Regular Features:
Edition 10
Winter 2010

From the Editor's Desk

Children are not little adults. I remember reflecting over this during my mental health training. I still find it a challenging statement; one that compels us to keep in mind that children and adolescents are in a constant state of change as a natural result of growing up. They are not, in fact, mini-adults.

What happens, then, when these ‘not-mini-adults’ take on adult responsibilities - such as caring for a parent or sibling with a chronic illness, disability or mental illness, or an alcohol or other drug problem? This is the reality for many children and adolescents – in fact, according to Carers Australia, every classroom has at least two or three young carers in it.

In this edition, we wrestle with this theme and its implications, especially as it may apply to refugee students and their families. As we consider the issues, it’s important to keep in mind that most parents want and do their best for their children, and that as well as the difficulties associated with being a young carer there are also some positive aspects to this role.

I hope you find the material useful. For more information on carers issues, check out Carers Australia’s website at www.carersaustralia.com.au. And for an excellent synopsis of the topic as it applies to young Australians from non-English speaking backgrounds, check out the chapter: Who’s Caring for Whom?  Living with Parents with Mental Health Problems (Bashir M. and Bennett D. (Eds) (2000)  Deeper Dimensions – culture, youth and mental health. Sydney: NSW Transcultural Mental Health Centre).

Until the next one,

Max Schneider signature hintsforhealing@startts.org.au
Next month
Deb's digest
Deb Gould
> Deb Gould is a STARTTS Clinical Psychologist and
clinical supervisor.

Children as young as 8 might be more adapted to life in Australia than their parents. The relative resilience of the child and/or vulnerability of the parents creates the possibility that the parents, perhaps needing support in order to hold the family, become cared for by a child. It worries us all and has been increasingly recognised as requiring active and proactive support rather than judgement and enforced change. Learn more >>

Interview with Young Carers NSW

> Lorna, Nigel and Godelieve from Young Carers NSW

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Lorna, Nigel and Godelieve from Young Carers NSW. In this short interview, the team answer some important questions based on their expertise and experience supporting and advocating for young carers. Learn more >>

Young Carers Need to Know...
  • That they are young carers
  • How their school can support them
  • They do not have to manage on their own
  • There are many other children like them
  • Often there are services available to help them take a break from their responsibilities
  • There is additional support that may be available to them outside the school
  • Information about their family members’ condition
  • How to look after themselves and ensure they stay fit and healthy
  • How to let others know they are young carers without negative repercussions.

Source: Australian Government Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Canberra, with assistance from Carers Australia.Available online at www.youngcarers.net.au

Case Study: Rebecca
Fiona DeLacy
> Fiona DeLacy is a
registered nurse and
counsellor, whose
background is in mental
health and addiction services.
The following case study has been kindly provided by our colleague Fiona DeLacy form companion house.
Rebecca is a 15-year-old Karen girl. She is the eldest of 4 children. Rebecca spent the first 9 years of her life in Burma, but eventually her parents fled to Thailand. They lived in hiding for some time in separate places, with Rebecca going to live with her mother and baby sister. When Rebecca was about 11, her mother disappeared after going out to look for illegal work. She has not been heard of since. Rebecca’s father gathered all the children together and managed to get them into a refugee camp.
Learn more >>

Hint of the month (continued)
The following suggestions may promote caring as a positive experience:

  • educating all young people in schools about issues affecting young carers, ensuring that they focus on the positive aspects of being a young carer
  • educating young people in a classroom setting about illnesses, disabilities, mental health and alcohol and other drug problems
  • introducing into the school curriculum self-are, ‘caring’ and help-seeking skills
  • raising awareness about the support offered to young carers and their families through school newsletters.

Source: Carers Australia – ‘Supporting Young Carers in Secondary School’. Click here to download the pdf.

Max Schneider
> Max is a Child & Adolescent Counsellor at STARTTS and the service's School Liaison Officer.

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Young Men’s Camp
The next young men’s camp will be held from the 9th to the 12 of July at Tea Gardens, about 30 minutes from Newcastle. Participants must be from a refugee background and have arrived in Australia in the last 5 years. For more information and referrals, email Mohammad Baaruud or phone (02) 9794 1900.

Introduction to Working with Children and Adolescent Survivors Training.
This one-day workshop will be held on 10 June. It is designed as an introduction for clinicians working with school-aged children, youth and families. For more information visit the training section of our website

Hint of the month

A whole-of-school approach and staff commitment to supporting young carers could:
promote the positive aspects of caring
• Encourage help-seeking behaviours among students
• Counter negative school cultures that may lead to peer rejection or bullying.

If such an approach is adopted in schools, more children with caring responsibilities may come forward to seek support.

Continued >>

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.

© 2010 STARTTS  Contact: hintsforhealing@startts.org.au