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A new paper released today on the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse website examines how childhood trauma experienced by Indigenous children can be overcome by appropriate interventions.

Trauma-informed services and trauma-specific care for Indigenous Australian children looks at both inter-generational trauma (trauma from past events that is passed on to children) and direct trauma (experienced through exposure to an accident, family violence or abuse).

The paper examines the effects of trauma and explores how these can be tackled. It shows that the effects of both inter-generational and direct childhood trauma can be severe and long lasting; however, these effects can be overcome by appropriate interventions.

The paper draws on documented practice experience to show how services can adapt their programs to aid the healing and recovery of those affected by trauma. Evidence shows that:

  • Service providers that understand trauma and its impact on children, families and communal groups and create environments in which children feel physically and emotionally safe are the most effective.
  • Such services employ culturally competent staff and adopt practices that acknowledge and demonstrate respect for specific cultural backgrounds.
  • They also integrate and coordinate care to meet children's needs holistically and support victims/ survivors of trauma to regain a sense of control over their daily lives and actively involve them in healing
  • By involving community members in the design and evaluation of programs, and supporting safe relationship building as a means of promoting healing and recovery, these programs can be effective at mitigating the effects of trauma.

Although the development of services that understand trauma and its effects is critical, children who are victims/ survivors of trauma also require individual therapeutic care.

While there is no single way to provide such care, documented practice experience suggests that approaches informed by Indigenous culture show promise for supporting healing and recovery.

There is also emerging evidence that supports an ecological approach (which considers and acts on all systems that are negatively affecting a child's situation) and physical activity as a means of promoting positive mental health outcomes. 

The Closing the Gap Clearinghouse (http://www.aihw.gov.au/closingthegap/) is jointly funded by all Australian governments and provides an online source of information on what works to close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage. It is delivered by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS).

Canberra, 23 July 2013

Further information: Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson, tel. 02 6689 9452, mob. 0409 866 075

View the resource sheet here: http://www.aihw.gov.au/closingthegap/publications