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Startts - NSW Service for the treatment and rehabilitation of torture and trauma survivors  
Hints for Healing - Autumn 2012

When putting together a focused PowerPoint presentation, just about all of us feel the pressure to summarise content and sometimes condense the number of slides. It was no different for me earlier this month as I abbreviated concepts in preparation to deliver school-based training on torture and trauma. Summaries can be helpful - but they can also dilute important details and contribute to our desensitisation of the very real trauma that young refugees have been exposed to or experienced. Now, when I use the ‘traumatic experiences’ umbrella statement, I make sure I spell it out as far as possible:

  • Organised violence through state terrorism or sectarian aggression where the rule of law has broken down
  • Famine and food depravation, which occur as part of the natural environment cycle in many dry continents but are exacerbated by war
  • Loss of shelter through having to flee violence
  • Witnessing dwellings being destroyed by authorities
  • Limited or no medical attention
  • Exposure to war and torture
  • Imprisonment – children frequently used to coerce adults into complying with authorities
  • The death and loss of loved ones
  • Witnessing of brutal acts
  • Upheaval, change and living in perpetual uncertainty
  • Disrupted education, social network, health care and development
  • Leaving without saying goodbye and without any belongings
  • Being fearful the whole time of the escape
  • Difficulty trusting others, including the accompanying adults, who may be so traumatised themselves that they are unable to watch out for the need of children
  • Coming to terms with an enormity of losses – loss of home, country, school, culture
  • Being treated as a second or third class citizen once arrived – even if legitimate paperwork and refugee status has been granted
  • Having to learn a new language, culture, customs and way of life
  • Peer pressure to conform to being Australian, while simultaneously being discriminated against for being different
  • Lack of control in the timing of their adaptation, especially for children as they are expected to join mainstream classes without being taught English first
  • Sense of alienation, as other children, children or their community do not understand their experiences
  • Racisms, blame and scapegoating.

I hope you find this edition interesting and informative.

Cheers,
Max

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hintsforhealing@startts.org.au

Deb's digest
Deb Gould
> Deb Gould is a STARTTS Clinical Psychologist and
clinical supervisor.
Max is worrying that the word trauma is used so loosely in the context of talking about refugee children that we at risk of minimising it. Paradoxically, we sometimes overstate the trauma point, anxious that that might minimise a person’s suffering.
Learn more >>

Interview with Dr John Briere

John Briere
> John Briere, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology
at the Keck School of Medicine.

1) It is widely recognised that engaging adolescents and young adults in the counselling process is not easy – especially when they are highly traumatised. Tell us a little about your relationship building and support approach. Because multiply traumatised kids have been exposed to, in many cases, abuse or neglect by authority figures, many understandably lack trust when it comes to forming a therapeutic relationship with another authority figure (the therapist).
Learn more >>

School counsellors assisting refugees –
right from the start


> Greg Wark is a District Guidance Officer and Registered Psychologist working in South Western Sydney.
The impacts of trauma can seriously affect the capacity of young people to concentrate, participate and perform academically and socially at school. The educational response to refugee students with such backgrounds needs to be multifaceted, incorporating contributions from the school’s leadership, curriculum, literacy, learning support and student welfare teams.
Learn more >>

Get me out of here – Western Sydney Refugee Youth tell us about depression

Members of the Youth Support Network (YSN), with support from the Auburn Community Development Network (ACDN), recently presented a paper at the Refugee Youth Mental Health Forum ‘Journeys of Hope – Supporting the wellbeing of young refugees.’

Learn more >>


Sticky Notes

  • Capoeria Angola. Capoeira groups are currently running as follows: on Tuesdays at Liverpool Girls High School and at STARTTS Liverpool and STARTTS Carramar offices (after school); on Wednesdays at Liverpool Boys High School and at Cabramatta IEC/High; on Thursdays at Doonside Primary school and on Fridays at Evans IEC (to be confirmed). There is an intention to move the STARTTS Carramar office group to Fairfield HS in the near future. For more information contact Chiara Ridolfi.
  • Young Women’s Leadership Group. This group is a joint STARTTS-MRC collaboration on a 10 session young women’s leadership program promoting confidence and self expression. Contact Sanja Stefanovic for more information.
  • A Sense of Home Project. Gary is facilitating a 6 session photo exhibition project during April, May and June covering the theme of ‘a sense of home’ (what does home mean to people?) The aim is to raise awareness about home and housing issues including homelessness and public housing. There are places for 20 participants and both young people and adults can participate. The project will be held on Saturdays from the Assyrian Resource Centre in Fairfield. Contact Gary Cachia for more information.
  • Fairfield HS Centre for Sustainability Project. This community garden project continues to develop well - a visit from TV personality Jamie Oliver is planned later in the year. The project is linked to Hoxton Park High’s community farm project. It is relevant for clients from an agricultural background or those who are interested in agriculture. Contact Gary Cachia for more information.
  • Pathways to Employment Expo 2012. The annual employment expo will be held on May 22nd at Cabramatta Leisure Centre. Approximately 2,000 young people are expected to attend this year. It is especially relevant for older IEC students and/or those transitioning from high school into TAFE/employment. There is a focus on apprenticeships and employment pathways that many older adolescents may not otherwise consider. Contact Gary Cachia for more.
  • School Liaison. District Guidance Officers for Liverpool, Granville and Bankstown will all receive specialist training in working clinically with refugee students over the coming month. The professional development will be delivered with DEC and focus on assessment and intervention strategies especially relevant in the school context. A number of primary schools in SouthWestern Sydney region will also be trained in running Settling In programs at school over the next two months. For more information contact Max Schneider.
Max Schneider
> Max is a Child & Adolescent Counsellor at STARTTS and the service's School Liaison Officer.

Interview with
John Briere

School counsellors assisting refugees

Refugee Youth Mental Health Forum

Regular Features

From the Editor's Desk

Deb's Digest

Sticky Notes

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Capoeria Angola. Capoeira groups are currently running as follows: on Tuesdays at Liverpool Girls High School and at STARTTS Liverpool and STARTTS Carramar offices (after school); on Wednesdays at Liverpool Boys High School and at Cabramatta IEC/High; on Thursdays at Doonside Primary school and on Fridays at Evans IEC (to be confirmed). There is an intention to move the STARTTS Carramar office group to Fairfield HS in the near future. For more information contact Chiara Ridolfi.
More events >>

Reader's Question

As counsellors, we need to build working relationships with the interpreters we use to counsel young people from refugee backgrounds. It can be helpful to take time to inform the interpreter about the basic principles of our therapeutic approach. For example, that we assume the client has to make decisions himself/herself; that the topics discussed during the sessions are confidential; that silence during sessions can be meaningful, and so on. Counsellors can also instruct interpreters to translate as literally as possible:
• by using the first person whenever the person speaking does so;

• by not trying to translate an incoherent sentence as more coherent than it originally was; and

• by translating short phrases one after the other instead of translating a group of statements by giving a summary.

Source: Counselling and Therapy with Refugees and Victims of Trauma – Second Edition. Guus van der Veer. Chapter 4 – Working with Cultural Differences.

Disclaimer The information contained in Hints for Healing is provided as an information source only. The views expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect the position or views of STARTTS.  The material is provided on the basis that readers are responsible for making their own assessments of the issues discussed, and always work under clinical supervision.

© 2012 STARTTS  Contact: hintsforhealing@startts.org.au
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