Pre-Conference Workshops 2017

Workshop 1A

Developing Culturally Appropriate Early Childhood Services with Refugee Families


The workshop will examine various strategies to bridge the gap between the demonstrated need for early childhood work with refugee families and communities, and their apparent reluctance to take up available services. To address this dilemma, the systemic early childhood community engagement model that has been developed at STARTTS includes formal research, informal consultations, collaborative service design, flexible service delivery, community capacity building, cross- referral and follow-up, and ongoing feedback. In this context the system includes the family, refugee community, cultural influences, and the range of early childhood education, health, child protection, parent support and settlement services.

The workshop will include an exploration and review of:

  • The need for early childhood intervention with refugees
  • Potential barriers to participation in early childhood services
  • The strengths, challenges and outcomes of the described community engagement approach, and
  • Opportunities for the participants to consider how they may apply these approaches in their own setting.

Rosemary Signorelli

Senior Early Childhood Counsellor
NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS)

Rosemary Signorelli is a Psychotherapist, Music Therapist and Occupational Therapist who has qualifications and extensive experience in various clinical settings. This includes work across the total life span, with people who have special needs, other health issues or have had experiences of abuse and/or trauma. Her current work at STARTTS integrates all areas of her expertise; she is particularly passionate about the importance of early intervention for infants, toddlers and pre-school children from refugee families. This includes working with the parent and child together, in dyads or groups of dyads, supporting the parents or other caregivers, and empowering them to continue facilitating their children’s healing and ongoing development.

Target audience
Early childhood workers, clinicians, community workers who are working with or interested in working with young children and their families from a refugee background.

Workshop 1B

Introduction to the Clinical Use of Brain Mapping and Neurofeedback with Torture and Trauma Survivors


This workshop will explore the benefits of using brain mapping (QEEG) to clinically assess clients with complex and chronic trauma related symptoms. We will outline how different brainwave patterns relate to different symptoms and how these findings can inform psychological treatment. Through a case vignettes and a practical demonstration the participants will develop an understanding of how neurofeedback can assist clients to reorganise their brain-wave activity that in turn can help them change their emotional and physiological responses to trauma.

Workshop program:

  • Introduction into brain mapping: demonstration
  • Brainwaves and brain states
  • How QEEG assessment can inform clinical practice
  • The most frequent dysfunctional EEG patterns associated with PTSD
  • Use of Neurofeedback to reduce symptom distress and improve physiological functioning: case study and demonstration

Trix Harvey

Neurofeedback Team Leader
NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS)

Trix is a board member of the Applied Neuroscience Society of Australasia as newsletter editor, and a BCIA accredited Neurofeedback provider. Trix, current Neurofeedback Team Leader at STARTTS, joined STARTTS in 2014 as an EEG technician and became a Neurofeedback counsellor a year later. She has been working in Neurofeedback since 2011, working in private practise with clients diagnosed with ADHD, autism, depression, anxiety and PTSD. Trix completed her degree in Psychology in 1999 in South Africa and followed by post graduate certifications in Corporate Communication, Project Management and Small Business Management. She has worked in many different environments including Corporate, Mental Health, Small Business and Education.

Target audience
Suitable for clinicians interested in the mind body interface.

Workshop 2A

The Internalisation of Trauma: How trauma manifests and is worked through symbolically in the psyche


In this workshop Lois will explore the centrality and effects of dissociation in severe and complex trauma. Drawing on the work of Donald Kalsched (amongst others) which elaborates the archetypal defences that severe trauma activate, Lois will demonstrate how the splitting process of dissociation manifests and is given symbolic form in dreams, nightmares, and other imaginal processes. These forms bring powerful inner destructive aspects of trauma into consciousness which in turn provide the foundation for therapeutic exploration, containment and integration. The workshop will also address the value of this approach in the cross cultural context of refugee trauma and comment on its complementarity with other therapeutic processes in trauma work, eg the creation of safety within the therapeutic alliance, restoring attachment, it’s contribution to embodiment and body focussed therapies and interpersonal work.

Lois Whiteman

Clinical Services Manager
Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma (QPASTT)

Lois has been practising social work for over thirty years with a focus on counselling and therapeutic work within a systemic framework. In the last fifteen years she has specialised in trauma work, particularly refugee trauma recovery work with adults. Lois has either worked at or been associated with The Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma (QPASTT) since 1997 providing counselling, clinical supervision and training. Her current position at QPASTT is Clinical Services Manager. Her professional interests include clinical supervision, depth psychology in and its application to trauma recovery, sandplay, dream work and somatic approaches. She is also a qualified yoga teacher.

Target audience
Suitable for clinicians.

Workshop 2B

Using Art and Other Expressive Therapies in Refugee Trauma Recovery: An experiential workshop


When a person experiences trauma it can have a detrimental impact on their sense of wellbeing. People from a refugee or asylum seeker background have often experienced complex trauma. Research shows that the impact of trauma is both psychological and physiological, and trauma can be stored in the brain as sensory memory. This makes it important for non-verbal therapeutic approaches to be used as part of the trauma recovery process (Rothchild,2000 & Schore, 1994). Non-verbal therapeutic approaches; like arts therapy, music therapy, play therapy, and dance/movement therapy; can provide a person with a safe way of accessing and exploring these experiences, with the aim of improving their wellbeing. In this workshop we will provide an introduction to expressive therapies, with a focus on arts therapy, and explore its use with clients who have experienced trauma.  The workshop will include elements of theory, case vignettes  and  experiential activities.  This workshop is best suited to people who have limited experience using arts therapy.

Farah Suleman

Coordinator Asylum Seeker Support Team
Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma (QPASTT)

Farah Suleman holds a Masters in Mental Health (Art Therapy) from the University of Queensland and has been working in the cross-cultural mental health sector for over 10 years. Farah is passionate about the role that expressive therapies and creativity can play in restoring mental health and well-being for people who have experienced torture and trauma with a special interest in working with children and young people. She has a child-centered focus and her practice draws on inter-disciplinary and trans-cultural collaboration. Farah started work with QPASTT in 2013 and became the coordinator of the Asylum Seeker Support Team in 2015. Her focus has been effective interventions and support for vulnerable people seeking asylum.

Elise McKenzie

Counsellor/Advocate, Asylum Seeker Support Team
Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma (QPASTT)

Elise is a Registered Arts Therapist who completed her postgraduate studies at the University of Queensland.  Elise is currently working as a counsellor/advocate with asylum seekers at QPASTT.  Elise works with both adults and children, and utilizes expressive modalities in the work that she does with clients.  Elise has worked previously with Relationships Australia providing counselling support for victims of crime and people impacted by gambling addiction.  She has also worked for Lutheran Community Care Queensland developing and facilitating arts therapy programs for older adults, as well as women and children who have experienced domestic and family violence.

Target audience
Suitable for anyone working therapeutically with this population. No art therapy experience is needed.

Workshop 3

Biofeedback as a Tool for Self-Regulation


Biofeedback therapies are non-pharmacological treatments that use scientific instruments to detect and amplify internal body activities too subtle for normal awareness, making information about one’s body available to the conscious mind. They can be a useful adjunct to trauma treatment, are easy to learn and inexpensive. This one-day workshop will provide the theoretical background to Biofeedback and Heart Rate Variability (HRV) together with the opportunity to use the Biofeedback software.Since trauma clients are often experiencing serious ANS imbalance resulting from their PTSD symptoms, we are proposing the implementation of the HRV training as a standard adjunct to the counselling work with clients. The main aim of this presentation is to give the clinicians a practical step-by step guideline on how to:

  • Use HRV in their practice
  • Assess client’s breathing pattern and apply the appropriate breathing exercises
  • Use of Biofeedback Equipment and Software to assess, train and monitor clients progress
  • Recognize the impact of trauma on Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

Sejla Murdoch

Neurofeedback Counsellor/Psychologist
NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS)

Sejla is a senior psychologist with 20 years of clinical experience working with trauma, including providing therapy to survivors of domestic violence and refugee trauma. Since 2007 Sejla has assisted in the development of the Neurofeedback (NF) Clinic at STARTTS; the first clinic in the world to provide such treatment to refugee survivors of torture and trauma. Sejla has presented nationally and internationally, and provides clinical supervision and mentoring to a number of STARTTS Neurofeedback counsellors. Currently, together with the clinic’s management, she is working on establishing a Neurofeedback clinic that specialises in work with early childhood and refugee trauma at STARTTS. Sejla is BCIA-A accredited Neurofeedback provider.

Mirjana Askovic

Team Leader/ Neurofeedback Counsellor/Psychologist
NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS)

Mirjana Askovic is a psychologist and BCIA-A qualified neurofeedback practitioner who uses an integrated, brain-based approach to psychotherapy. Since 2000 she has been working with adult and child refugee trauma survivors at STARTTS. In 2007 Mirjana was given the responsibility of establishing STARTTS’ Neurofeedback Clinic to help people with chronic, complex PTSD. She is currently the Biofeedback/Neurofeedback Program Team Leader and among other duties she is involved in several research studies examining the role of abnormal brain activity in refugee trauma symptoms.

Target audience
Suitable for all interested clinicians working in therapy with children, adolescents and adults.

Workshop 4A

Delivering Evidence-Based Parenting Interventions to Exceptional Populations: Ideas for bridging the gap


In this half day workshop Fahima Saeid and Margaret Weston who jointly lead the Refugees as Survivors New Zealand (RASNZ) Family Service will talk about how they have tailored the thoroughly researched Discussion Group series of Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) to fit the needs of families from diverse refugee backgrounds. The focus is on building capacity within the community and empowering the voices of parents themselves. Participants in the workshop will be able to share their thoughts and experiences of supporting parents to adjust to new social and legislative environments. All attendees will be invited to collaborate in the development of a vision of how this can be achieved, with the resulting template to be made available for all agencies represented.

Margaret Weston

Family Service Coordinator
Refugees as Survivors New Zealand (RASNZ), Auckland

Margaret grew up in Canada, Tanzania and Turkey and moved to New Zealand from the UK thirty years ago. As a psychologist she has held varied roles in health, education and social services. A recurring theme has been the joy and challenge of working across cultures, of delivering evidence-based interventions in culturally acceptable, appropriate and effective ways. She has an interest in parenting and many years’ experience in training practitioners in the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P), as well as working directly with families. Her role with RASNZ gives her opportunities to continue this passion and is enriched by the partnership with her colleague Fahima, with whom she shares the role of coordinating the recently established Family Service.

Fahima Saeid

Advocate Counsellor and Family Services Coordinator
Refugees as Survivors New Zealand (RASNZ), Auckland

Fahima grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan, completed her study and graduated from Kabul University as a medical doctor in 1988. In the last five years of her medical career, Fahima worked for Médecins Sans Frontière (MSF) helping remote and internally displaced refugee communities in Afghanistan, before moving to New Zealand in 2001. She then trained as a counsellor and has worked with RASNZ since 2006 as an Advocate Counsellor and holds a wide range of skills in both healthcare and community development. Fahima is also keen on groups and is interested in utilising group work to provide refugee women and children with a safe place to come together to deal with social isolation, regain their sense of identity, celebrating their cultural diversity and learn some new parenting skills.

Target audience
Suitable for all interested clinicians working in therapy with children, adolescents and adults.

Workshop 4B

Community Led Development and Refugee Background Communities


This workshop will be based on the principles of community led development in relation to work with refugee background community in order to achieve greater change and more enduring outcomes for communities. The workshop will draw on the experience of the WISE Collective and the Safari Multicultural Playgroups both partnership projects resulting from the long-term relationship between Auckland Resettled Community Coalition (ARCC) and Auckland Regional Migrant Services Trust (ARMS). Implications for funding and funders will also be discussed. Participants will be able to share their own experience and explore possibilities of including these principles in their own practice and organisations.

Susan Elliot

Long-term Refugee Practitioner
Former Lecturer Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, NZ

Susan Elliott has worked in the refugee sector for more than 35 years as a teacher, researcher, consultant, facilitator, mentor, volunteer and ally. She has worked in New Zealand and the UK as a lecturer, and internationally as a consultant for UNHCR. Currently she works most of the time as an independent practitioner at various levels in the New Zealand refugee sector. She has a particular interest in rights based community development and capacity building.

Target audience
Suitable for anyone working or interested in working with refugee communities.

Workshop 5A

School’s In for Refugees


School’s In for Refugees: A whole-school approach to supporting students of refugee backgrounds (VFST 2016) is a resource that supports schools and school-based professionals in their efforts to provide a high quality education to young people and their families of refugee backgrounds. This second edition (updated in 2016) has been produced in consultation with teachers and others in the community, health, family services and education sectors. It includes background information about understanding the refugee experience and the impact of trauma on learning, development and wellbeing. This resource also includes case studies, professional learning activities, templates and tools for teachers to use in their work, to assist planning and change processes in a school environment. This workshop will be practical and provide an opportunity for participants to work with the resources and tools in the School’s In for Refugees resource.

Samantha McGuffie

Schools Support Program Coordinator
Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (VFST)

Samantha McGuffie has a community development background and coordinates the state-wide Schools Support Program at Foundation House, where she has worked since 2007. She has extensive experience working in the refugee and education sector, most notably coordinating the Foundation House component of the Refugee Education Support Program (RESP).

Maureen O’Keefe

Senior Professional Learning Officer
Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (VFST)

Maureen has more than 20 years experience as a leading teacher in secondary school education, having taught both within and beyond Australia. EAL and new arrivals were a focus of her work in regional Victorian schools for a number of years.  Maureen has worked at Foundation House since 2012 leading a schools and families partnership project, facilitating the Refugee Education Support Program in the northern metro region of Melbourne and is currently coordinating the professional learning component of the Schools Support Program.

Target audience
This workshop is relevant to anyone working in and with schools and who is interested in building capacity for schools to support the health and wellbeing of students, staff and families.

Workshop 6A

Building Resilience through Community Engagement


This half day workshop is for researchers, practitioners and policy makers who are exploring refugee resilience and wellbeing through community integration and inclusion. As a Scottish academic, Alison Strang has been closely involved in research and also the development of policy and practice to support refugee settlement in the Scottish context. Alison will explain the origins of the ‘Indicators of Integration’ framework (Ager & Strang, 2008) and outline some of the research that has built on this work. She will share findings from a series of studies that have developed understandings of social connection using participatory approaches to map refugees’ awareness and access to social resources in contrasting cultural contexts. There will be an opportunity to experience some of these participatory methods and to explore how they might be adapted for other settings. The workshop will provide an opportunity to look at a number of emerging models of practice developed in Scotland to helping refugees to improve health and wellbeing through focussing on building social connections including ‘Peer education for health’ programme and ‘Sharing lives and languages’. Finally, the workshop will consider the challenges of implementing policy to promote refugee resilience through inclusion. Using the example of ‘New Scots’ the Scottish refugee integration policy, and also local examples shared by participants, challenges and opportunities to influence policy processes will be explored.

Dr Alison Strang

Research Fellow and Psychologist
Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh UK

Alison Strang has chaired the Scottish Government strategy for refugee integration in Scotland since its inception in 2012. ‘New Scots: Integrating Refugees in Scotland’s Communities’ coordinates efforts in Scotland on an understanding of integration as “… a two-way process that involves positive change in both the individuals and the host communities and which leads to cohesive, multi-cultural communities.” Alison’s research interests concern the mental health and wellbeing of those affected by conflict and disaster. She works in both humanitarian and resettlement contexts and recent research has addressed refugee mental health and social isolation; social capital and the mapping of social connections; and new refugees’ integration pathways.

Target audience
This half day workshop is for researchers, practitioners and policy makers who are exploring refugee resilience and wellbeing through community integration and inclusion.

Free Presentation 6B

Building a New Life in Australia (BLNA) Study


BNLA is a longitudinal study of some 2,399 humanitarian migrants who arrived or were granted their permanent visas in 2013. The study was established to enable the Australian Government to better understand the factors affecting settlement outcomes for humanitarian migrants. Each participant is being invited to complete annual questionnaire surveys for at least 5 years. The questionnaires cover a wide range of issues including backgrounds, settlement experiences, physical and mental health (Kessler 6, PTSD8) among others. The first three years of data collection have already been completed. Data from the first two years is currently available for researchers (academic/government/NGO) to conduct independent analysis (The third year of data is expected to be available early in 2017). Data from the first survey indicated extremely high rates of mental health problems in the study participants. The BNLA datasets provide an empirical evidence base for helping understanding the factors (including mental health) which aid and settlement outcomes

The presentation will cover:

  • Background and history of the study
  • Details of the methodology
  • An outline of the characteristics of the participants
  • A description of the datasets (how they are structured, what they contain etc.)
  • Advice on analysis approaches (what they can be used for, types of analysis possible)
  • Some limited description of results of interest (focus on mental health)
  • Details on how to access the data

Deborah Kikkawa

Research Officer
National Centre for Longitudinal Data, Department of Social Services

Deborah Kikkawa is a research officer with the National Centre for Longitudinal Data within the Department of Social Services. She is currently working in conjunction with the Settlement Policy Branch to produce a report highlighting findings from the first three waves of Building a New Life in Australia; the Longitudinal Study of Humanitarian Migrants.

Target audience
This free presentation is for anyone interested.