20 May Young People Impacted by Trauma
Complex and intergenerational trauma is common amongst particular groups of young people such as:
· Children and young people who live in out of home care because of issues of abuse and/or neglect.
· Young people who are under youth justice supervision. The experience of detention, including lockdowns, isolation, threats from others and conflict among detainees are likely to result in further experiences of trauma.
· Young people who are homeless. In 2017 it was estimated there were more than 26,000 young people aged 12 – 24 years who were homeless. Trauma is often one of the ways young people end up being homeless.
· Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, who are often at increased risk of experiencing complex trauma either directly or through intergenerational trauma.
Research has found trauma during childhood is associated with developmental difficulties, mental health and physical health disabilities, substance abuse and involvement with the police and justice system.
Many young people who experience trauma and are involved in the police and justice system also have Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). A study done in 2018 of young people at Banksia Hill Youth Detention Centre found that 36% of young people detained had FASD while 89% were found to have at least one form of severe neurodevelopmental impairment.
This, all too easily becomes a revolving door. A young person with FASD and complex trauma is more likely to be involved with the Justice system. The experience of imprisonment and being confined can exacerbate the trauma which increases the likelihood of recidivism.
It is easy to focus on the criminal acts of young people. A focus which can feed into the “get tough on crime” mentality that views crime as simply bad behaviour taken to extreme lengths. While it is important to encourage young people to be responsible and to take responsibility for their actions, we also must provide safe spaces where complex and intergenerational trauma can be expressed, and the healing process commenced.
 Bendall S, Phelps A, Browne V, Metcalf O, Cooper J, Rose B et al. 2018. Trauma and young people. Moving toward trauma-informed services and systems. Melbourne: Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health.
 The Australian Child & Adolescent Trauma, Loss & Greif Network. Trauma, young people and Juvenile Justice