Department of Peace and Conflict Studies,University Of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
In recent years, FASSTT member agencies have pursued an increasing variety of innovative community development interventions to complement the more traditional counselling therapies offered to support people from a refugee background to recover from trauma and resettle in their new community context in Australia. These community initiatives address the impact of trauma on individuals’ participation in their community and the community’s ability to support individuals and their families. They draw on a number of theoretical approaches including community capacity building, social capital building and assets-based community
development designed to increase the internal strengths and capacities of refugee communities.
This paper will present the results of a research project which aims to increase our understanding of how successful community-based interventions are designed, implemented, evaluated and adapted in response to the needs and priorities of refugee communities.
The paper thus addresses the primary conference theme relating to community engagement and community-based recovery, as well as professional innovations and lessons learned in community work. It will present a comparative analysis of these psychosocial community programs and activities drawing on semi-structured interviews conducted with more than 30 service providers and program facilitators from FASSTT member agencies around Australia.
The research findings identify the challenges experienced by implementing agencies in evaluating these programs and activities in ways that are meaningful and appropriate for communities and yet still meet funding agency requirements. They also highlight the importance of giving voice to refugee communities in the design of programs and activities which contributes to building their social capital and resilience, at the same time as indirectly providing a complementary road to healing and an entry point for counselling.
The conclusions of the study thus have implications for the design of more effective psychosocial community interventions for refugee communities in Australia as well as other contexts and settings.