My matter is for the Minister for Education.
Through it, I seek information about what is currently being done to improve trauma-informed practice in teaching in Victoria.
On first impression, this might sound like an issue that I’m raising purely in the wake of the COVID experience this year. But I assure everyone that’s not the case.
Of course, as very many of us feared would happen, thousands of Victorian children have been seriously challenged in 2020 because of the coronavirus lockdowns and the long duration of them. And it has been very distressing to hear the observations and evidence of many medical professionals about what remains the ongoing, lockdown-related surge in children’s mental health problems.
However, childhood trauma in Victoria is an issue with a much longer history and much wider reach.
In fact, we know that trauma (in many and varied forms) has been exerting a profound impact on Victorian children for a considerable time now. Unfortunately, the existence of the Internet, of social media and of associated cyberbullying has also substantially exacerbated this problem over recent decades.
Typically, the general impact of this trauma in individuals’ formative years is also not felt simply in the short term. Frequently, it can even be lifelong, especially if not recognised or successfully addressed early enough. That is certainly true for many children scarred by the more complex forms of trauma triggered by incidents involving interpersonal threats and/or violence such as neglect, poverty, abuse, bullying, family violence and sexual assault.
More happily, in various parts of the world, there has been a growing recognition of (and therefore a growing concentration on) the need to create safer and more understanding learning environments for trauma-affected children.
In part, this has been because of the emergence of numerous important studies that have highlighted the diversity of ways in which trauma in early life can impede a person’s cognitive development and/or emotional intelligence. Foremost among these are difficulties in learning and in relationships as well as a broader sense of disconnection from, and lack of trust or belief in, other people.
One of the points that these studies therefore also reinforce is that, among those adults with the most dysfunctional lives in society, childhood trauma is regularly a common denominator.
I would therefore appreciate the Minister’s advice about the specific steps that are currently being taken (and the specific forms of leadership, guidance and resources currently being provided by the Government) to enhance trauma-informed training and practice for teachers in Victoria.