Opportunities to disrupt the trauma to prison pipeline – a multidisciplinary approach to trauma healing

Mrs Kate Headley1, Ms Jane Davenport1, Ms Lana Draper1, Ms Megan Spencer1

1Links Trauma Healing Service, Family And Community Services Nsw, Charlestown, Australia

The majority of youth involved with the juvenile justice system have experienced traumatic events, with approximately half having experienced complex trauma. This cohort of young people is well represented in the out of home care (OOHC) population.  Young people living in OOHC in NSW are reported to have appeared before the Children’s Court on criminal charges at disproportionate rates compared to children who were not in OOHC.

It has been identified that some children living in OOHC are unable to access mainstream specialist mental health services for trauma treatment because they are not diagnosed with a mental health concern. Barriers to accessing treatment for trauma are even greater for Aboriginal children.

In October 2017 a 3 year pilot study was initiated in two locations across NSW. The service delivers evidence-based trauma interventions in combination with multidisciplinary allied health services to a targeted cohort of children. The primary focus is on decreasing trauma symptoms, improving psychological wellbeing and improving behavioural and emotional functioning. These impacts are expected to have consequential secondary benefits across the child’s life including decreased or stabilization of contact with the juvenile justice system. Data around contact with the justice system is being collected for each individual across the life of the project.

The presentation will outline the structure of the service, the interventions selected from the available evidence base, describe the research methodology used and provide a case example of a young person involved in the project.


Kate Headley – Since graduating from the University of Newcastle in 2001, Kate has worked extensively in the disability sector providing direct therapeutic interventions, clinical supervision, community capacity building projects and student education. Kate’s work across Western NSW has helped her develop her knowledge of the unique challenges faced by allied health providers living in rural and remote communities. Kate is a certified Key Word Sign presenter and a trainer in Inclusive Communication and Behaviour Support. Kate currently works as part of a multidisciplinary team providing trauma treatment to children living in Out Of Home Care.

Jane Davenport – Jane is a Clinical Psychologist with over 26 years of experience within Family and Community Services. She has a strong commitment to providing highly professional, timely and evidence based practices to vulnerable children and young people. Jane is passionate about building a caring community around a child so that they can be seen through a trauma lens and be provided with a therapeutic environment to ameliorate the impact of complex trauma.