C4. Families – Oral Paper Session
Friday, 31 March 2017
Countering parent blame with Mothers from refugee backgrounds: The impact of parent-blaming discourses on parents and children settling in Australia
Domestic violence and feminist practitioners have long been aware of the impact discourses of parent and mother-blame that may affect parents whose children have experienced violence or trauma. This paper will explore the characteristics of parent blame, client’s experiences of it’s impacts and small, but deliberate practices that may counter it’s effects. Self-blame and guilt can co-opt parents into hopelessness and false conclusions about responsibility and agency (Gaddis, 2004). For refugee background families there are many opportunities for invitation into ideas of parent blame that internalise responsibility within the parent, rather than structurally – global conflict, forced migration, domestic immigration policy and illegal confinement of children (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2014).
Narrative therapy is a post-structuralist therapeutic practice that views peoples lives as multi-storied and endeavours to assist people to richly develop stories of their values, survival and commitments while addressing and acknowledging problematic stories of trauma or difficulties. Narrative therapy emphasizes the need to attend to discourses and politics that may impact negatively on survivors of trauma and the stories that they tell of themselves.
In this paper I will discuss narrative practices such as, externalising parent blame (White, 2007), deconstructing its effects as a dominant and unhelpful discourse and considering what may be absent but implicit in feelings of self-blame, guilt and distress (White, 2000). Some questions I will seek to address are:
• How might naming and multi-storying parent blame in refugee background families help to address feelings of shame and guilt?
• How do parent blame discourses affect parents from refugee backgrounds who have experienced dangerous journeys or detention upon arrival?
• Can naming and responding to parent blame support Mother’s who report feeling disempowered in their parenting?
These ideas have been developed through my work with Mothers in particular and therefore this paper will present much of their wisdom and observations of the impact of parent blame on their lives.
Emma Preece Boyd (Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture)
Presentation currently unavailable
Mainstreaming Mental Health into the Families in Cultural Transition Program
The Families in Cultural Transition (FICT) is a group based psychosocial education program established by the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS), that focuses on the impact of refugee experience and the challenges families may experience in Australia post settlement. The program adopts experiential learning approaches and is delivered by trained bicultural facilitators in the community language of the participants. Topics address practical, conceptual and emotional needs from budgeting and support services to communication in families, gender, youth and children.
In order the address the issue of poor knowledge and understanding of the nature and treatment of mental health problems in a more holistic way, a range of activities aimed at promoting mental health wellbeing was developed under the title “We Can Do This”. These activities are integrated into the existing FICT modules and emphasise the considerable strengths and personal resources refugees bring with them, while acknowledging that pre and post migration factors may play a role in their wellbeing in a resettlement context.
This presentation outlines how this set of wellbeing and psycho-education activities was mainstreamed into the FICT program, including how participants from six refugee communities reported the value of these activities.
Susan Cunningham (STARTTS)
Refugee Families Taking Strides with Practical Case Management support and Sensitive Trauma Informed Approaches
This presentation will outline the approach SSI case managers use with newly arrived refugee families, which is guided by strength based, culturally responsive principles, trauma informed methods and collaboration with community services. Several unidentified case studies will be discussed to enable participants to understand how the families, adults, children and young people create their new lives and work through their challenges.
Many professionals are curious about the work and support offered by a well-informed consistent case management approach, this presentation will highlight some key aspects of the assessment process for case support and how clients benefit. The unique Clinical Practice Unit at SSI provides case managers and team leaders with an opportunity to discuss complex case matters and reflect on aspects of the case from a holistic systemic framework. This brings a helpful review of progress, challenges and opportunities to take forward.
Settlement Services International (SSI) is working with many hundreds of new arrival families within humanitarian entrant program and an asylum seeker program. It is the largest not-for-profit Humanitarian settlement organisation in Australia. SSI also provides accommodation support, multi-cultural foster care, disability support and employment services.
Gail Westcott (Settlement Services International)
Presentation currently unavailable
Reification, Silence and Contradiction in Tamil Refugee Families: How Parents and Children Approach Past Loss and Trauma
How do Tamil refugee families communicate about past loss and trauma? What narratives do parents give their children about the past? What secrets do parents keep from children and why? How do children construct their own accounts of histories beyond the grasp of direct memory? And how is the narrative coherence of children and parents implicated in the wellbeing and resilience of families? The literature on refugee trauma has privileged disclosure over silence, connecting re-telling and authorship with mastery and agency. Such lines of argument blur as one moves from the clinic to the home, from the therapist-client relationship to the parent-child relationship and from Western to non-Western cultures. Using inter-generational attachment narratives of children and parents from 35 Tamil refugee families that arrived in Australia in the post-2009 period, I will provide an account of the orientations families take on approaching the past and the strategies parents use to communicate past loss and trauma to their children. I will show that families adopt one of two orientations to the past: reification or silencing. Regardless of the orientation a family takes, I will suggest that what really matters is the capacity of parents to provide their children with coherence around contradictions.
Lux Ratnamohan (Psychiatry Research & Teaching Unit, Liverpool Hospital)