Regular Features:
Edition 5: May 09

Every child and adolescent who survives the trauma of war is a unique individual. Many develop greater physical, psychological and social vulnerability (both during and well after the trauma), while others seem to heal more quickly and function well despite the many cumulative risk factors.

Why is this so? However one answers that question – and it is the subject of much ongoing research – most of us would agree that a major therapeutic aim is to help the young person move higher on the fragility-resilience spectrum.

In this edition, you will find some ideas on ways you can facilitate this with young refugees, especially within the school setting. Deb shares her knowledge and practice through her regular column; Claudia Herrero offers an interesting case study; and we present Part 1 of an exclusive interview with Friends of STARTTS president Gary Taylor.

Until the next one,

Max Schneider signature
Next month

Deb Gould

> Deb Gould is a STARTTS Clinical Psychologist and clinical supervisor.

A child walks along a beam, balancing delicately. On the way he falls (or is he pushed?). Does he:
• Walk away and never walk on it again
• Climb back up
• Get caught by his mates
• Ask the playground staff to help him back up
• Break his arm and climb back on the next
   day, arm in plaster
• Stay on the floor unable to get up?
Learn more >>

Following the traumatic experiences of war, persecution and exile, it is normal for children and young people to show strong emotional reactions. With time, however, the effects of trauma often lessen. Asylum seeker and refugee children’s reactions to traumatic events are very variable and many factors influence a child’s psychological well-being. These factors include the duration and intensity of the traumatic events, the child’s age, personality and character, as well as the level of functioning of the family, particularly parenting capacity. Learn more >>
Dr Brian Graetz

> Gary Taylor is the
president of Friends

When I first worked with young people in detention centres, what struck me most was that they had virtually no opportunity to engage in appropriate, safe play. Not surprisingly, this affected their normal development, especially their ability to communicate, express themselves, experiment with risk-taking. Learn more >>

Dr Brian Graetz
> Claudia Herrero is a General Services
Counsellor and an
Intake and Assessment Clinician.
Farid, a 13 year old Afghan young person, was referred for counselling by his school counsellor. Farid was initially referred to STARTTS because of symptoms indicative of chronic grief and clinical depression. His school counsellor noted that Farid was isolated at school; experienced disturbed sleep patterns; flat mood; and showed symptoms of sadness and hopelessness. Farid also had quite disruptive behaviours at school, often getting into trouble. Farid’s behaviours were related to multiple traumatic events experienced in Afghanistan, including loss and grief surrounding his parents’ death and having to move to a new country. Learn more >>

Jungle Tracks Training – Jungle Tracks is a program that includes five short stories mirroring real life struggle related to the lives of children, adolescents and parents with a background of refugee trauma. The next 1-day workshop is on June 11. For more information or to register your attendance call (02) 9794 1900.

Refugee Week 2009 is on from the 14th to the 20th of June. To mark the week, Friends of STARTTS, STARTTS and The Australian Refugee Film Festival are hosting a Refugee Art Exhibition, Refugee Film Festival and Humanitarian Awards. The event is being held in the Uniting Church, Sydney, on Sunday 14th June from 2 to 5 pm. For more information visit

July School Holidays Camp for 14–18 yr old young women – This 4-day camp will be held at Mount Victoria this year. For more information or to refer, contact Lina Ishu on (02) 9794 1972 or email

July School Holidays Camp for 14–19 yr old young men – This 4-day soccer camp will be held in Newcastle. For more information or to refer, contact Mohamed Baaruud on (02) 9794 1908 or email

Biofeedback Training – This one-day workshop provides an opportunity for clinicians who work with children, adolescents and adults to deepen their understanding of how psychological trauma manifests through a range of emotional and physical symptoms. For more information or to register your attendance for the next training workshop, call (02) 9794 1900.

Drumbeat Group. A new group for young refugees is starting at St Agnes High School in Rooty Hill in mid-May. If your school is interested in running a similar group, contact Mohamed Baaruud on (02) 9794 1908 or email


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

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Hint of the month

In a recent review of the literature on trauma, PTSD and recovery, the following factors were identified as resilience-strengthening. All of these characteristics distinguished those who were able to recover from a traumatic experience and those who may have developed PTSD or other problems following the trauma:

The ability to cope with stress effectively and in a healthy way (not avoiding).
Being resourceful and having good problem-solving skills.
Being more likely to seek help.
Holding the belief that there is something you can do to manage your feelings and cope.
Having social support available to you.
Being connected with others, such as family or friends.
Self-disclosure of the trauma to loved ones.
Having an identity as a survivor as opposed to a victim.
Helping others.
Finding positive meaning in the trauma.

Source: Agaibi, C.E., & Wilson, J.P. (2005). Trauma, PTSD, and resilience: A review of the literature. Trauma, Violence, and Abuse, 6, 195-216.


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.

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