7 May, 2021

Throughout the bushfire season of 2019/20, Bega Seventh-day Adventist Church partnered with ADRA to support their local and surrounding communities who were evacuating to escape the flames. Over one year on, the church members, led by Kylie Cullinan, are still deeply invested in helping the community recover.

An event tailored to nurture and teach coping strategies to women affected by the 2020 bushfires ran for the second time at Kianinny Bush Cottages on April 23-25.

The Sanctuary was a weekend long event organised by leadership coach and ADRA Australia volunteer Kylie Cullinan and supported by members of Bega Seventh-day Adventist Church.

“I thought why not run an event for women who have been affected by the fires that are living in caravans with drop toilets and no showers, they could come aside for a weekend to be nurtured.”

Kylie decided she wanted to serve the community by offering her coaching skills and said with the help of friends and local organisations the event was made possible.

“So many organisations helped it was wonderful,” Kylie said.

Kylie wanted to create an event that empowered women and rebuilt their belief in themselves about what they’ve overcome and can achieve.

“I think we need to remember 15 months down the track there are still a lot of people feeling the trauma, who are in difficult circumstances and are feeling frustrated and overwhelmed.”

As the event occurred during the pandemic, ADRA Australia supplied COVID-safe supplies such as thermometers and hand sanitiser to keep the volunteers and participants safe. ADRA also donated goods t-shirts for the participants, water bottles for volunteers and funding for participant gift bags goods and hot drink supplies.

Over the course of the weekend Kylie noticed women saying they didn’t feel alone anymore and feelings of gratitude.

“The women who arrived on Friday were different women that left on Sunday, you saw that sense of empowerment.”

The coaching seminars on the weekend, taught the women how the brain responds to trauma and some coping strategies to process it.

“The survival brain that keeps us going has no concept of time, we can say it’s been 15 months but for the brain it’s right in this very moment,” Kylie said.


The Sanctuary

The Sanctuary

Guest Chris Pauling said that in the following week she found herself using coping strategies that Kylie taught them.

“Not understanding the brain like a brain surgeon but understanding the concept of us being hyper alert and where that comes from,” Chris said.

Chris had been invited to come along with her daughter-in-law and although she didn’t know what to expect she was pleasantly surprised.

“We were welcomed by the most beautiful ladies and a little gift bag and blanket to keep us warm.” – Chris Pauling

Chris said the event hadn’t been about the fires but how they were all feeling about it, the weekend overall made her feel embraced.

“It was light, embracing, Kylie who ran it, what an angel, she cried as much as we did.”

Since coming home Chris has taken breaks to sit in the moment and practice the coping strategies which she finds very helpful, she was also able to pass on those skills to her family.

“One of my grandchildren was in a bad way on the weekend and my daughter in law and I were both able to explain to him ‘this is where you’re at honey, it’s okay, it’s okay and we’ll be okay’.”