Working with Refugee Young People in Asia and Australia: Public lecture and workshop, 29–30 June 2017

The Centre for Applied Youth Research (CAYR) presented a joint CAYR – Asia Institute Tasmania event on 29–30 June 2017 at the University of Tasmania on the topic of Working with Refugee Young People in Asia and Australia. Dr Jen Couch presented a public lecture on Thursday evening 29 June 2017, and an invitation-only half-day workshop on Friday 30 June 2017.

Dr  Couch is a senior lecturer in youth work at the Australian Catholic University (ACU). She has established a national reputation for her work in the area of refugee young people and resettlement, and is one of the few academics to undertake research on young people from refugee backgrounds and homelessness. Before beginning at ACU 10 years ago, she worked extensively in the youth and community sectors in Australia and South Asia.

She has worked with, and on behalf of, young people in the areas of refugee settlement, displacement, homelessness, rights and participation, torture and trauma, and capacity building. Dr Couch has published widely in the area of young people and marginalisation and is particularly interested in working in hopeful and positive ways to change social inequalities and exclusion.

Public lecture – The refugees paradox: Is higher education possible in protracted refugee settings?
Dr Jen Couch

5.30 pm for 6 pm, 29 June 2017, Harvard Lecture Room 1, Sandy Bay Campus, University of Tasmania, Australia
Free event.

Recording of the lecture
Public lecture outline PDF

Higher education in protracted refugee situations might appear like a series of paradoxes, contradictions in terms, or situations which seem impossible or extremely difficult to achieve for they contain two opposite characteristics or social meanings. The most obvious might be that universities are generally associated with freedom, be it academic freedom or freedom of thought and speech more broadly. Refugees, however, are deemed to be ‘unfree’, for many spend much of their time in exile in camps where restrictions are placed on their basic rights and freedoms. Moreover, higher education institutes are considered long-term, sustainable institutions, whereas refugee camps, although having in many cases existed for several decades, still carry a connotation of temporariness.

Higher education, and schooling in general, are often believed to be dependent on the existence of a nation-state, and this assumption makes higher education in refugee settings an impossible endeavour as refugees are ‘nation-state-less’ people who find themselves in liminality: having left one nation state, they are not (yet) accepted by another. On the other hand, what universities and refugee camps have in common is how they have become increasingly ubiquitous aspects of the modern world, albeit with wholly differing implications. The last century saw a dramatic expansion of higher education, allowing more young people than ever before to access higher learning opportunities and foreshadowing the possibility of universal higher education. Over the past decade alone, protracted refugee situations have increased as a total of all refugee situations from 45 to 90 per cent so that they are now the norm. The average protracted refugee situation lasts an estimated 17 years, up from only nine years in 1993. There are currently some ten million refugees trapped in protracted situations for whom there is limited hope of finding a solution in the near future.

Drawing on the experience of teaching and working in several protracted refugee situations, Jen Couch explored the question of whether these paradoxes can be resolved. Is higher education without a nation-state possible at all, and can higher education be provided within the temporariness and restrictedness of a protracted refugee situation and, more particularly, with the case of young Burmese camp refugees in Thailand?

Workshop – Refugees, Resilience and Resettlement: A strengths-based approach
Dr Jen Couch

9.30 am – 12.30 pm, 30 June 2017, Room 346 Humanities Building, Sandy Bay Campus, University of Tasmania, Australia
Workshop outline PDF

In the humanitarian emergency of refugees forced displacement, the needs and struggles of the individual, family and community are broad and complex. Separation from friends and neighbours, disconnection from land, loss of home, psychical and psychological trauma and disconnection in a foreign environment are just a few of the challenges faced by two million forcibly displaced people.

However, despite this seemingly hopeless reality, young people settle in Australia with a range of resources and strengths. They have survived, adapted, been strong, resourceful, responsible and resilient.

Drawing on extensive experience in working with young people in protracted refugee settings, including the Thai Burma border and the Tibetan community in India, Jen Couch facilitated this half-day workshop that gave participants a greater understanding of how to use a strength-based and trauma-informed practice in their work with young people from a refugee background. Throughout this workshop she focused on the recognition of both trauma and resiliency and its impact in resettlement. Participants received a good understanding of how to confidently foster a safe and supportive environment when working with young people of refugee background.

The public lecture and workshop are sponsored by:





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