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

Refugee Children: Trauma & Resettlement in Australia

Refugee Children- Trauma & Resettlement in Australia

“Over half of the world’s refugees are children. Many will spend their entire childhoods away from home, sometimes separated from their families. They may have witnessed or experienced violent acts and, in exile, are at risk of abuse, neglect, violence, exploitation, trafficking or military recruitment.” 

UNHCR 2023 

Refugee children face a unique set of challenges when resettling in a new country, especially in Australia. Their journey is often marked by traumatic experiences that can profoundly affect their ability to adapt and thrive in their new environment.  

Let’s explore the complex interplay between trauma, attachment styles, and the resettlement process for these resilient young people.

  1. Trauma and Children:

The effects of trauma on children vary depending on their age and stage of development. Early exposure to trauma can disrupt attachment, delay cognitive development, and impair emotional regulation, laying the groundwork for future struggles. 

  1. Trauma and Brain Development:

During infancy and early childhood, the brain forms crucial pathways that shape future development. Traumatic experiences can alter these pathways, potentially leading to long-term cognitive and emotional challenges. 

  1. Attachment and Refugee Children:

In collectivist cultures, a child’s attachment extends beyond the immediate family to include significant others. However, the refugee experience can disrupt these bonds, impacting a child’s ability to form new relationships and trust others. 

  1. Common Trauma Presentations:

Refugee children often exhibit physical and emotional symptoms of trauma, such as stomach aches, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. Recognising these signs is vital for providing appropriate support. 

  1. Resettlement Challenges:

Resettling in Australia presents a myriad of challenges for refugee children, including adapting to a new culture, language, and schooling system. These challenges are compounded by the lingering effects of trauma and cultural dissonance. 

  1. Schools as Support Systems:

Schools play a pivotal role in the resettlement process, serving as a place of connection and healing for refugee children. However, they must also address the unique learning needs and behavioural challenges these children may face. 

  1. Resilience and Support:

Children and young people from refugee backgrounds are incredibly resilient. With timely assistance and support, they, their families and communities, are generally able to heal from the scars of torture and refugee trauma, and rebuild a life in Australia that is healthy, connected, positive and meaningful. 

Gain a deeper understanding of working with children and adolescents from refugee backgrounds at our upcoming workshop, “Core Concepts in Working with Children and Adolescents from Refugee Backgrounds,” led by Rafik Tanious, STARTTS’ Counsellor/Trainer.  

Explore event details and registration at the following link



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