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NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors

Services for children and young people

STARTTS provides a broad range of services for children and young people. We employ specialist youth workers and child and adolescent counsellors to work with this age group. They also work closely with others that are important to children such as parents, schools and youth services.

Often, we use fun activities to connect with children and young people such as soccer (football) programs, camps and art groups. Sometimes this will lead to individual counselling. Many children will access more than one of our programs.

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Their experiences

Children and young people are not spared from the human rights abuses that force people to become refugees. They may experience these ordeals as part of a family or on their own, when they are separated from their parents.

Some of the common experiences of children and young people from refugee backgrounds are:

  • Separation from family and friends, including one or both parents (Unaccompanied Humanitarian Minors – UHM)
  • War and violence, including rape, bombings and forced military service
  • Dangerous journeys with limited supplies
  • Some children and youth experience emergency evacuation from their war-torn country
  • Death or disappearance of loved ones such as fathers and brothers
  • Refugee camps which are violent, overcrowded, lack safe drinking water and sanitation and have little opportunities for education
  • Hunger and starvation
  • Disease
  • Adjusting to an unfamiliar environment and culture
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How they can be affected

Although children from refugee backgrounds generally seem amazingly resilient, their experiences can also make them vulnerable and may result in difficulties adjusting to Australian society and leading a ‘normal’ life. Despite this, with a bit of support they can learn to adapt to their new environment and enjoy life again.

Some problems they may face include:

  • Sleep difficulties and nightmares
  • Inability to concentrate and learn
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Depression
  • Becoming withdrawn and quiet
  • Becoming overly aggressive
  • Withdrawing from play and other social activities
  • Missing family and friends
  • Acting out
  • Truancy
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • For younger children, excessive crying, screaming, trembling and clinging
  • Taking on more adult roles in the family
  • Parents who are unable to care for them properly
  • Fitting in and making friends at school
  • Understanding English and keeping up in the classroom.
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