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Title: Constructing Early Childhood Services as Culturally Credible Trauma Recovery Environments: An Exploration of Participatory Barriers and Enablers for Refugee Families
Contributor(s): Lamb, Cherie Suzanne (author); Sims, Margaret  (supervisor)orcid ; Nishida, Yukiyo  (supervisor)
Publication Date: 2019-07-01
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Fields of Research (FOR): 130102 Early Childhood Education (excl. Maori)
160702 Counselling, Welfare and Community Services
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 390302 Early childhood education
440902 Counselling, wellbeing and community services
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO): 940105 Children's/Youth Services and Childcare
940111 Ethnicity, Multiculturalism and Migrant Development and Welfare
940112 Families and Family Services
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: 230115 Youth services
Abstract/Context: High quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) services, such as kindergarten/ preschool provide a safe, stabilising influence for all children, affording a powerful means of transcending vulnerability (Melhuish, 2011b; Oberklaid, Baird, Blair, Melhuish, & Hall, 2013). Quality ECEC enhances a child’s cognitive, behavioural, social and linguistic skills, thus laying strong foundations for successful home-to-school-transitions and future health, educational and employment outcomes (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2017). Unfortunately, children from refugee backgrounds remain significantly underrepresented in ECEC services across Australia (Hopkins, Lorains, Issaka, & Podbury, 2017; Krakouer, Mitchell, Trevitt, & Kochanoff, 2017), and participation is very low in Queensland (Allen Consulting Group, 2011; MDA, 2012; QCOSS, 2016b; Thorpe, Vromans, & Bell-Booth, 2011). Reasons for non-engagement have been difficult to ascertain (Baxter & Hand, 2013; Krakouer et al., 2017). Given contemporary neurobiological discoveries about peak brain development occurring between the ages of zero-to-five, non-participation by child refugees is an element of the wicked problem of ongoing disadvantage and social exclusion of refugees in Australian society. This holistic, qualitative, cross-sectoral study explored barriers and enablers to access and participation in ECEC services for refugee families living in Queensland. In this study, evidence about the traumatic nature of the refugee experience from a mental health perspective was fused with evidence about the importance of quality ECEC from an educational perspective. Constructivist Grounded Theory (CGT), rooted in pragmatism and relativism (Charmaz, 2014), was applied as a methodology. In CGT the researcher honours the lived experience by maintaining participants’ presence through their words and stories, with the understanding that theory is co-constructed between researcher and participant (Charmaz, 2017b). Data was obtained through semi-structured interviews and focus groups with 55 participants, 38 of whom were former refugees. Participants consisted of 29 parents and 26 early childhood practitioners (ECPs) who were educators, directors, managers, family and cultural support workers, sourced from seven community-based agencies affiliated with an early childhood initiative of the Queensland Department of Education. Results indicate that the majority of refugee families were denied access to ECEC, with key areas of exclusion being: poverty, language, trauma, culture, and racism. Families who were successful in enrolling children frequently experienced a limited sense of belonging, arising from lack of respect, racial tensions, negative perceptions about quality of care, fear of children being abused by educators, and fear of State intervention. These barriers resulted in withdrawal of children and signalled that some ECPs were ill prepared to work with young children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD) whose families had experienced war-trauma. The few families who fully participated described cultural credible services that promoted language rights; fostered culturally safe and secure environments for both children and parents; implemented trauma-informed practice and anti-discriminatory, culturally sustaining pedagogies. In drawing upon participant narratives about the encounters of child refugees in early childhood settings, I used an ecological model focusing on indicators of wellbeing informed by McFarlane, Kaplan, and Lawrence (2011), to explore the complex interplay between behavioural presentations, parental refugee experience, societal and economic conditions impacting upon families in resettlement, and interactions between families and ECPs. Findings underscore the importance of responding to complex trauma in children through an ecological approach. This study highlights the need for state-wide investment in well-resourced, responsive strategies such as: poverty alleviation through fee waivers; language rights through mandating interpreter / translator usage and dual language maintenance; and professional development to foster cross-cultural competencies and the application of trauma-informed practice by all ECPs. ECEC services are well placed to become culturally credible trauma recovery environments for children from refugee backgrounds.
Publication Type: Dataset
Keywords: early childhood education
refugee families
racial discrimination
trauma recovery
cultural credibility
cultural competence
Location: South East Queensland: Greater Brisbane; Logan & Toowoomba/Lockyer Valley
HERDC Category Description: X Dataset
Description: Thesis associated with these datasets can be accessed via RUNE:
Project: Constructing Early Childhood Services as Culturally Credible Trauma Recovery Environments: An Exploration of Participatory Barriers and Enablers for Refugee Families
Dataset Managed By: Cherie Lamb
Rights Holder: Cherie Lamb
Dataset Stored at: University of New England
Primary Contact Details: Cherie Lamb -
Dataset Custodian Details: Cherie Lamb -
Appears in Collections:Dataset
School of Education

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