There’s a real honour in being able to hear people tell their story.”
Michael is a Counsellor/Advocate in QPASTT’s Logan and Gold Coast team. He shares insights into how he approaches this work and what it means to him to support our clients.
“As a Counsellor/Advocate, I manage a caseload of clients who have been referred to QPASTT for torture and trauma counselling. They can be young people or adults, from the community or in detention. They can be permanent residents or citizens, they can be on a temporary visa, or they can have no visa. The aim is to provide an environment of safety, empathy, compassion and understanding that can support them to process their trauma.
Some people don’t want to talk about their trauma history initially – they’re not ready for it, they don’t feel safe, or they might be dealing with other stressors which makes it difficult for them to open up about their past.
We really try to provide a safe space for our clients from the moment they walk through the door. Sometimes, clients are able to articulate quite clearly what the problem is they want help with. For others, they just need time to be with someone and share. Those core tenets around safety and being present to bear witness to someone’s experience can be enough in itself to initiate the processing of trauma.
We have fantastic access to interpreters. Appropriate communication and accessing accredited interpreters can be a big challenge for our clients with other agencies. We have good relationships with all of our interpreter services. Our staff are working closely with clients from many different backgrounds and there are always opportunities to learn and grow both as practitioners and individuals.
As Counsellor/Advocates, we support clients with some of the challenges that we might take for granted – talking with institutions like Centrelink or Medicare, the immigration department, and other mental health services or hospitals. We always try to include the client in that process so that they’re able to better advocate for themselves in the future.
This work is incredibly rewarding and incredibly challenging. The opportunity to be able to work with so many different people from different backgrounds is amazing. Adapting and applying therapeutic practices and language to be meaningful across cultures is an interesting challenge. There’s a real honour in being able to hear people tell their story.
The cost of that is that nearly every story contains incredible hardship, suffering and human rights abuse – not just somewhere else, but also here in this country. Many people still face situations where their human rights are violated. They can have very little avenue to advocate, to complain, to appeal or voice their grievance and have it heard by someone who can actually affect change. That can be a very challenging part of the job, especially when your own country and culture is contributing to that suffering and you can sometimes feel like there is very little you can do to appeal or petition that. It is in these moments that holding hope whilst bearing witness is most important and I think as an organisation we do that very well.”