Keynote Highlight – Professor Kevin Ronan, Foundation Professor in Psychology and Chair in Clinical Psychology, School of Health, Human and Social Sciences at CQUniversity Australia

The Australian & New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference continues to support the Disaster and Emergency Management community with a strong focus on natural disasters and 2015 marks the 4th year of the event. The ANZDM Conference will be held 4-5 May 2015 at Jupiters Gold Coast with the theme of EARTH; FIRE AND RAIN.

Presentation Title: Child and family disaster preparedness:  Are we helping our most vulnerable when disaster strikes?

Children have been identified as the most vulnerable demographic group in disasters.  Equally, preliminary research supports the idea of children being motivated to learn about disasters and disaster risk reduction.  This presentation will present a summary of international research, including findings that support programs that help children and their families prepare for hazardous events and those that challenge the notion that these programs will work when most needed.  It will also summarise a current program of Bushfire and Natural Hazards-supported research that is building on research to date, including solving some identified problems linked to effectiveness and large scale implementation.

kevin-ronanProfessor Kevin Ronan is Foundation Professor in Psychology and Chair in Clinical Psychology, School of Health, Human and Social Sciences at CQUniversity Australia.  He is also Chair of the Disaster Reference Group of the Australian Psychological Society.  Kevin as a clinical psychologist who specialises in hazards and disasters, problems of youth and families (e.g., effects of disasters including trauma; conduct disorder; anxiety disorders; child maltreatment), schizophrenia, and program outcome evaluation.

He is senior author of a book called “Promoting Community Resilience to Disasters: The Role for Schools, Youth, and Families” (2005, Springer, New York).  As the title of this book would indicate, and along with many colleagues, one major part of his research program has focused on the role of youth, families, schools and other community networks in promoting community prevention and preparedness for disasters.

In addition to work in the Prevention and Preparedness phase, his practice, research and policy advocacy also continues in the Response and Recovery phases.  After recent natural disasters in Australia, he has been involved with numerous psychosocial response and recovery efforts, in his role as Chair of the Australian Psychological Society’s (APS) Disaster Reference Group.   This has included work through partnerships the APS has with the Australian Red Cross and the Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health.  It has also included local efforts.  One example is a new university psychology clinic that is part of a clinical psychology training program that he started and that offered free services for 2010-11 flood affected residents, underwritten through a partnership with a local Rotary group.  Another was spending a week in Bundaberg following the 2013 floods there, coordinating and working in tandem with other psychologists and with the Australian Red Cross.

In terms of policy advocacy, he was after the 2010-11 summer of disasters in Australia part of a submission to the Australian Senate on development and implementation of early warning systems for disasters, following up that submission in August 2011 with an invitation to provide evidence to the Senate.