University of Melbourne

Strengthening children and families in disaster and emergency recovery


During the last ten years the Collier Charitable Fund has donated over $1million to the University of Melbourne to enable researchers to deliver a diverse range of initiatives that have made positive, long-lasting impacts in the community. The outcomes of these projects have included helping doctors improve the diagnosis and treatment of serious medical conditions, and assisting educators to understand how classroom environments can improve children’s learning and comprehension.

This year Collier is proud to be partnering with Gandel Philanthropy and the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust to support a unique project that is helping children and families recover from the trauma of disasters and major emergencies.

The project is an exciting collaboration between the University of Melbourne, Australian Red Cross, Phoenix Australia: Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, Victorian Department of Education and Training and community stakeholders.

Why is this project needed?

The need for this project was first identified in the ‘Beyond Bushfires: Community Resilience and Recovery’ study (2010-2016) led by Professor Lisa Gibbs from the University’s Child Health and Wellbeing Unit. The study, which involved over 1,000 participants across Victoria, examined the impact of disasters on community members’ mental health and wellbeing. As Professor Gibbs explains:

“No-one plans to put children in the middle of a disaster or emergency, but unfortunately they are still caught up in these inherently unpredictable risk environments.

“Children who were confronted by the terror of approaching fires were at a much greater risk of mental health conditions and the many disruptions in their homes and schools also impacted their ongoing learning.

“We realised there was a large gap in services and resources to minimize the long-term impact of trauma on children – and we could help fill this gap.”

How will this project help build resilient communities?

This innovative collaboration will lead to the development of a trusted, accessible package of resources that will upgrade existing resources and change the way services are provided across Victoria and, long-term, across the country.

“This much-needed package – which will include professional training for service providers, school-based resources and family resources – will provide direction on how to address the impacts of disasters and other major emergencies on child mental health and wellbeing, family function and positive parenting.”

What will be the impact of Collier’s support?

“Without the support of organisations such as the Collier Charitable Fund, Gandel Philanthropy and the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, my team simply wouldn’t have the resources to implement a project of this size and scope.

“Philanthropic investment is crucial in helping universities deliver services to those in the community who need them the most. Thanks to the support of these organisations, we have the opportunity to make a real difference – when disaster strikes, we will be there to help communities recover and thrive.”