A Systemic Approach for Trauma-Aware Schooling: Complex but Necessary!

October 3, 2018

The annual STOP Domestic Violence Conference will be held at QT, Gold Coast on Monday 3 and Tuesday 4 December 2018 with optional workshops on Wednesday 5 December.  

The objective of the conference is to provide a platform for a unified voice to share, network and collaborate on the challenges and successes of behaviour change.  Our human basic needs of comfort and security are violated when violence is common, impacting home life, the work place and the community.

Joining us at the conference is Dr Judith Howard, Senior Lecturer at the Qld University of Technology who will present on ‘A Systemic Approach for Trauma-Aware Schooling: Complex but Necessary!’


In many classrooms in many schools, there are students who are living with the outcomes of family and/or intimate partner violence and maltreatment who would benefit immensely from a system-wide, trauma-aware approach to schooling. There is an increasing awareness of the role of schools in preventing the types of attitudes, assumptions and behaviours that lead to this violence and trauma. However, there is also a significant need for schools to become safe havens for child and adolescent victims and to contribute to enhancing their educational and life outcomes. For this to happen, the schooling system must become trauma-aware.

There is much evidence from the field of neuroscience that this type of violence and trauma has a detrimental impact on developing nervous systems leading to worrying emotional, relational, learning, and behavioural outcomes that can continue throughout the schooling years, extend into adulthood and be intergenerationally transmitted. Thankfully, there is now abundant evidence that the concerns experienced by these students can be prevented, lessened, or alleviated through trauma-aware practice being incorporated into schooling.

This presentation will summarise findings from a 2017 project identifying requirements for a system-wide approach to trauma-aware schooling in Queensland, Australia. Findings identify a thirst in educators and school leaders for trauma-aware schooling and also opportunities and challenges associated with developing a systemic approach.

The solution is not simple one due to inherent complexities within the schooling system but despite this, schooling systems have a responsibility to adopt informed practices to support and educate students who have been victimised through complex trauma and violence, in the most inclusive way possible. Findings highlight that achieving systemic, trauma-aware schooling is complex but possible and necessary and has potential to improve outcomes for students and those people working hard to educate them. Findings have implications for schooling and education systems world-wide.


Dr Howard is a senior lecturer (QUT) with a focus on concerns of school students from complex trauma histories. She promotes a neuroscience-informed approach – to which she believes every school needs access. Judith oversees pre-service/post-graduate teacher education regarding school counselling, Indigenous education and trauma-aware schooling. She is the author of the popular book: “Distressed or Deliberately Defiant: Managing Challenging Student Behaviour due to Trauma and Disorganised Attachment”, is principal organiser of the “Trauma-Aware Schooling” conference, has developed online courses that are reaching thousands nationally and internationally and continues to research, write, speak and train on this topic.

For further information on the 2018 STOP Domestic Violence Conference please visit www.stopdomesticviolence.com.au

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