As the situation in Ukraine deteriorates, the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) is concerned not only for the impact the conflict has on the enormous number of people forced to flee their homes and seek protection in neighboring countries, but how it may be a trigger of past trauma for former refugee and asylum-seeking communities in Australia.
The constant reporting and images of war can be highly distressing for people who have survived such conflicts. We encourage anyone who feels that such images bring back pain and memories of previous traumatic events, to seek support.
RCOA president Jasmina Bajraktarevic-Hayward said hundreds of thousands of Australians who had experienced forced displacement themselves were distressed by the images they were seeing from Ukraine.
“This is something I understand from my own experience, as someone displaced by the war in Bosnia just under 30 years ago. It does not matter how long ago trauma occurred, it can feel as raw today as it has many years ago. I was impacted by the media coverage and I know many others with refugee experience have too. While this impact was painful and distressing for me, I also realise that this is human and expected.
“Australians of refugee background experienced similar deep distress in August when seeing the events in Afghanistan. It is a trigger for those of us who see our own experiences replicated in the lives of people now, but it also motivates us to want to see today’s refugees experience the same welcome we received in Australia.”
The rapidly moving media cycle and multiple crises occurring simultaneously around the world, combined with significant cuts to Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program, can create heightened distress for refugee communities waiting to hear if their families will be able to secure protection in Australia.
Now is more important than ever for Australia to have a consistent and generous response to support those affected by these conflicts.
We must increase the Refugee and Humanitarian Program, which has been drastically reduced in recent years. As it stands, we are not only ignoring the need for increased places at great risk to those seeking asylum, but the desire of millions of Australians to do more to help.
As a result, RCOA continues to call for a special intake of 20,000 people from Afghanistan, and for the government to reinstate the 2013 level of its humanitarian program of 20,000 places in the upcoming 2022 Budget. In doing so, we’ll be better placed to respond to crises unfolding in countries such as Ukraine, Myanmar and Ethiopia.
Where you can get help
The Refugee Council of Australia encourages anyone that has been impacted by the conflict overseas to talk to their GP, local mental health services or seek support from any of the services listed below.
We also encourage anyone working with refugee communities to complete a referral if you are concerned about someone’s wellbeing. We have included contact details for specialist mental health support services for refugees and people seeking asylum in each state and territory below.
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Kids Help Line 1800 55 1800
- Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
Australian Capital Territory
Companion House – Assisting Survivors of Torture and Trauma
New South Wales
Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) – for people from refugee and refugee like backgrounds.
Witness to War
P: 1800 845 198
Witness to War is a special service that supports and assists individuals and families in NSW directly exposed or otherwise impacted by overseas conflict, with a focus on the Afghan community and Ukrainian community, based on the understanding that conflicts can have detrimental impacts locally.
Melaleuca Australia – Torture and Trauma Survivors Service of the Northern Territory
Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma (QPASTT)
Survivors of Torture and Trauma Assistance and Rehabilitation Service (STTARS)
P: 08 8206 8900
Phoenix Centre – Support for Survivors of Torture and Trauma
Foundation House – the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture
P: 03 9389 8900
Association for Services to Torture and Trauma Survivors (ASeTTS)
P: 08 9227 2700