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Emergency hubs get sensory kits for kids who need extra support
Date of Issue: 
April 27, 2023

Families and carers of children with a disability have welcomed the addition of a Sensory Kit, used to help children struggling with a diagnosed sensory condition, at each of East Gippsland’s Emergency Relief Centres.

Each kit contains sensory tools and resources that can be used to help lessen a child’s anxiety level,using tools that link with the body’s senses like seeing, touching and hearing. Visuals, breathing techniques, small tents and noise-cancelling headphones are among items that can be found in the kits.

The Children with Additional Needs Working Group (CWANWG) has successfully worked with East Gippsland Shire Council’s Emergency Management Team to improve experiences for such children who find themselves at a community Assembly Area or Emergency Relief Centre.

With the assistance and support of Council, members of the CWANWG attended each of the eight designated ERC sites across the shire to take photos of each location.

Funded by the East Gippsland Community Foundation as part of a broader grant, CWANWG has assembled Sensory Kits to be placed at all Emergency Relief Centres in East Gippsland, comprising Bairnsdale, Buchan, Cann River, Lakes Entrance, Mallacoota, Omeo, Orbost and Paynesville.

Two kits will also be available for communities on an as-needed basis.

“We’re thrilled to be able to offer the kit to families and carers of children who have a disability and find themselves with nowhere else to go other than a Relief Centre,” CWANWG chair Kirsten Van Diggele said.

“In the middle of chaos, it’s hard to know what to take with you when you must evacuate. This is why we have developed these kits – to make sure the transition is a little easier for these families,” Ms Van Diggele said.

East Gippsland Shire Mayor Cr Mark Reeves said Council does a lot of work with emergency relief agencies, and it was particularly pleased to back this initiative.

"We never want to experience an emergency such as the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires again, but if we do, initiatives such as the Sensory Kits will make life a little easier for many families across the shire,” Cr Reeves said.

“When we are aware of and cater for the needs of a diverse community, it improves outcomes for all people in our community.

“I thank the Children with Additional Needs Working Group for making this important work happen.”

As part of the funding, individual social stories have been developed for each of the Emergency Relief Centres. Social Stories provide clear, scripted information about the social situation a child might encounter in an Emergency Relief Centre, and outline why they happen and what typical responses might be,to help reduce anxiety in children.

“A Social Story can be really helpful to calm any nerves or help transition children to a new place they may have not been before. We have worked with Kate Pemberton, from Communikate Speech Therapy, to help us develop all eight stories for each Relief Centre,” Ms Van Diggele said.

As well as being available as a part of the Sensory Kit, the Social Stories will be available on the CWANWG website,which means that people travelling through East Gippsland to an Emergency Relief Centre, can now access the relevant social story to read to a child on the way.

“We’re grateful for the funding that has been made available by the East Gippsland Community Foundation to help us continue our work for children in our community. We know this will make a huge difference to help lessen the impact of a big unknown for many little people with a disability,” Ms Van Diggele said.

The Children with Additional Needs Working Group comprises a membership of over 50families, carers, service providers and organisations - all trying to improve the lives of children living with a disability in East Gippsland.

Meetings are held every third Thursday of the month from 10am-12pm and is open to everyone.

For more information on CWANWG or to offer assistance, email or visit

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