There are times when our sense of being safe in the world is profoundly shaken.

Many of us in Melbourne experienced this jolt when we heard that people had been killed or badly hurt by an out-of-control driver in Bourke Street Mall. As we rushed to check on family and friends, our relief soon gave way to sorrow for the people who had lost loved ones, and anger at the person responsible.

When a tragedy happens that we feel personally connected to, we often experience a powerful need to do something. We want to reach out and help those who have been hurt. After the tragedy in Bourke Street, we heard stories of the people who tried to help those injured, and the many people who sent money and flowers and messages of support to survivors. Some people also felt a strong need to express anger, writing articles or posts on social media to demand everything from tougher laws to social service reforms.

But once this first urgent need to reach out or speak out fades, we may wonder what we can do to change things. Often the discussion in our media ends up being largely about holding people accountable, demanding that governments change laws to stop potential offenders. But how can we first avoid people becoming so desperate and hopeless that they no longer even care for their own life or the lives of others? We all want a safe community. But because we also want a community where each of us can be hopeful about our future, and can trust that others will help when we need it, it may be that first instinctive need to reach out to others that holds the potential for the greatest change.

If you want to help create a safer, more hopeful community, there are things you can do every day that make a difference:

Look after yourself. Before you can help others, you may need to show care and kindness to yourself, especially if you feel hopeless and despairing after a tragedy, or if it has triggered old feelings of grief and powerlessness. 

Connect with family and friends. Hold space for family and friends who need to express sadness or anger about what has happened. Invite conversations about what you can do to create change in your own networks and communities.   

Find ways to connect with people in your community. When people spend time together it helps us to build trust, make connections, and strengthen resilience as a community. 

Don’t let living with a disability stop you. No matter what energy level you have right now, you can still be part of creating a hopeful community.

Support organisations that build community. If a tragedy has made you want to help, consider donating or volunteering to organisations that help give hope to people in need

Emma Ladd
Wellways General Manager of Quality and Service Development