Experts explore childhood trauma impact

Principals, teachers, academics and educational leaders gathered in Bendigo this week to explore new thinking and practices in the field of childhood trauma, including its significant impact on schools.

La Trobe University’s Hard Yards conference was held at the La Trobe Arts Precinct in View Street on Friday 17 August 2018.

Speakers included Professional Learning Coordinator at EREA Youth+, Dr Ann Morgan, plus La Trobe Bendigo academics, Associate Professor Fiona Gardner and Ms Anne Southall.

Conference coordinator, Ms Southall, said as knowledge grows on the profound impacts of childhood trauma, the aim of the conference is to help schools become more ‘trauma informed.’

“An estimated 1 in 32 Australian children suffer abuse or neglect in childhood, meaning the impacts of trauma are felt in almost every school in the country,” she said.

“There is a great deal of innovative thinking emerging about the best way to respond to these vulnerable children, who have effectively had their brains ‘rewired’ through their experiences,” she said.

“We want to help teachers develop the skills they need to respond and cope, and ultimately reduce challenging behaviour in the classroom,” Ms Southall said.

As part of its innovative approach, the conference included an exhibition of student artwork on the theme ‘What does putting in the ‘hard yards’ mean to you?’, plus a theatre performance on the theme of childhood trauma.

Castlemaine theatre company, Hobo Playhouse, performed ‘Biting the Hand’, a play written by Ms Southall and based on a real child’s experience.

Ms Southall explained that ‘Biting the Hand’ is an intense and confronting play depicting the story of ‘Daniel’ a 14 year old boy who suffered abuse and neglect in childhood.

“While initially Daniel’s behavioural problems leave him feeling isolated and powerless in an inflexible school system, a different approach soon builds connection and hope for this vulnerable boy,” Ms Southall said.

“The play aims to show that although well-meaning adults can inadvertently exacerbate the issues experienced by children who suffer from trauma, by engaging with a child’s dialogue, we open up opportunities for real connection and progress,” she said.

Hard Yards is a unique one-day conference and included attendees from across the state.

Media contact: Dragana Mrkaja - 0447 508 171 /