Saturday, November 19, 2011

Responding To Crisis And Disaster - CIMA Conference

This week I attended the Crisis Intervention and Management Australasia's (CIMA) 6th Biennial Conference in Melbourne, and was totally inspired by the work being done, and the learning shared, from around the world, through the lived experience and from working with people in, and recovering from a traumatic event.  Hearing from people doing the kind of work I aspire to, and from people who have learnt and were sharing learnings from their own personal experiences of an event like the Black Saturday Bushfires, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and the Queensland floods, was awe inspiring.

The Conference was held at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre, which is such a great space along South Wharf.  The food for the two days was totally sensational, but the mingling and networking was clearly a highlight.  I managed to catch up with my lecturer from last year, who was a Keynote Speaker for the Conference, and is also the Deputy Head of the Social Work Department at uni, plus my current tutor was there, in addition to people I had met when I attended one of CIMA's courses last year. 

The opening address echoed the sentiments of many of my fellow AYAD Cambodia crew, about the reverse culture shock of coming home from places so very different.  The difficulties in relating, and fitting back in, and finding interest in the mundane.  He, Andrew MacLeod, suggested to the industry that an RSL-like community group for Humanitarian workers is needed for worker recovery through shared narrative, just like the returned Veterans do so well.

We then heard from, and saw footage, of the Helicopter Rescue Operators winching people to safety amid the rushing, flooding waters in Grantham earlier this year.  Amazing!  Personal accounts of mental health professionals assisting people in crisis on a ship in Japan after the big waves, to developing peer support programs with staff in Singaporean hospitals, and setting up community groups to renew towns devastated by Black Saturday. 

One of the highlights of the Conference for me was hearing Dr Rob Gordon speak - an industry leader in the treatment of people who have experienced crisis and disaster, and best practice development, he spoke of his developing model of Personal Recovery.  Powerful and engaging, with funny personal stories, he was brilliant and inspiring.  And I even used his teaching from this week in my work with a client with PTSD yesterday, at a review.

Another amazing talk across the 2 days was that presented by the ABC Local Radio journalist and broadcaster behind the development of Recovery Broadcasting, delivering communications, and a chance for community personal shared stories.  Allowing communities after Black Saturday and the Queensland floods connect, be connected and heard, this form of broadcasting is assisting recovery by being part of it.  This was a really remarkable presentation and discussion, and amazing work they are doing!

I had not been to a conference before, and feel like it marks my emergence into my professional standing and confidence.  Hearing the current thinking, research and treatment methods from around the world, and feeling part of this group of people taking it away and using it in their practice, was so very inspiring.  

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