Family Matters


  • There is widespread recognition that families of ES workers are key to their wellbeing and operational sustainability.
  • It is challenging to reach families with information and support services.
  • ESF’s studies point to a lack of support, connection and mental health resources and education for families of ES workers.
  • Low mental health literacy and stigma inhibits early help seeking.
  • Families of ES workers have a role to play in helping people deal with work stress and demands.

ESFs approach to developing a Family Matters strategy is informed by the following studies:


Partners Workshops

Based on our popular Mental Health Matters Workshops comes an online workshop, specially tailored for the partners of emergency service volunteers. The workshops, hosted on Zoom, will be held in the evenings on the following dates:
  • Monday, 18 March
  • Thursday, 2 May
  • Monday, 5 August
  • Thursday, 24 October
If you are interested in attending one of the partners workshops, register your name and email below to receive a link to join.
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The Families Guide is a resource developed with funding from Emergency Management Victoria for families of Victorian Emergency Service volunteers.

“This resource is a great introduction to all families of Emergency Services workers. I wish I had had this so I could identify the changes in my husband before he got to his worst. I encourage all partners to read and learn about the Mental Health concerns of this line of work and begin to monitor your partner. You’ll see it before they do!”Courtney Daly, partner of an emergency service worker.

“The value of support from the families of effective emergency service people is immeasurable, particularly in the instance of volunteers. This guide provides solid information to assist the volunteering family. I am very thankful for the support of my own family, and that extends to all the families of the wonderful volunteers I have had the pleasure of working with over the years. These volunteer families work hard to keep communities safe and connected. Well done to you all.”Andrew Perry, Fire fighter and former Captain Yarck Rural Fire Brigade.


ESF acknowledges the support of the Victoria State Government in the development of the Families Guide.

Flourishing Families

One initiative of ESF’s new Family Matters strategy is a program called Flourishing Families. This was piloted in January 2024 in three locations in East Gippsland in partnership with Mackillop Seasons.

East Gippsland Flourishing Families program 

The Flourishing Families program brought together Emergency Services (ES) families from East Gippsland together in a fun and safe setting. This program, offered in partnership with MacKillop Seasons was a pilot program as part of ESF’s new Family Matters Strategy.

Two concurrent programs were run, one for adults and teenagers, and one for children aged 5-12.

Facilitated by

Dr Shannon Hood  

Emergency Services Foundation  

Shannon is a CFA volunteer, counsellor and clinical supervisor specialising in emergency services. Shannon was also embedded with volunteer fire fighting teams during multiple Black Saturday deployments and has an extensive career supporting the sector in NSW, the ACT, SA and now Victoria. He was also a SES volunteer for over a decade in South Australia. 

Wendy Ronalds  

MacKillop Seasons Community Resilience Officer (East Gippsland – Vic)  

Wendy’s career has seen her be a teacher, a chaplain and a trained Seasons Companion to many children and young people. She walks alongside them in their journey of grief and loss. Wendy feels blessed to be supporting the beautiful community of East Gippsland with MacKillop Seasons programs.

Godelieve Hofman-Verkuyl 

Disaster Recovery Lead 

Godelieve has over 20 years’ experience in the areas of family, child and youth support. Leading the MacKillop Seasons’ Disaster projects, Godelieve works closely with a team of Community Resilience Officers in NSW and Victoria to support impacted communities in the process of recovery, by identifying needs, skills, strategies and attitudes which assist in building resilience and preparedness.   

In partnership with

Supported by

Family Matters Strategy

There is widespread recognition that families of emergency service workers are key to their wellbeing and operational sustainability. Over recent years ESF has undertaken various studies to understand more fully how families can be best supported. A gap was revealed in relation to the provision of information about wellbeing and support services to families and widespread challenges in reaching families. The studies also showed that families want access to education and resources, as well as the ability to connect and acknowledgement.

The studies undertaken by ESF include:

ESF has used this information to inform the development of a new Family Matters strategy. The strategy has four pillars.

Pillar one awareness
  • To acknowledge the important role of families in supporting ES workers and therefore the sustainability of our emergency management operating model.
  • To improve reach to families of ES workers.
Pillar two connection
  • To create the opportunity for connection so family members don’t feel isolated.
Pillar three education
  • To enable and empower family members to be effective wellbeing support crew for their ES worker.
Pillar four operations
  • To help reduce the impact of operational activity on families.