PRIA MasterClass: Communicating when Tragedy Strikes

From the Lindt Café Siege to a coroner’s inquest on wrongful death, from merciless fires to senseless gun violence and from healthcare errors to domestic homicide – tough times need special communication.

Brush up skills on how to; respond quickly, be empathetic, set priorities, support communities, handle grief, negotiate boards and respond to lawyers. Hundreds of communicators help devastated victims and communities every day - make sure your team is ready just in case.

  • Learn about the legal, insurance and psychological issues that come into play when working with people affected by the ultimate tragedy.
  • Explore case studies on how to respond positively, maintain empathy, convey concerns, and to be a first responder to crisis involving complex stakeholders.
  • Plan to look after your own wellbeing when handling the ultimate issue – this is crucial to being a great communicator in the toughest times.

The final interactive workshop session of the day will be led by the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, which works with PRIA and media organisations on guidelines for publishing and disclosing suicide and other issues. Many organisations have policies to handle these situations, and this session will help participants to check and update their approaches.

This unique master class will be led by people experienced in dealing with the most tragic situations. Discussion will be Chatham House Rule to encourage openness and sharing of sensitive information* by senior leaders in our profession.

* When a meeting is held under the Chatham House Rule participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.


Date Friday 10 February 2017
Time 8.30am - 5.00pm
Cost PRIA Members $499
Non-members $699

Aerial Function Centre
235 Jones Street
Level 7, Building 10, Ultimo NSW 2007

CPD Points 7
NB This event will be held under the Chatham House Rule

Who should attend?: Professional communicators currently working at the managerial, directorial or executive leadership level, whether in an in-house position (in government, corporate, health, education or not-for-profit sectors), consultancy, journalists, as well as executives and senior managers who need to know how to communicate, will benefit from this professional development day.


Highlights will include:

  • Understanding Deathly Tragedy
  • Command and Control
  • Hearts and Minds
  • The Technicians
  • The Communicators
  • Duty of Care and Self-Care
  • Hypotheticals and Scenario-Planning Exercise


After completing the MasterClass, participants will:

  • Know how to accurately characterise and articulate risk in a live and evolving scenario
  • Have an 'in-practice' understanding of command and control crisis management, and an ability to work with emergency services and critical incident response teams
  • Have an understanding and ability to incorporate duty of care communication into your strategies
  • Know how to implement a 'putting people first' critical response plan and how to engage internal and expert stakeholders in implementing this style of response
  • Know how to practice self-care - as well as an understanding of the impact of trauma and crisis
  • Know how to look after impacted communities - understanding trauma, grief, distress, and the need to be connected to factual information


Director of Public Affairs - NSW Police

Strath Gordon has been Director of Public Affairs, NSW Police since 2006. This role is responsible for corporate and operational media relations, social and digital media, marketing, internal communications, film and television and corporate branding.

Strath has spent more than 20 years in a variety of public relations roles – the past decade with the Police Force and previously with the Australian Rugby Union.

Strath has led his communications team through numerous high profile events including the murder of police worker Curtis Cheng in 2015, the Martin Place Lindt Cafe siege and Operation Appleby counter terrorism raids in 2014, the recapture of Australia’s most wanted man Malcom Naden in 2012, the 2007 APEC Summit in Sydney along with strategies designed to highlight police actions against alcohol related violence and the ice epidemic.

He has an electronic media background in both radio and television – producing the Channel Seven Sydney nightly bulletin from 1992-1997.

Strath was an early adopter of social media with NSW Police which opened Twitter and YouTube accounts in 2009, Facebook in 2010 and has followed with Instagram, Weibo, Snapchat and LinkedIn.

Program Manager - Hunter Institute of Mental Health

Marc leads the Mindframe National Media Initiative, ensuring safe and effective portrayals of mental illness and suicide in mass communication in Australia. Marc has more than 18 years working in health, media and communication in both UK and Australia.

Marc joined the Hunter Institute of Mental Health in February 2009. He is a qualified journalist and communication professional, having completed the National Council for the Training Journalists pre-entry course (UK) and a Bachelor of Communication (Honours). Marc is also a full member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA). He has 16 years’ experience working in and with the media, both as a senior print journalist (UK), in media and communication for the National Health Service (UK) and the South Australian Health Department (mental health reform).

General Manager - Grace Funerals and Blue Mountains Funerals
Council Member, NSW/ACT - Australian Funeral Directors Association

Asha has a wealth of experience, having run two funeral businesses for four years, prior to which she worked in hospitality, customer service, operational management, guest services, sales and event management. Asha has also specialised in Learning & Development and Human Resources.

Currently Asha is the General Manager for AFDA Member Grace Funerals and Blue Mountains Funerals in Sydney and is on the NSW/ACT Council. Asha presented at the 2015 National Conventions on ‘Gen Management’ and was the 2015 AFDA Scholarship winner presenting at the 2016 National Convention on ‘Wow Funerals’. Currently Asha is working with the AFDA on the rollout of the training for the Your Goodbye campaign.

General Manager Communications & Media Relations - Insurance Council of Australia

Campbell has more than two decades of experience as a journalist and communications consultant and is responsible for the Insurance Council's Communications directorate. A former newspaper journalist and editor, Campbell joined the Insurance Council in October 2011 from a multinational public relations firm, where he specialised in corporate communications, reputation management, thought leadership and crisis management for professional services firms, ASX-listed companies and financial services businesses.

He was previously a reporter, sub-editor and senior editor on leading publications including The Herald and The Herald Sun, Sunday Herald, Sunday Herald Sun, mX, The Australian and The Sunday Telegraph, and news agency Australian Associated Press.

Managing Director – Primary Communication

Annabelle has more than 25 years of experience in designing and running successful communication programs. She has worked with blue-chip corporations, governments and community groups and has guided organisations in the technology, telecommunications, energy, aviation, law, insurance, travel and government sectors.

Annabelle brings a unique blend of academic, corporate, international and community experience. She is a former National President of the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA), as well as being the former National Chair of the PRIA Registered Consultancies Group.

Terms & Conditions

Please read the PRIA Cancellation and Refund Policies and PRIA general event terms and conditions before registering.

PRIA event tickets can only be purchased online via credit card payment in advance. Members are required to log into PRIA website to obtain the appropriate discount and to ensure continuing professional development points are tracked.

If you wish to purchase group (more than five) event tickets and require direct deposit details please call (02) 9331 3346 or email Note that cash or credit card payment at an event is no longer available.

Event Location: Aerial UTS Function Centre
Registrations Open: 24th Nov 16 12:00 AM
Registrations Close: 1st Feb 17 11:59 PM
Price: AU $ 499 (Inc. GST)