A5. Education and Employment – Oral Paper Session

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Working therapeutically in an educational and employment setting – using a holistic inter-services approach

Survivors of refugee trauma can find it very challenging to engage in education and economic participation in settlement. This paper outlines the Support, Skill and Connect Program that was designed and piloted in 2015 by the Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma (QPASTT) in collaboration with TAFE Queensland Brisbane. The program sought to address the gap in effective service responses for adults of a refugee background who had been in Australia for more than 6 months but continued to have low levels of English language and literacy, as well as limited social and professional connectedness.

The program used both a micro and macro approach by working with individuals, groups and the employment and education systems. It had two primary aims:

– To strengthen the confidence, resources and social connectedness of adult English language students from refugee backgrounds thereby enhancing their capacity to recover from their past traumatic experiences and engage within an employment and vocational context; and

– To work collaboratively with relevant stakeholders to enhance their capacity to effectively respond to individuals and families affected by torture and trauma.

The evaluation of the program has shown positive psycho-social outcomes for the participants. This has included increased levels of social connectedness, reduced learning barriers and increased confidence in understanding and navigating employment and education settings and systems. Working on a macro level with relevant stakeholders proved challenging but pivotal to the outcomes. The positive outcomes of the program highlights the critical role of inter-services approaches in responding effectively to the need of refugee survivors of torture and trauma.

Letitia Casagrande (Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma), Maria Virginia Eroles (QPASTT)

Ucan2 – an integrated approach to supporting recovery from trauma and resettlement

Disruptions to the lives, social connections and education of young people from refugee backgrounds who arrive in Australia are extensive. The skills and needs of these young people are generally not recognised in a traditional classroom where they may be unable to access the curriculum, leading to disengagement from education and training. Young people are often reluctant to engage with individual counselling to support recovery from trauma but benefit enormously from participating in a group program with other young people who have had similar experiences.

Ucan2 puts into practice two frameworks: the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture’s Framework for Recovery from Trauma and a conceptual framework of understanding integration by delivering on all 10 core domains of Ager and Strang’s integration model.
Ucan2 is an education and settlement program that facilitates and supports the social inclusion of newly arrived young people from refugee backgrounds between the ages of 16 and 25. The program assists with recovery from trauma and settlement in Australia. It builds on young people’s strengths, integrating their past and present experiences and supporting their future.

By fostering partnerships between education providers, social support and training and employment services, Ucan2 provides participants with:

– access to and engagement in education, training and employment
– mental health and wellbeing support
– social connections and networks.

Gillian Kerr (Foundation House)

Putting the HeART in Language Learning

Initiated in early 2015, The HeART project delivers visual art, drama and movement activities in the Adult Migrant Settlement program at TAFE Queensland Brisbane , with a particular focus on youth, refugee and SPP clients .

The effects of trauma on language learning outcomes include: impairment of short term memory, disassociation, lack of focus, hypervigilance and depression. Refugee clients illiterate in L1 have a reliance on concrete thinking. This impacts on their capacity to utilise systems of symbolic representation needed for second language acquisition and causes anxiety. Combined effects of trauma and illiteracy impact on motor skills and spatial and kinaesthetic awareness, crucial components of language learning. Creative processes provide clients with a bridge between the concrete and abstract.

The intervention comprised workshops in visual art and drama, excursions and community projects. An objective is to provide opportunities for wider, social connections .The primary focus is to nurture process, personal relationships and healing.
The success of these interventions was measured through: changes in student behaviour, class dynamics, community opportunities, student and teacher feedback and support for experienced artists among the student body.

The drama class enables positive, collaborative engagement which assists in building trust and confidence. It encourages belonging and self-respect through non-threatening self-expression. Pleasurable movement activities support motor skills development.
The visual art workshop has resulted in exhibitions, a relationship with Art From The Margins and collaborations with Brisbane artists. Making art induces calm, safety and relaxed communication. Learning technical skills increases confidence, focus and fine motor skills. Participants talk of feeling peaceful and happy. Displays of their work gives them pride and identity. Beauty is fundamental to wellbeing.

Anne Ooms (TAFE Queensland), Annie Morris (TAFE Queensland)