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

The Families in Cultural Transition (FICT) program is a nine week series of workshops designed to help newly arrived refugees learn about Australia and settle successfully in their new country. As well as finding out about Australian culture and systems, participants can talk about how their torture and trauma experiences may affect them and their families. They also learn about organisations that can help.

FICT is not only an education program, it helps refugees make friends and connect with community groups. The program provides comfort and support to refugees, allowing them to discuss issues they are facing now that may be the result of past experiences in their birth country, their journey to Australia and making the transition to life in Australia.

Role plays, discussion, brainstorms, interviews, games, guest speakers and case studies are all used to stimulate thinking, explore emotions and help learning.

Emotionally I feel better. I came for nine weeks and every week I learned a new thing. I used my brain during the workshop and that was the important thing for me. I learned from others, listened to them and shared my experiences as well.

The program content

In the first week participants meet, are introduced to the concepts of group work and discuss the impact of migration.

Week two gives an overview of Australian political systems including the concept of equality, multiculturalism, democracy and the welfare state. Week three looks at issues with money, budgeting and worker’s rights.

In week four participants discuss dealing with loss and how to begin recovering from their traumatic experiences.

Families, children and parenting are the topics for weeks five and six. Different cultural assumptions and laws about children and parenting, the impact of trauma on kids and the more dominant family role that many refugee children play are all discussed in these sessions. The other topics covered are gender and youth and there is a new module on employment.

In the final week, group members get together for a special outing that provides an opportunity to enjoy the new environment.

How the program is run

Around twelve people from the same ethnic background come together for the nine week program. STARTTS trains bicultural facilitators to deliver the program and groups are held in the language of the participants.

The groups are held at a time that suits the participants – weekdays, weekends or evenings – and free child care and refreshments are provided. While there are a set number of modules to be covered, the way issues are covered, what is emphasised and which guest speakers are chosen, is flexible, and is decided by the needs of the group.

Why is FICT important?

For some people coming to an office or making a phone call to arrange an appointment with a counsellor or support worker can be extremely daunting. They may not be aware of the different sorts of help that are available.

FICT allows refugees to get information and support in a more relaxed environment. It also helps refugees to make friends with other people in similar situations and learn to be more confident and self-reliant.

Unlike many other programs that help participants learn about Australia, FICT also allows participants to discuss how their experiences of torture and trauma might affect their lives. This session is almost always presented by a STARTTS’ counsellor in conjunction with a FICT facilitator.

FICT facilitators

FICT facilitators are from the same community as the participants, and are generally refugees themselves. They have a good understanding of both the participants’ culture and Australian culture. Many of our facilitators are trained or are training in community and/or welfare work. They receive four days training from the STARTTS FICT Team on how to facilitate FICT groups. We also provide support and supervision to facilitators through all the steps of running the program.

STARTTS currently has FICT facilitators from a wide range of newly arrived refugee communities including Arabic speaking communities as well as Assyrian, Bhutanese, Chaldean, Hazara, Karen,  Liberian, Mandaean, Sierra Leonean, Somali, Sudanese, Tamil and Tibetan communities.

When new FICT facilitators are required, STARTTS will advertise on the website and through our community networks.

FICT has opened the eyes of our community. Before we feel like we’re not connected with Australian culture, just within Karen community. Now we know other organisations and feel much more connected to Australia.

Moe Moe – Karen (Ethnic group from Burma) FICT facilitator


The program is being evaluated continually and the evaluation indicates that participants become more confident in their parenting and other skills, more aware of how the system operates in Australia and more satisfied with their social connections after taking part in FICT groups.

More information

Contact the FICT team on (02) 9646 6700 or email the FICT Team Leader.

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