What is disaster resilience education?

Disaster resilience education (DRE) is the development of knowledge and skills which enable learners to assess danger in the environment and take protective action before, during and after a potential disaster or emergency event. Also known as disaster risk reduction, DRE enables learners to identify hazards in context and explore opportunities to reduce the harmful impacts of disasters on communities. Disaster resilience education is informed by the risk management cycle and encompasses learning linked to prevention, preparedness, response and recovery phases.

Australian schools have an important role to play in the implementation of DRE for the benefit of their students and the community. Schools and youth organisations provide vital hubs for collaborative learning, social engagement and information sharing, bringing together diverse communities with a common interest in the safety and development of young people.

The primary aims of DRE for children and young people are to:

  • build knowledge, skills and capabilities to reduce the risk of disaster
  • promote community engagement for disaster resilience through collaborative learning, information sharing and practical action.

Effective DRE empowers learners to:

  • recognise hazards and conditions that threaten the safety of their environment
  • plan a course of action to follow in a disaster or emergency event
  • participate in decision making related to their own safety
  • apply practical skills for keeping safe during and after a disaster or emergency
  • engage in activities that promote mental health and wellbeing
  • participate in personal and community recovery in the aftermath of a disaster or other traumatic event.

Effective DRE supports schools and educators to:

  • develop resilient, confident, successful and responsible learners
  • address Australian Curriculum learning content in Health & Physical Education; Geography; Science; Civics & Citizenship; and the General Capabilities
  • engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures
  • connect with experts in the science and geography of disasters
  • collaborate with practitioners in health and emergency services
  • engage with community groups for authentic and purposeful learning
  • explore global education themes of sustainability, climate change and human rights.

The Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience (AIDR) Education for Young People Program promotes the development of disaster resilience education (DRE) as a vital component in children and young peoples' learning. This resonates with the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience which advocates for the inclusion of this type of knowledge in school education programs.

DRE is guided by the following principles:

  • Children have a right to protection and care, as well as to seek and receive information
    Articles 3, 13.1, UNCRC, 1989
  • Disasters rank in the top ten major fears of childhood — educating children about disaster risk reduction helps them and their communities
    Ronan, 2015, Fire Australia
  • Children and young people can be enabled as 'agents of change,' depending on their capabilities
    Towers, 2016, Disaster Resilience Education Practice Framework
  • Disaster management policy and practice can better meet children's needs when they are involved in decision making
    GADRRRES, 2017, Comprehensive School Safety Framework

International perspectives

Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction & Resilience in the Education Sector

The Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience in the Education Sector (GADRRRES) is an alliance of partners working to ensure that all schools are safe from disaster risks, and all learners live in a culture of safety. GADRRRES is a multi-stakeholder mechanism composed of UN agencies, international organisations and global networks.

The Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools

A GADRRRES resource, the Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools (WISS) offers technical assistance and particular expertise to support interested governments in implementing comprehensive school safety (CSS) at the national level, and promotes good practices and achievements in safe school implementation for replication in other countries and regions.

Psychosocial support for young people

Childhood trauma reactions: a guide for teachers from preschool to Year 12

Teachers are in a unique position to identify children who are experiencing difficulties following a natural disaster. This resource package is therefore designed to assist teachers in becoming more attuned to identifying emotional and behavioural difficulties in their students following a traumatic event, as every young person reacts differently. This includes information on what teachers can do to prevent the likelihood of children developing long-term adverse reactions.

This resource package is comprised of a main teacher guide, plus a series of tip sheets for use by teachers with children from preschool age through to adolescents. 

The guide was originally funded by the Australian Government and developed for the Australian Child and Adolescent Trauma, Loss and Grief Network (ACATLGN). ACATLGN is a network that works with a team of experts to bring together evidence-based resources and research in order to make them more accessible to those working with, or interested in, children and young people who have been affected by trauma and grief. 

School Recovery Tool Kit

The School Recovery Took Kit is part of a series of resources within the Children's Futures: Positive Strategies for Bushfire Recovery project. The resources have been developed with advice from members of the ACATLGN after consultation with principals and teachers. They are evidence-informed to address the specific needs of school communities affected by the Victorian bushfires in February 2009.

The Tool Kit addresses self care and creating a supportive school environment, and provides guidance on managing responses to challenging events.