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Refugee children process trauma through drama

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Cast From the Storm (PG). Director: David Mason. 72 minutes

Back in February, the Catholic aid agency Caritas partnered with Australian singer-songwriter Missy Higgins for a touching video tribute to the plight of Syrian refugees. The music video for Higgins' 'Oh Canada', inspired by the death of three-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi, features an incongruently whimsical animated rendering of Alan and his family's flight from conflict, and ends with the devastating, familiar image of Alan's body washed up on a Turkish beach.

Intercut with Alan's story are drawings by children in a Caritas program in Damascus, Syria; a program that includes the use of art to help the children express their stories and process their trauma. These crudely drawn child's images of brutal conflict and bloodshed — things that no child should ever be exposed to — are yet another reminder of the human cost of such conflict, and of policies that exclude and further traumatise those who are fleeing from it.

The new Australian documentary Cast From the Storm locates a similar theme, in a program that has echoes of that one run by Caritas in Syria. At a Sydney school, a group of teenage refugees come together to share their stories, first with each other, and then with their friends and families via a live theatrical performance. Treehouse Theatre is run by three dedicated teachers, who facilitate the sharing, and help transform the children's stories into scripts that can be performed.

Refugee girl from Cast From the StormIf that Missy Higgins video is a tearjerker, then Cast From the Storm is no less so. Bare minutes into the film we meet 13-year-old Asfar. She has a story about learning that nine of her friends back home have been killed in a bombing of a school.


"The film is testament to the power of storytelling both for processing trauma and providing a conduit for greater connection with others."


But relating this to the group, she gets no further than saying that 'the phone rang' before her nervous smile dissolves into sobs. Hers is just the first of numerous heartbreaking revelations that populate the film.

At times we wonder about the technique employed by the teachers. They can be strict and abrasive. Yet the results speak for themselves. We see the children grow in confidence and openness, and the flow-on effects of this. 'I had no idea he had those feelings,' one father says tearfully after the curtain falls on the group's performance. The film is testament to the power of storytelling both for processing trauma and providing a conduit for greater connection with others.


Tim KroenertTim Kroenert is acting editor of Eureka Street.

Cast From the Storm is available to stream or purchase on DVD via the website. There are also packages available for group screenings.

Topic tags: Tim Kroenert, Cast From the Sea, refugees, asylum seekers



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Existing comments

I was privileged to see this production and was very moved and challenged by the stories of these young people. Congrats to all involved.

Pat | 22 September 2016  

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