Australian Red Cross releases Collective Trauma Guidelines

The guidelines outline best practice before, during and after a collective trauma event.

While emergency management agencies are well positioned to address physical safety needs during their response to various incidents, the traumatic impacts on individuals involved, as well as the wider community, are less understood.

The Australian Red Cross has responded to this concern by investigating current best practice when dealing with collective trauma events and has developed the Best Practice Guidelines: Supporting Communities Before, During and After Collective Trauma Event (PDF 4.14MB).

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 (2014); the Sydney Siege (2014); the Dreamworld theme park tragedy in Queensland (2016); and the attack on pedestrians in Bourke Street in Melbourne (2017) are examples of events that go beyond emergency incidents to become collective trauma events. Collective trauma events break the bonds between people and damage their sense of community by disrupting perceptions on public locations, routines and values.

Developed in conjunction with experts in emergency recovery, social work, psychology and sociology, the guidelines outline what emergency management agencies can do to mitigate the impacts of a collective trauma event before, during and after its occurrence. The guidelines are supported by case studies from Australia and across the world that provide real-world context.

The Red Cross identifies psychological first aid as best practice psychosocial support, and considers the effects of mainstream and social media around a collective trauma events and the role of messaging from leaders and public figures.

The guidelines aim to assist all organisations in their preparedness, response and recovery to collective trauma events and compliment the growing evidence base around the issue.