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Liaise with bereaved family

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Be sensitive and discrete

The person in your school’s emergency response team with this responsibility needs to be discrete and sensitive.

Look at the family’s specific needs

Parents and carers might be:

  • separated or divorced
  • biological or non-biological
  • fostering
  • extended family or community.

As well, someone in the family might work at the school.

Look at the family’s specific needs. Think about contacting:

  • language translators
  • community elders.

Think about how and when to contact the family

In this time, it can be very varied how:

  • accessible the family are
  • willing and able they are to communicate.

This is influenced by many factors, including:

  • the relationship between the family and staff at the school
  • the family’s cultural or religious practices in coping with death or suicide
  • the level of extended family or community support the family can draw on
  • if any siblings attend the school.

If you can’t reach the family

If this happens, try to find someone to act as a go-between. This could be an extended family member or close family friend.

Offer condolences and support

Offer the condolences of the whole school community, if appropriate.

Let the family know:

  • the name of the main liaison person
  • if support is available at your school
  • about other support options for families
  • how you can support the student’s siblings for their return to school.

Talk about and respect the family’s wishes

Find out if the family want school representation at a funeral or service.

Meet the family’s wishes about support for any school-aged siblings.

Protect the family and their community

Tell the family that the school will refer to their child’s death as a ‘traumatic death’.

Try to minimise how often the family have to relay information about their child’s death.

Let the family know the media might try to contact them. Remind them they do not have to respond.

Let families know about the Coroner’s Court Counselling Services

This service offers counselling, information, and support.  It is offered by experienced social workers.

Family and friends can use this service, either by telephone or in person. Call on 8204 0600 - in office hours.

The services are free of charge.

The Coroner’s Court website is https://www.courts.sa.gov.au/going-to-court/court-locations/coroners-court/