C5. Schools and Young People – Oral Paper Session

Friday, 31 March 2017

Beginning School Well

The Beginning School Well (BSW) program is an early intervention program for refugee children and their families prior to their entry to school. Since 2009 approximately 50 schools have participated.

The program addresses the extreme stress and multiple traumas that many refugee families experience in their country of origin. It is based on research that shows children who make a good start to school are more likely to participate actively in their education and achieve better lifelong outcomes.

The program is a community based intervention targeting prior to school age refugee children and their families. It is based on the establishment of a supported playgroup providing play based sessions in a welcoming environment facilitated by a trained coordinator. The families are supported by a local mentor who speaks the family’s home language and understands the complex needs of refugee families.

The program aims to:
• develop positive relationships between refugee children and their families, mentors, and teachers

• enhance feelings of confidence and trust for refugee children entering school

• ensure refugee children and parents feel safe, welcome and valued members of the community

• assist refugee children to develop positive social skills, attendance patterns and dispositions for learning

• increase capacity of schools to support refugee families and their children.

The program has demonstrated strengthened confidence and resilience of refugee families and a sense of belonging to their community. This has been achieved through mentoring which improves the refugee trauma related issues as measured by the parent and teacher surveys collated pre and post intervention.

More positive settlement outcomes have been measured by the attendance of refugee parents at the playgroup and school transition programs and through case studies. Schools have identified and reported on targets based on the aims of the program in their Management Plans.The Beginning School Well (BSW) program is an early intervention program for refugee children and their families prior to their entry to school. Since 2009 approximately 50 schools have participated.

Sue Pigott (NSW Department of Education)

Supporting high school students from refugee backgrounds transition to higher education: LEAP-Macquarie Mentoring (Refugee Mentoring)

Between 2015-16, the largest proportion of humanitarian visa applications in Australia were from 15–19 year olds (UNHCR Global Trends 2015). Education is key to effective resettlement, leading to better employment and health outcomes for individuals and economic benefits for society as a whole. Yet while the journey through education towards employment is challenging for every young Australian, it presents additional difficulties for students from refugee backgrounds, given that they have often experienced years of instability, trauma and disrupted schooling. Australian schools often struggle to provide resources to fully support this very motivated and academically able cohort, and the social and cultural capital needed to navigate education and career pathways is generally lacking. The LEAP – Macquarie Mentoring (Refugee Mentoring) program addresses this challenge in an innovative way. Volunteer university student mentors, many of whom themselves come from refugee and migrant backgrounds, are matched with high school students from refugee backgrounds for weekly peer-to-peer mentoring sessions covering topics such as goal setting, time management, career pathways and the university environment.

This paper examines the impact of the LEAP-Macquarie Mentoring (Refugee Mentoring) program through mixed-method approach. High school students from refugee backgrounds (n=624) in NSW completed a paper-based survey and semi structured interviews were completed with 83 mentees. Key findings highlighted that the LEAP-Macquarie Mentoring (Refugee Mentoring) program supported students in making a smooth personal, social, and academic transition from high school to university, helped them develop leadership potential, and provided them with a connection to community. In the long term this works to re-establish social capital, enhances resilience and empowers students to be role models.

Ruth Tregale (Macquarie University), Fredrick Gombe (Macquarie University), Subhash Koirala (Macquarie University)

Presentation currently unavailable

Schools and Families in Partnership

Many students from refugee backgrounds are highly likely to be disadvantaged when attending school in Australia. In addition to experiencing the trauma of war, displacement and disruption to education, students and their parents/carers may be unfamiliar with the Australian school system. Whilst many students may be multilingual, they may have limited English language skills, particularly for academic purposes. Whilst parents/carers will have high aspirations for their children’s education, many parents/carers from refugee backgrounds may have had limited access to schooling themselves, have different cultural expectations of parental engagement in school and be unsure about their capacity to contribute to their children’s education.

This paper will explore the opportunity for schools to recognise the strengths parents bring and the contribution they can make through opportunities for authentic engagement with schools. Schools and Families in Partnership: A desktop guide to engaging families from refugee backgrounds in their children’s learning (VFST 2015) is the culmination of a project which brought together school leaders and parent advisory groups across metropolitan and regional Victoria over a period of 18 months. Primary, secondary, city and rural schools, chosen because of their inherent understanding of the refugee experience and the capacity of school to be a site of recovery during resettlement, were involved in the development of this resource. A background paper. Educating children from refugee backgrounds; a partnership between schools and parents has informed the development of the desktop guide. The resource reminds schools that whilst some parents/carers from refugee backgrounds may not be formally educated, they should be recognised as co-educators of their children. Such recognition supports recovery and aids resettlement.

Maureen O’Keefe (Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture VFST)), Kath Cooney (The Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture)

Resilience through a cultural activity on the road to wellbeing, Project Bantu a group approach

Project Bantu is an intervention program that introduces the Afro-Brazilian art form of Capoeira Angola to young people from refugee backgrounds. The project combines the healing potential of musical and physical expression to provide a range of social and learning outcomes. It aims to integrate the three levels of individual existence; cognitive, affective and social development that promotes empowerment, respect, self awareness and developing individual strengths to succeed and face the challenges of life.
Capoeira Angola can be used as a form of psychosocial intervention. Based on dance and martial art, it gives young people a chance to connect with their own bodies and with their peers within a safe container. The activities in the program aim to create a bridge between mind and body, a mindfulness exploration using music rhythms and body movements.

This paper will outline the theory and historical context behind the program, how this approach has been used to foster healing with young refugees in the schools in Western Sydney and will include an experiential component. It could also run as a one and a half hour practical if possible.

Edielson Miranda (STARTTS), George Pearson (STARTTS)