This PhD research provides insight into the theme of Practice Wisdom and Progression in relation to unaccompanied asylum seeking minors (UAM) living in the community. Whilst evidence has shown that UAMs experience higher rates of psychological distress and mental health issues, a growing number of studies have also highlighted their resilience. This study is the first to approach the
resilience of UAMs from a social-ecological theoretical framework. Utilising a Thematic Analysis methodology, interviews with 16 former UAMs and 20 service providers were analysed for consistent factors that facilitated or undermined resilience processes.
The major challenges related to recruitment and ethics, particularly anonymity and informed consent. Four major themes are proposed: Distal Decisions, Connection, Education and Identity. The most significant risk factors were introduced through the Distal Decisions made by Government at the federal (distal) level in the context of a deterrence approach to ‘Illegal Maritime Arrivals’. The
most powerfully promotive factors resulted from the interaction between Connection, Education and Identity, which include the organisational, relational and individual components of a social-ecological framework. Connection and Education are conceptualised as “domains of interaction” with the greatest potential to facilitate resilience processes within the current context. Distal Decisions, however, have the greatest power to alter the underlying adverse conditions that place barriers to accessing these “domains of interaction”. It is at the distal level where interventions are most needed because it is laws,
policies and systems that create the conditions for the greatest number of UAMs to grow up well. This research is relevant to a range of practitioners, advocates and policy-makers as it identifies the ‘key ingredients’ that enable UAMs (and likely other ‘looked after’ asylum seeking and refugee children) to cope and do well despite systemic discrimination that reduces access to resources and