24 March 2022

Rebuilding identity, trauma recovery and healing can take many different forms.

Muslim boy sitting on sofa with mobile phone at home. He is wearing all white.

​​​​​​​In late 2021, the world watched in distress as tens of thousands of people, many children and families, fled their homes as the Taliban assumed power in Afghanistan. The devastation for Afghani people witnessing their homeland under siege is unimaginable.

In many cases, children as young as ten came to Australia unaccompanied by any member of their family, in order to be kept safe and seek refuge and asylum. Few of us can imagine what that experience must be like for a little child.

Rahim*, is one of those children. At just 11 years old, he arrived on Australian shores as an unaccompanied minor – a government term for a child arriving in Australia with no family or friend as their guardian.

He arrived only with the clothes he was wearing.

Our team began supporting unaccompanied minors late last year after violence erupted in Afghanistan. Sara Lackner, Operations Manager for the Unaccompanied Humanitarian Minors program in Life Without Barriers said;

“It’s a real process for us to try to understand what these children have been through because it is such a traumatic and unique experience."

"We can’t pretend to know the full scale of what it has been like for them. We know that very small children have had to leave their mum and dad, their family, their belongings, their culture and everything familiar in a really terrifying way.

“We don’t have the power to expedite the reunification process for them with families, so our job is to rebuild the connections to identity that have been lost, by helping create a sense of safety and familiarity as much as we can. Favourite comforting foods are really important, as are rituals and practices that the children guide. Sara says the care team look for specific opportunities to support connection to culture.

"For Rahim, that involved going to an Afghan clothing store where he was able to purchase some clothes that were similar to those he would wear back home.

"A photograph of Rahim was captured as he emerged from the change room in his new outfit - joy and pride beaming off his face. Sara said the moment was incredibly touching and important for Rahim and also for the team.

Image: Mahtab and Joulica show off their henna painted hands.

Mahtab* is also an unaccompanied minor from Afghanistan and together with Life Without Barriers House Manager Joulica Lawrence, they shared a moment using Henna to celebrate Persian New year – NAW RUZ.

Both wonderful examples of how rebuilding identity, trauma recovery and healing takes many different forms.

*Names have been changed to protect the children in this story.

You can read our open letter of support to people of Afghanistan here.

Support for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Life Without Barriers provides services through our National Immigration Support Service (NISS)

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