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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 26 November 2014) . . Page.. 4081 ..


Childhood trauma is one of the nation’s most important public health concerns, with adverse childhood experiences being one of the strongest predictors for difficulties in life, including physical and mental health problems, social and relational problems and poor educational and vocational outcomes.

Melaleuca Place is a tangible response to intervening early to repair damage and to give children the best chance no matter what may have happened to them. Research demonstrates that many children involved in care and protection are exposed to a number of situations earlier in life that increase their risk of not only experiencing trauma and disrupted attachments but also developing mental health problems.

By the time a child has entered the care system, they may have already been exposed to multiple traumatic experiences, including abuse, neglect, exposure to domestic violence, a family history of mental health, and drug and alcohol abuse. We know that children in care display consistently higher rates of behavioural and other mental health issues, as well as compromised cognitive and adaptive functioning, than children in the general population.

The ability of a child in care to make sense of these traumatic experiences and develop meaningful relationships or attachments that may assist them to overcome the trauma is hindered by their separation from family, culture, community, peers and, frequently, school environments. We know also how the brain is altered following prolonged exposure to trauma or stress. This can include permanent changes in brain structure and function. These developments have coincided with the emergence of new theoretical frameworks that focus on trauma-informed therapeutic approaches to working with children, and in particular focus on a child’s developmental age and the importance of building safe and secure relationships as a means of recovery.

The children presenting to Melaleuca Place have symptoms such as being withdrawn and/or exhibiting aggressive behaviours. These behaviours are associated with complex trauma as a result of experiencing abuse and/or neglect that impact on their everyday functioning. Some of these children also have concurrent delays in their development such as delayed language and motor milestones or learning impairment.

The work undertaken at Melaleuca Place with children is in the context of their care and support networks, utilising trauma and attachment-informed interventions. These therapeutic interventions aim to provide a sense of stability and safety and incorporate consistency, repetition, nurturing and predictability, allowing children, young people, their carers and family the time and space to heal, recover and move towards achieving more positive life experiences.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Ms Berry.

MS BERRY: Minister, how has Melaleuca Place assisted the sector to build its capacity in supporting children to recover from abuse and neglect?

MR GENTLEMAN: Melaleuca Place has made a substantial commitment to building sector capacity through the provision of professional development opportunities and access to trauma-informed information and resources.


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