ASeTTS, Perth, Australia
Young survivors of torture and trauma from refugee-like backgrounds may face a range of challenges in their new country, including poverty, social isolation, living in trauma-affected and dysfunctional families, homelessness, risk of sexual abuse and risk of substance abuse.
ASeTTS uses various creative therapeutic tools to help young people address challenges due to trauma; Healing through Creative Arts is one such initiative. The objectives are to increase the participants’ connections and attachments, provide a space for healing in a creative environment, and create a social-justice dialogue with the young people in a safe environment.
Funded by Lottery West, ASeTTS’ current program has 70 participants aged between 9 and 20, who choose two creative arts in which to partake from four options: photography, drumming, dance and art. The program comprises two full days of activities in each school holiday period, over the course of a year.
ASeTTS uses the Circle of Courage model of positive youth development as the basis for the program’s five themes: Courage, Belonging, Mastery, Independence and Generosity. The ‘open circle’ method is applied for the complete group of participants; the ‘closed circle’ method is applied within the four creative groups, facilitated by an expert therapist and supported by a youth worker with a refugee background. The final session of each two-day schedule is allocated to social-justice dialogue on one of the five themes, facilitated by a specialist youth worker.
The main challenge ASeTTS encountered with the program was sourcing qualified therapists skilled in working with people from refugee backgrounds. Some applicants were passionate about the role but lacked the required experience; others were experienced but unable to commit to a 12-month project. Those challenges were resolved, however, and ASeTTS staff are now witnessing the young participants creating successful connections while using the safe space to progress their healing.