The Families in Cultural Transition (FICT) program is a ten week series of workshops designed to help newly arrived people from refugee backgrounds make sense of the changes that they and their family members may be experiencing as they transition to their new life in Australia. Through sharing their settlement experiences with one another and with the ongoing support of trained Facilitators, participants build confidence and understanding of Australia and its often different culture and systems. Group participants are also given the opportunity to consider the potential impacts of their migration and pre-migration experience, and steps they may be able to take to assist them in bringing healing and hope for the future.
FICT is not only an education program, it also helps participants make new friends, connect with other community members and groups. Role plays, discussion, interviews, games, guest speakers and case studies are all used to stimulate thinking, explore emotions and encourage 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 children from refugee backgrounds may play are all discussed in these sessions. The other topics covered are gender and youth and there is an optional tenth module on employment. In the final week, group members get together for a special outing that provides an opportunity to enjoy their new environment.
How the program is run
Around twelve people from the same ethnic background come together for the ten 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 and location 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 people from refugee backgrounds to build understanding and find support in a more relaxed environment. It also helps them make friends with other people in similar situations and learn to be more confident and self-reliant. The FICT approach is centred around building on the experience, skills and knowledge participants bring with them to the group, while also providing the support and tools needed for people to address the potential impacts of past traumatic experiences.
FICT facilitators are from the same community as the participants, and frequently arrived in Australia as 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, Ahwazi, Bhutanese, Chaldean, Congolese, Hazara, Karen, Mandaean, Sudanese, Tamil, Tibetan, Uyghur and Yazidi 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.
Keeping In Contact Project
In response to the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic, WentWest funded STARTTS to provide culturally safe and trauma-informed weekly 1:1 telephone contact, face to face and online social support groups as well as regular outdoor physical exercise activities for seniors from CALD and refugee backgrounds. The project has continued through 2021/22 and is available to residents of the Western Sydney Primary Health Network, an area including Mt Druitt-Greystanes-Blacktown-Merrylands-Auburn-Parramatta-Lidcombe-Carlingford-The Hills. The project operates as an extension of the successful STARTTS Older People in Cultural Transition (OPICT) program and is delivered by a team of trained Bi-Cultural Facilitators.