My memory says I was young when as a regional journalist I started writing about big things.

Murder. Grief. Terrorism attacks.

I don’t remember being asked if I ‘needed to speak to anyone’. Maybe I was. Regardless, I had in place my own psychological support to cry through the things I had seen, heard, written and felt. It was difficult to talk about because realistically it hadn’t happened to me. So why did I feel so much?

But there were murder scenes, gruesome evidence, interviews with survivors of rape, tears for the fallen. I’ve been watching some of the current reporters talking about the impact of their work on their mental health. As a police rounds and court reporter who did death knocks, I was a ball of anxiety, nervous I had not appropriately represented a legal argument, or the personal story of someone’s loss. I was also a ball of empathy.

In the newsroom, we used black humour. I had good friends but preferred to use them to forget. In the end I burnt out, having learned a lot but with a big personal toll. Everyone will make a choice about how they handle particularly taxing situations but when it comes to workplaces, support should be a non-negotiable.

I learned that I needed to come first. It’s an ongoing lesson.

#wellbeing #work #storytelling #content #journalism

In November I was asked to chat to council communicators for a Municipal Association of Victoria sponsored forum about social media and communication in emergencies. It was a pleasure to wear two hats, in my former role leading emergency management communications and working as a senior officer with a busy metropolitan council.

Councils are closest to community, and council communicators and engagement staff know their stuff. While emergencies are often far from their minds in an every day sense, they play such an integral role before, during and after.

The differences in geographic locations and risks across Victoria can be fast. But some of the challenges are the same; engaging busy communities, or really diverse communities, understanding their own responsibilities and where to get information, stretched resourcing, and how to work within an emergency management sector that to some came across like a private club and a language all of its own.

Even as they spoke about their own circumstances and experiences, I was taking notes for myself.

And in sharing my own experiences coordinating and leading communication planning before, during and after some of Victoria’s major emergencies in the past ten years I learned even more about what Council’s offer, their challenges and their focus – which is their communities.

Thanks to Deakin’s Ross Mongahan and Mav’s Debbie Jones for the opportunity to both share, and to learn.