Blue Labyrinth recovery program for fire affected residents

A specially tailored program to assist Blue Mountains residents process the emotional impact of the recent bushfires has been organised by Blue Labyrinth Bush Retreat at Woodford.

After the Fires: Reflection, Recovery, Renewal will be offered as a workshop four times throughout the months of February and March by local facilitators Chandu Bickford and Donna Mulhearn.

Ms Mulhearn said the program aims to help residents come together and feel supported.

The program will be offered free of charge thanks to support from Blue Mountains Quakers. It aims to provide a safe space for reflection, for participants to feel grounded and begin the journey of recovery.

"Throughout this long, difficult summer, many in the community have been feeling weary, anxious, sad and distressed," she said.

"Having to remain on constant alert, checking the status of nearby fires, making difficult decisions, preparing to evacuate, re-locating the family, has been intense and exhausting."

Ms Mulhearn said in these situations post-traumatic stress can emerge, so early action is vital in the medium and long term.

"Being impacted first-hand or watching others (including animals) suffering has left many traumatised and overwhelmed with emotion. Grief over the impact of the fires on people, property, wildlife and the land will be deep and ongoing."

She said the program will include "sharing, storytelling, personal reflection and writing, mindfulness/visualisation exercises and practical planning for the future".

"It is important to gather together as a community ... to take time to pause, listen and acknowledge the issues and feelings raised by the fires."

A personal recovery resources kit will be collated and given to each participant with further resources and information about ongoing mental health support. The program is not suitable for children, but information about resources to assist children will be provided.

The 3.6 hectare Blue Labyrinth Bush Retreat was itself impacted by fires in November 2019. About 80 per cent of the property burnt, but all structures were saved after Rural Fire Service crews fought the fire for 16 hours.

The workshops will be held on two Sundays: February 23 and March 15 from 10am-2pm; and two evenings: Tuesday March 10 and Tuesday March 31 from 5pm - 8.30pm. More workshops will be organised if there is demand. To register email or phone 4758 7360.