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Welcome to the Victorian Child Psychotherapists Association

About the VCPA

The Victorian Child Psychotherapists Association (VCPA) is the professional body for Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy. It was established in Melbourne in March 1989 and functions under Articles of Association and in accordance with a Constitution by means of an Executive and a number of Sub-committees. There is an extensive Code of Ethics and Procedures for Implementation of the Code of Ethics. read more


Psychoanalytic Psychotherapists support marriage equality 2017


Children in immigration detention in Australia, Australian-run offshore detention centres, detention-like conditions in Australia and offshore

VCPA Viewpoint

The Victorian Child Psychotherapists Association (VCPA) is unequivocal in its opposition to the detention of infants, children, youth, pregnant women and their families. The VCPA notes that detention of children contravenes the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (signed by Australia in 1990).* The VCPA strongly recommends the release into the Australian community of all children and their families seeking asylum, who are in Australian-run offshore detention centres or in detention-like environments, such as those in Nauru.

Child psychotherapists work to promote the psychological health and wellbeing of children and their families. Their extensive training, clinical experience and understanding of child development research means that child psychotherapists are acutely aware of the devastating impact of environmental stress, especially prolonged or repeated trauma, on the development of the child. Detention is a particularly damaging cause of this kind of trauma.

Extensive research in the field of child development has consistently shown that to optimise their physical and mental health maturation, children need a safe and nurturing environment, an environment which fosters the child's capacity for creative play, exploration, growth and learning. Parents are central in facilitating these conditions for their children, and a child's wellbeing is intimately connected to their parent's capacity to hold their needs in mind. Traumatised parents almost invariably mean traumatised children, as there are fewer emotional resources left to draw upon. A parent, as a result of harsh external circumstances beyond their control, may become severely compromised in their emotional availability to their children when traumatised as a consequence of living in indefinite detention or a detention-like environment. A child who witnesses their parent in a traumatised state may acutely feel their parent's suffering, thereby amplifying their own.

Due to their developmental vulnerability, children rely on outside sources for their protection and care. Detention or a detention-like environment has been found to place children at significant risk. It has been well documented that children forced to live in such depriving environments suffer direct and vicarious trauma. In such harsh environments children are exposed to the distress and suffering of their mothers, fathers, family members and others; to violence, abuse, social and cultural isolation; to anxieties stemming from facing an uncertain future. Reports of children in detention show that the prevalence of emotional and behavioural disorders is high, with the most frequent diagnostic categories being post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety with sleep disorders, depression and self-harm. Living in detention or detention-like conditions exacerbates the impact of previous trauma, and in and of itself is a source of ongoing trauma.

The VCPA remains vehement in its opposition to children and their families living in detention or detention-like environments and calls for an end to this harmful practice.

*Convention on the Rights of the Child (signed by Australia in 1990)

  • The best interests of the child should be a primary consideration in all decisions that affect them.
  • Children who come to a country as refugees should have the same rights as children who are born in that country.
  • Governments should ensure that children are properly cared for and protect them from violence abuse and neglect.

Refugee Convention (signed by Australia in 1990)

  • People seeking asylum must not be discriminated against.
  • People seeking asylum must not be penalised for the way in which they have managed to reach a country for refuge.
  • People seeking asylum must not be returned to a place where they fear threats to their lives or freedom.


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