Numbers of traumatised refugee children rising
Helping increasing numbers of refugee children who have been exposed to violence or trauma is emerging as a major challenge for agencies working in the settlement area, according to victims of torture support agency Foundation House.
The organisation’s 2012-2013 Annual Report says that as a population, refugee children have a high propensity of exposure to risk factors and also have less access to circumstances that protect and promote health and well-being.
The report says most refugee children have experienced events such as war, bombing, shelling, violent death or the threat of death. It says many will have experienced the loss of family or friends as well as the loss of home, culture and friendships.
“On arrival in Australia children are required to learn a new language, adapt to a new set of cultural norms and orient themselves to a new and unfamiliar school system,” the report says.
“Adaptation to school may be particularly difficult for those children who have had no or limited school experience,” it says.
Foundation House has developed strategies to strengthen parents’ awareness and involvement in promoting their children’s recovery, including facilitating parent participation in the early childhood years and in schools.
The program assists parents to understand the nature of trauma and to identify how they can support their children in the short term and into the future.
The past year has seen an increase in parents and children arriving from Syria who have been exposed to the bitter fighting in the civil war there.
There has also been an increase in numbers of families of Chin people, fleeing persecution and alleged ethnic cleansing by the Burmese government. Many of these children and young people are arriving without their parents and are being cared for by extended family.
Foundation House reports helping 3,815 survivors of torture and trauma in the past year – up from 3,168 clients the previous year.
Clients come from more than 50 countries with the largest groups from Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and Burma; reflecting the origins of entrants under Australia’s Humanitarian Program for the settlement of refugees.