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STTARS assists people from a refugee and migrant background who have experienced torture or been traumatised as a result of persecution, violence, war or unlawful imprisonment prior to arrival in Australia.


Stories and Events

'Understanding and Responding to Asylum Seeker Distress'- A Symposium

Right now many thousands of asylum seekers, including children and families, are living in the Australian community with an uncertain future. This forum will examine the nature, scope and consequences of asylum seeker uncertainty, distress and mental deterioration, as well as inform thinking around what practical strategies might be considered to help. The forum blends together key practitioners and service providers with people who have lived experience of seeking asylum.

Basil Hetzel Lecture Theatre (H2-02)


City East Campus, University of South Australia, North Terrace


Thursday 25th of September




The cost is free but registration is essential, as light refreshments will be provided. Reserve your place by the 19th of September to avoid disappointment.


To book: Visit Eventbrite



The STTARS Alight For A World Without Torture

On June 26 2014, Survivors of Torture and Trauma Assistance and Rehabilitation Services (STTARS) hosted its annual event to acknowledge The United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.


As a member of The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), STTARS is committed to ensuring that torture and trauma survivors have access to holistic, health-based rehabilitation and legal representation.

'Fighting Impunity' was chosen as the focus for this year's UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. STTARS endeavored to incorporate this subject matter within the structure of the evening.

The event was held at 'Tandanya', the National Cultural Aboriginal Institute. Contributors included Amnesty International Australia, award-winning filmmaker Eliza Percival whose work with FilmAid earned her a Pixel award in 2013 and South Australian Circus Company Artistic Director Joshua Hoare.

Naomi Vaughan, Community Organiser at Amnesty International Australia, presented the keynote address. Vaughan detailed Amnesty's current 'Stop Torture' campaign, which will be activated globally in July 2014. As stated by Vaughan at the event, "Amnesty's position is that torture is never acceptable in any circumstance (and it is not effective). Governments need to prevent torture and ensure survivors are adequately supported, and that perpetrators are brought to justice" (see 30 Years of Broken Promises (Amnesty International)).

Central to the evening were the stories of three survivors who have worked closely with STTARS counselors and interpreters. Their stories were presented to align with the themes of Homeland, Courage, Strength and Connection. Eliza Percival produced this story telling project as an audio piece in collaboration with The Media Resource Centre.

On the evening of the 26th June, Creative Director, Joshua Hoare, offered a beautiful interplay of visual performance and captivating movement to aid the story telling journey.

Hoare's choreography featured global performing acrobats Calin and Arwen Diamond joined on stage with Alana Gregory. Gregory, one of the few select people in Australia trained in the ancient Indian martial arts of 'Kalari' shared this art form with the audience.

The evening concluded with a performance by the Kurdish Youth Society and West African drummer Bortier Okoe.

SBS World News Radio Podcast
Listen to the SBS World News Radio podcast discussing renewed international interest in the prevention of torture, and includes interviews with Linda Matthews, interim CEO of STTARS, and Naomi Vaughan, Community Organiser, Amnesty International...
SBS Radio Podcast

Please see photos courtesy of Stephen McManis and Jarrad Dearman

STTARS has turned 20! Hard to believe but true.

In 1989 STTARS began as a network of psychiatrists and GPs to whom people needing help were referred from RACS(SA). Counselling and casework support were provided by staff from the Indo-Chinese Refugee Association (now the Australian Refugee Association). In 1990 STTARS received seed funding from the private philanthropic organisation the Myer Foundation. Two small grants of $5000 and $4000 were pooled to make for a part time salary for a Coordinator, Dorothy Missingham, to formalise the network of volunteers. The Rev. Martin Chittleborough offered his services as inaugural director on a voluntary basis. At this stage STTARS occupied one room and later a shed at the rear of the Indo-Chinese Refugee Association (now the Australian Refugee Association).

STTARS was formally launched at the start of Refugee Week 1990 and Professor Sandy McFarlane became the first Chair.
We finally became an incorporated association on October 21st 1991. That means this AGM is a very special one. We are having a celebratory dinner at the Pavilion Restaurant on October 26th. If you would like to attend please call Alisha Sopota on 8346 5433.
Increase in Funding

In April 2011 all existing Commonwealth funding for torture and trauma survivors was consolidated into the Program of Assistance for Survivors of Torture and Trauma administered by the Department of Health and Ageing. This consolidation allows STTARS to increase the level of specialist services provided to torture and trauma survivors in South Australia in line with the demand for services and also enable us to develop and expand the range of services we offer. The expanded PASTT Program was launched by Minster Mark Butler on June 23rd 2011 in Canberra.

Sunil Side Up


In some exciting news to kick-start 2012, we would like to officially welcome Sunil Marwaha to the role of STTARS Natural Therapies Co-ordinator.

Already a Counsellor/Advocate within the STTARS Detention Team, Sunil's working background includes Forensic Mental Health Rehabilitation, HIV/AIDs and sexual health, Drug Rehabilitation and Aged Care. Sunil is a registered Nurse who has worked in Indigenous health in the Alice Springs hospital and also travels frequently to the Afar region of Ethiopia where he is involved in an ongoing community development project.

Particularly pertinent to this announcement however, is Sunil's passion for Natural Therapies - in particular, the Indian traditions of Ayurveda.Sunil is a student of Yoga and has run classes and facilitated retreats here in South Australia on Yoga and Meditation.

He holds a diploma in Natural Therapies and has a passion for cultivating and integrating holistic qualities to help improve people's health.

The Natural therapies programme will include: Client Assessment, Massage Clinic (Therapeutic, Bowen Therapy, Reflexology, Energy Balance and Reflexology), Personalised Yoga, Nutrition and Dietary advice, Sleep Hygiene and Meditation.

The Massage Clinic is run through the generosity of qualified practitioners who volunteer to give their time. We take this opportunity to thank all our volunteers who enable the Natural Therapies programme to exist and we welcome Sunil to his new role.

Outreach work in Country Regions

The Community Development team travelled to Mount Gambier mid of July to find out what the needs are of refugee communities there, what service providers are doing to meet these needs and how STTARS can assist or complement the support and services already provided to refugees who have settled in Mount Gambier.

Several members of the Congolese Community of South Australia (CCSA) were part of the visit in Mount Gambier. STTARS's team met with several Congolese families settling in Mount Gambier.

There are about 350 refugees from Burma, either from the Karen or the Karenni groups, who have settled in Mount Gambier since 2007, with new arrivals continuing to come, mostly from refugee camps in Thailand.

There are also more than 200 Afghani people who have settled in Naracoorte, mainly single men and some women and children, coming from immigration detention centres in Australia.

This makes for a total population of more than 700 people from refugee background settling in Mount Gambier, Millicent and Naracoorte.

After communities consultations and meetings with various service providers, it was clear that there is a large number of people from refugee background who are interested and in need of counselling and/or therapeutic group work, especially from workers with experience in supporting people with a history of torture and trauma from different cultural backgrounds.

Community members, from refugee background or as service providers, were interested in STTARS delivering services in Mount Gambier either as direct counselling and group therapy sessions, or as training for service providers to develop their skills towards providing services locally to people with refugee background.

STTARS is now developing an outreach framework to address those demands and needs.

Drumming at a STTARS stall in the Adelaide Central Markets


As shoppers entered the Adelaide Central Markets on Friday of Refugee Week 2011 they were greeted by rhythm, smiles, excitement and pride. Throughout the central markets one could hear the contagious rhythm of 12 young men and women from a refugee background who were drumming from the STTARS stall set up in the south western corner of the markets.

STTARS had set up a stall within the Market to promote awareness of refugee and asylum seeker rights and to showcase some of our work with communities. The feedback was positive as shoppers stopped by to talk with staff, scan over resources and maybe even make a purchase of some postcards or a T-shirt.

In the middle of the afternoon twelve excited students from the Adelaide Secondary School of English arrived ready to perform their drumming routine to the Market's eager shoppers. STTARS Child and Youth team has been working with Drumming as a therapeutic medium for the past 4 years. The team had been working with these 12 students throughout the school term by visiting their school weekly to run a drumming group. Throughout the term the use of the drumming assisted the group to explore calm through repetition, individuality, community, diversity, emotions and team work, as well as having fun and getting good at drumming! During the performance in the Markets one of the students stated "this rhythm shows how, even though we are all individuals, we are all connected through the same heartbeat and same humanity".

Feedback from the performance was positive, so much so they were invited to do an encore. As the students were helping pack up they all shared feelings of pride, happiness and excitement, asking when they could do it again!

"this rhythm shows how, even though we are all individuals, we are all connected through the same heartbeat and same humanity"

-David Wild, STTARS Team Leader
Working with Young Asylum Seekers


In June this year, STTARS ran a 2 day program focusing on understanding mental health and developing strategies for self care for young asylum seekers residing at Inverbrackie. Both days were a lot fun with children and young people using clay to talk about emotions, drums to help with affect regulation, yoga for relaxation, a parachute to learn about breathing and art to talk about understanding our bodies and stress.

The programs were supported by bilingual support officers and teachers from the Department of Education. Students enjoyed being together and playing games at the beginning of the day. As the day progressed questions were asked about help with sleeping, coping with bad dreams and who to talk to. Staff were able to listen and provide information.

To end the day of activities, everyone wrote on colourful cards highlighting how they had felt safe during the day or what they had enjoyed. These cards were stuck on a large tree to collectively feedback the benefits of the day. Participants wrote and drew pictures of drums, happy faces, parachutes and commenting that they had enjoyed everything!

Thanks to Dave, Emmanuelle, Manon, Michael and Nicola for conducting the program.

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