If you have experienced childhood trauma, you can speak with a Blue Knot Helpline trauma counsellor including for support and applications around national redress

1300 657 380
Monday - Sunday
between 9am - 5pm AEST
or via email helpline@blueknot.org.au


Do you live with disability?  Have you experienced abuse, neglect, violence or exploitation? 

For support for Disability Royal Commission or general support contact our National Counselling & Referral Service

1800 421 468
9am - 6pm AEST Mon- Fri
9am - 5pm AEST Sat, Sun & public holidays

April 2021Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via eMail Share on LinkedIn

From the Editor


Welcome to this month’s edition of Breaking Free.  Without doubt the recovery journey for survivors is challenging and ongoing support from trusted family, friends and professionals is so crucial.  It’s a path that can’t be taken alone, but often we forget about the impact that sharing trauma can have on our network of supporters.  As they help survivors along that path, supporters also need support and self-care for their own health and well-being.

This newsletter is focused on providing information and support which we hope will be helpful to people who are supporting survivors on their recovery journeys. It is important to know that there is help and support for you too, whether it is from other family members, friends, peers or a counsellor or group. As a supporter you can also call the Blue Knot Helpline on 1300 657 380, 9am – 5pm Monday to Sunday AEST or if you or the person you are supporting is living with disability, please call the NCRS on 1800 421 468 9am – 6pm AEST Monday to Friday, or 9am – 5pm on weekends and public holidays.

Until next time, take care.

The Blue Knot Team

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New Fact Sheet

Understanding Impacts

People who have experienced complex trauma can be affected by the impacts in many different ways.  There is no 'one size fits all' and many people blame themselves for the challenges that they face, their negative feelings and the possible physical health problems that trauma can cause.  This fact sheet outlines many of the impacts that survivors face when overcoming complex trauma.

Download the fact sheet here

Download the PLAIN ENGLISH fact sheet here

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Australians with a disability ‘forgotten’ in coronavirus vaccine rollout, advocates say

Former commissioner and other sector leaders condemn decision to prioritise aged care over disability care and workers

Australia’s former disability discrimination commissioner and disability advocates have condemned the failure to prioritise disability care in the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, saying residents and support staff were blindsided by a lack of information.

Health department officials this week revealed just 6.5% of disability care residents have been vaccinated in the two months since the rollout began, despite their inclusion in the government’s highest priority cohort. The government deliberately prioritised aged care residents over those in disability care, leaving about 6,000 facilities without even a first dose of vaccine.

The Guardian revealed earlier this month that many disability care providers were being forced to circumvent the system and go to general practitioners to obtain vaccines for their residents, because commonwealth in-reach teams were simply not showing up.

Originally published: The Guardian, 22 Apr 2021

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Survivor Contribution

I Am Your Pain

I come into every life and in many different ways:
Small hurts, little worries, frustrations and disappointments, shame and regret;
Great grief, tortured thoughts, despair, bodily trauma, niggling doubts and grave fears;
I come as loss and aloneness, bleakness, confusion, weariness and depletion;
Sometimes vague, other times defined; passing quickly or persistently present. 

I am your pain.

Please do not neglect or reject me
Please do not curse or condemn me
Please don't run, please don't hide
Please don't deny or pretend
I need your care, I need you to be there.

I am your pain.

Open your ears, open your eyes
Open the door, open your heart.

I am your pain.

Please do not dramatise me
Please don't use me to define yourself
Don't hide behind me
Don't become noble because of me
Or use me to hurt or manipulate others.

I am your pain.

Hold me until I no longer need holding
Let me come, let me go
Let me be a lesson in love.

By Adrian


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Australia's $1bn disability employment service criticised over poor outcomes and reduced employment

New issues paper by the royal commission raises concerns about the ‘lack of support’ and ‘specialised disability knowledge’ for clients.  Read more

Addiction almost killed AFL star Rod Owen, but he was hiding the agony of abuse

Rod Owen hopes that sharing his most painful secrets will encourage others to confront their fears.  Read more

Former Labor MP Kate Ellis leads group of female politicians lifting lid on 'toxic workplace culture' in Parliament House

Women from all sides of politics are speaking out about what it's like to work in a culture of sexism. Read more

Domestic violence shock waves reach way beyond the home

Supporting domestic violence victims in the workplace can be difficult without a proper understanding of the nature of the problem.  Read more

‘She’s a slut’: sexual bullying among girls contributes to cultural misogyny. We need to take it seriously

In an online petition launched by Chanel Contos in February, thousands of women have now disclosed  instances of sexual harrassment and assault when at school parties. The petition’s author was calling for sexual consent to be taught better, and earlier, in schools. Read more

Domestic violence survivors share why MAFS has been triggering this season

Married at First Sight viewers have expressed outrage over some of the behaviour from contestants like Bryce Ruthven, pictured with 'wife' Melissa Rawson.  Read more

Women with disability face more violence

Women living with disability are almost twice as likely to experience partner violence, figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show. Read more

Floods can worsen inequality. Here are 4 ways we can ensure people with disabilities aren’t left behind

Disasters like flooding can worsen social inequalities around health and housing. For people with disability, however, the effect can be especially profound. Read more

Fears NDIS assessment model could re-traumatise domestic violence survivors and put them at risk of harm

In its submission to a parliamentary committee inquiry into independent assessments, Domestic Violence Victoria/Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria said it had major concerns about how the contentious assessments could be carried out. Read more

‘Like hunting for unicorns’: Australians on the search for adequate, affordable mental healthcare

Countless inquiries have found the same problems afflicting the mental health system, but cost and access barriers still leave those seeking and providing care in despair Read more

Children who see mothers abused ‘more likely to suffer asthma, language problems’

Children exposed to family violence from infancy are up to three times more likely to develop asthma and have a psychiatric diagnosis, emotional behavioural difficulties or impaired language skills by the age of 10.  Read more

Addressing rape culture to prevent sexual assault

Patriarchal conditioning responsible for the increase in sexual violence against women needs to be addressed in children to prevent aggression, writes Anushka Britto.  Read more

COVID vaccine rollout delays frustrate vulnerable Australians in priority group

Any Australian over the age of 50 will be able to get a COVID vaccine from May 3, but many vulnerable Australians are frustrated that they are still yet to be vaccinated despite being in the priority group.  Read more

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Caring for yourself – for supporters of survivors

Supporting a person, you care about who is living with the impacts of complex trauma can be both inspiring as well as challenging. It can be easy to ignore your own needs when you’re prioritising those of another person. It is important to support yourself through the process. It can be especially hard during times of crisis, or when the survivor is overwhelmed. That’s why it’s important to look after yourself. The first step is to look after the basics – eating well, staying hydrated, getting plenty of sleep, having regular exercise and making time out for a break and to enjoy yourself.

Here are some tips which may seem obvious but are areas which are easy to ignore at times.

Try to choose healthy food which nurtures you and gives you the energy you need.  When we don’t eat well, we don’t have the fuel we need. 

Make sure you drink enough water or herbal teas etc. Sometimes when we are stressed, we forget to drink enough. Everything works better when we are hydrated. Fewer headaches, better digestion etc.

Are you getting enough sleep? It can be hard to sleep when you’re worried. This can happen when you’re not sure what to do or how to help. All of us need sleep. It helps keep us mentally and physically healthy. A routine can help. Try going to bed at the same time every night. Try to relax before bed. Breathing and mindfulness activities can help with this routine.  Also doing some exercise through the day or stretching/yoga in the evening can help relax us. Take your electronic devices – phone, laptop, ipad out of the bedroom. More uninterrupted sleep will help prepare you for the day’s challenges.

Remember to move. This doesn’t mean a gym membership or personal trainer. Something small – maybe 10 mins every day. And if you can’t manage that, do whatever helps to keep your body moving. Try simple stretching. A short walk in the fresh air. Even dancing to the beat of your favourite music. It all helps.

Go outside into the fresh air. Into nature. See the sun. Feel the warmth on your face. Enjoy some time in the calm of a field or bush, where you feel safe and nurtured. Take your shoes off and feel the grass or sand under your feet. Swimming in the sea is particularly energising.

Sometimes when you are supporting a survivor, it can be hard to make time for yourself. And when you do it can be hard to relax and stop worrying. It’s also easy to feel guilty. Guilty that you want some time out. Guilty that you’re taking some time out. That’s why it is so important for you to take the steps you need to keep yourself as resilient as possible, for you and the person you are supporting.

You will find some more information 

• in the section of the Blue Knot website for supporters here

• by downloading the fact sheet for supporters, as well as one which focusses on how to have trauma-informed conversations (safe conversations with survivors) here

viewing our video for supporters here 

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Secondary trauma – how to be aware of the possible impacts of hearing about other people’s trauma 

Secondary or vicarious trauma is well recognised as a risk for people in the helping professionals who work with survivors. However, family members, partners and people who have a significant relationship with a survivor of complex trauma can also experience secondary trauma. 

If you are supporting a survivor who you care about, you may hear disturbing stories of their traumatic experiences. At times, hearing these stories may overwhelm you. This can make you feel the sorts of feelings the survivor you are supporting is feeling.  You may even find that you lose your faith in the world and challenge your own beliefs. This may mean that you are experiencing secondary trauma. The more you are exposed to traumatic material, the greater the risk you have of experiencing secondary trauma.

Compassion fatigue is another real risk of caring. It is the emotional and physical fatigue that you can experience when you support a survivor. This happens because you have compassion for them. This is different to secondary trauma. It does not usually cause trauma-related symptoms or you to change your world view.

For this reason, we recommend that anyone who is supporting a survivor on their journey needs to take enough time out for themselves. It is important to attend to your own self-care and build a strong support network around you, if you can. Connecting with other people who are also supporting survivors and building a peer network or seeking professional help can also be of assistance. 

If you are supporting a survivor on their journey of recovery and start to feel overwhelmed, anxious or depressed, can’t sleep, feel exhausted or isolated, find it difficult to concentrate or are feeling hopeless or helpless you may be experiencing secondary trauma.  It is important for you to be able to identify the signs early, take whatever time out you need and seek support, including from a counsellor or therapist if you need to.

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Restoring Hope are looking for men to share their story

Using Anchors to Support Self Care

In this article we will consider the concept of anchors and their use as a self care practice. We will provide some ideas around finding your own anchors and explain how to use them.

“Painful feelings can be like a tidal wave; they rise up and bowl us over and carry us away often before we are aware of it...Developing a mental state of expansion, by stepping back and looking at the waves with curiosity, we can become like the sky, vast open spacious. And then we have created room for the waves no matter how turbulent they are. We can do this by keeping ourselves anchored.” p.92 The Reality Slap; Russ Harris

Anchor found from memories

An anchor is a concrete observable resource which is usually drawn from your own life. Try to find your own anchor to create positive memories in both your mind and body. Your anchor may be a person, (grandmother, partner, teacher) or an animal/pet, a place, an object (boat, tree, stone) or even an activity.

A suitable anchor gives you a feeling of relief (in body & emotion) and well-being.

Anchor found from supports

Support systems are important as they can help us overcome difficulties in life. How do you communicate your needs to get the help you need? What are some of the ways you can nurture and foster your support systems? Phone calls, postcard, text message, facebook message, share a photo, arrange to meet up, book an appointment – we all use different modes depending on the relationship.

Can you relate to the anchor… what anchors you? And where do you draw your strength from?

You might like to draw or write out your anchors. Think about new sources of anchors for yourself. Think about how to strengthen anchors which are weak. Perhaps you can write down the names of people in your support system and the specific ways they help/support you.

Using the body as an ANCHOR

Drop an Anchor:-

Take five to ten seconds to do the following:

Push your feet hard into the floor and straighten your spine. As you do this, take a slow, deep breath.

1. Look around and notice five things you can see.

2. Listen carefully and notice four things you can hear.

3. Touching - can you feel three things?

4. Becoming aware, can you smell two things?

5. And what one thing can you taste?

Notice where you are and what you are doing.

When we use anchors consistently in our day to day life we usually feel more grounded and less overwhelmed. 

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NDIS: A disability scheme that leaves people with disabilities out of the picture

Originally Published: New Daily Apr 18, 2021

The National Disability Insurance Scheme was born to bring equity to health care and give a voice to Australians living with disability, who represent a significant proportion of the population.

One in six Australians – or about 4.4 million people – are estimated to live with disability.

However, from policy conception to implementation, people with disability still find their needs have been overlooked and ignored, time and time again.

The recent proposal for independent assessments is the latest example of how the NDIS and government are continuing to miss the mark.

The proposed legislation, due to rollout later this year, involves the person completing a single form within a timeframe of up to three hours to determine their eligibility for the NDIS, and what funding and support they can access.

To get a complete understanding of a person’s full needs in this time is not only unrealistic but in many cases, simply not possible.

Fundamentally, the approach takes little to no consideration of other complexities including personal and cultural differences among our communities.

In some cultures, answering direct questions and participating in a rigid Q&A format is considered rude and inappropriate.

This can deter those who need support from participating, or result in misleading profiling of people as difficult or not co-operative.

For others, sitting through assessments for multiple hours can be physically or mentally challenging, and some may have personal factors that limit them from providing full or even truthful answers.

In addition, allied health professionals are being asked to assess people in areas that are outside their areas of expertise.

This could have serious ramifications for people whose access to funding and support depend on the independent assessment.

These reasons are only a few among many others, but enough to show how the proposed changes can negatively influence participation.

What does this mean for Australians with a disability?
It makes exercising choice, control and certainty of access to appropriate services a privilege instead of what it should be – a human right.

It risks making inaccurate and incomplete assessments of people’s full needs, meaning many will not be adequately supported and many who need support will simply go without.

It also means hundreds of thousands of Australians will be left further behind in a world that oversimplifies what it means to live with a disability.

If we go down this route, we risk having the very solution that was originally set out to improve the lives of the disability community instead become the gatekeeper to the full and effective participation of people with disability.

It’s time to overhaul the NDIS assessment process
Now is the time to step back and put a halt on the rollout of the proposed changes.

It is vital that people with lived experiences are put at the front and centre of how services are designed and iterated over time.

This includes being involved in the development of services and building access to those services.

Consultation is the first step, and representation is the end goal.

And with this, there is no doubt still a long way to go when not one member of the NDIS board has lived experience of disability as of August.

It’s time for a commitment to inclusive policy making and processes that put people with disabilities at the heart of the conversation, to ensure equal access to disability services for all Australians.

As well as giving people with disabilities a seat at the table to inform decision-making processes, it is necessary we rethink how we care for our communities and put efforts toward significant reforms to the NDIS.

Various research and reports have been conducted to better understand the needs of Australians with disabilities and how they are being addressed – including the Tune Review, which put forward 29 recommendations to improve the participant experience and support service delivery.

One issue highlighted in this report includes how confusing, frustrating, and difficult the NDIS can be to navigate and use.

This is further proven by the heavy underutilisation of the NDIS budget, reflecting the extensive challenges many Australians face in simply accessing funds and services.

But it’s not enough for the research and data to be available, if the findings and recommendations aren’t acted upon.

That’s not to say that this is a small or easy task.

Changing a system, particularly one as big as the NDIS, naturally will take both time and effort and cannot be viewed as a linear process.

Medicare, as an example, was introduced as a landmark reform to health care in Australia in 1984, but had many changes including the Medicare levy surcharge in 1997 and the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission in April 2008. It underwent many structural reforms before getting to where it is today.

But if we get it right, the cost is little compared to the benefits that will come out of it to better serve our disability community.

In fact, research shows that when we achieve equity among our communities, everyone benefits.

That is, fewer inequalities among communities will allow for better overall living conditions and an advanced society.

By making sure all individuals can lead the healthiest lives they can live, we will enable an efficient economy and stronger workforce.

So, the more we delay efforts to work toward solutions that advance equity for our communities, the greater the future health and economic costs will be.

The disability community deserves a commitment from the government to live up to their promises and build a system that enables equal access to disability services for all Australians.

When this happens, we will all be richer for it.

Claire Salter Parry is the clinical services manager for Umbo

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Disclaimer - Blue Knot Foundation makes every effort to provide readers of its website and newsletters with information which is accurate and helpful. It is not however a substitute for counselling or professional advice. While all attempts have been made to verify all information provided, Blue Knot Foundation cannot guarantee and does not assume any responsibility for currency, errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the information provided.