As debate surrounding the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers continues, it is important not to lose sight of the traumatic experiences that those refugees who have already resettled in Australia may have experienced. Many resettled refugees will require ongoing support as they begin life in a new and often very different culture.
Many resettled refugees in Australia are likely to have experienced significant trauma in their lives. The nature of these traumatic events are as varied as the circumstances from which these individuals come, however, common sources of trauma may include:
- Being suppressed in their home country (i.e., basic rights, belief systems, freedom of speech, etc.)
- Exposure to violence and conflict
- Being separated from friends and family
- Death or illness amongst friends and family
- Stressful travel/fleeing circumstances
- Ongoing stress during processing or detention
Experiences such as these can lead to on-going mental, physical, social, and psychological problems even once the resettlement process has been completed. These problems are especially likely to occur in younger people, as they are less psychologically equipped to deal with traumatic events.
On-going struggles for resettled refugees may include:
- Becoming overly-concerned regarding safety and health of family members
- Withdrawing from the local community
- Separation anxiety
- Difficulties forming new friendships and support networks
- Easily becoming angry or frustrated with others
- Difficulties relating to the experiences of others
- Poor academic results and/or future employment prospects
- Lack of a sense of belonging and purpose
- Self harm or suicidal behaviours
Appropriate ongoing support can assist and has been demonstrated to lead to post-traumatic growth and recovery. When supporting resettled refugees, the factors likely to provide the most benefit include:
- Assisting people in rebuilding a sense of safety and security
- Fostering a sense of belonging to the local community
- Maintaining and promoting their cultural identity
- Opening up lines of communication about past traumatic experiences, preferably with qualified professionals
More details on assisting refugees in the resettling process can be found in our information resource Refugees and asylum seekers: Supporting recovery from trauma. This resource details the challenges people face throughout the different stages of the resettling process, and how children and young people in particular can be affected.
Linking families in with support services can also be vitally important. Some of the various support services available to resettled refugees around Australia include:
Canberra Refugee Support is a not-for-provide group who run initiatives to help refugees with education and day-to-day living. They can provide mentoring and scholarship for refugee children, and assist families with local service networking, household items, language training, healthcare, and employment opportunities.
Australian Refugee Association aims to provide case-by-case assistance to refugees from diverse cultural backgrounds now living in Australia. Amongst a wide range of services, they can provide leadership and development training for those refugees who wish to act a point-of-call for other incoming refugees joining their local community.
Settlement Services International are based in NSW, and provide a large range of services and assistance to refugees in Australia. In particular, they can assist with living arrangements/accommodation, foster care for young people, funding for business start-ups, assistance with employment, and community engagement events.
Red Cross Australia can help refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants, and detainees with a variety of support services. These services include medical help, reconnection of separated family members, financial assistance during årelocation, as well as information and guidance regarding the access of Australian health care systems.
Australia’s Department of Human Services offers financial assistance to refugees under certain circumstances, as well as networking services to assist newcomers to Australia with access to a variety of government resources and essential services. Translators for those who are from Non-English speaking backgrounds are also available.