Understanding students’ likely exposure to traumatic events

Students may have been exposed to multiple traumatic events and forced transitions, which may include loss of parent/s, sibling/s, friends and other significant people through death or separation, and/or loss of home, place and culture.

You do not need to know the details of students’ individual traumatic experiences to be able to support them. But it is helpful for you to have a general understanding about their likely exposure to traumatic events.

You should consider:
  • The student’s age when they arrived in Australia
  • Whether they are in a family or not, who they are with here and who they have left behind
  • Where they were before they arrived in Australia
  • The types of traumatic events they are likely to have experienced in the course of their development, based on the history of persecution of their community
  • The major disruptions they are likely to have experienced as a result of such events – to primary attachments, peer relationships and education, and the length of those disruptions
  • Since arriving in Australia, the significant changes to their role in the family and community

Traumatic events experienced by refugees

During the refugee journey to Australia, all students and families have experienced deprivation, including:

  • Limited or no access to health care, clean water or sanitation.
  • Disconnection from family, friends and the broader community.
  • Disrupted schooling and/or opportunities for play.
  • Limited daily essentials (e.g. food and clothing).

In situations of armed conflict and persecution, and in transit countries, children and families are likely to have survived traumatic events, including:

  • Witnessing human rights violations on a mass scale.
  • Death of family members and friends.
  • Separation from parents and carers.
  • Rape, torture, and imprisonment.
  • Bombing, burning and clearing of land.
  • Daily threats to self and others.
  • Imposed isolation.
  • Perilous flight or escape.
  • Daily discrimination.