychosocial issues, how to support people who may be more at risk. It was a fabulous workshop, and by the end of it we were overthrowing the dominant governance system. At the end of it, the state’s deputy commissioner said “we have to remember, this is all about the people”. At a similar workshop 15 years ago, those words would not have been used.
And I take a little bit of pride in thinking I have influenced this shift in conversation in this extraordinarily important area.