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Working with Parents, Carers and Families with Refugee Experiences

The task of navigating an unfamiliar school system in a new country may feel daunting and frightening for many newly-arrived families. They may experience difficulty in understanding the school system as it may be very different to their own experiences of education. Together with the myriad of settlement needs and trauma, this can impact upon parents’ and carers’ capacity to support young people’s wellbeing and educational development.

It follows that family members are best able to support young people’s recovery, if their own social, emotional, health and practical needs are met in an inclusive and welcoming school community. After being caught up in the survival mode of seeking safety for themselves and their family and coping in a new society, parents and carers may not have focused on their own wellbeing needs. They may also not yet be aware of the free and confidential support that is available to them in Australia.

Many school communities have excelled at becoming natural and supportive places for information, social events and support for families with a refugee experience. At Hints for Healing, we endeavour to bring you stories, interviews, case studies and tips from schools who are all at different points in their journey of whole-school community engagement.

In addition to the resources you find here at Hints for Healing, there are several aspects of STARTTS’ work with school communities, that support parents, carers and families:

The Families in Cultural Transition (FICT) program can be run in schools and, during COVID-19 restrictions, is now successfully being run remotely via online platforms. FICT is a ten-week series of workshops designed to help newly-arrived people with refugee experience, learn about Australia and settle successfully in their new country. The group is run by a Bicultural FICT facilitator who has a similar cultural and linguistic background to the participants. This enables participants to obtain information and support in a relaxed environment while providing opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and friendship with others in similar situations.

Whole of School Approach The STARTTS School Liaison Program Team can assist schools as they work through the Schools In for Refugees Audit (created by our sister organisation in Victoria, Foundation House) or, for NSW Department of Education Schools, the Refugee Readiness Survey. Both of these audits contain a series of items in relation to parents, carers and families and are useful in helping schools identify where to focus their time and resources. A STARTTS School Liaison Officer can support schools through regular meetings and consultation as they work through the audit and implement or update protocols, programs, learning plans and the environment.

Professional Learning STARTTS offers professional learning to schools across NSW on raising awareness of the challenges that newly-arrived families face, how schools can identify family needs and on engaging parents and carers in supporting their children’s learning. The training also assists schools to create a culturally safe and welcoming school environment for families, and advises on how schools can become a hub of information, referral and community engagement.

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