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 AEDT
or via email helpline@blueknot.org.au

 

Do you need support for the Disability Royal Commission?
Contact our National Counselling & Referral Service on

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


April 2020Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via eMail Share on LinkedIn

From the Editor

This month we continue to acknowledge the challenges that the whole community is facing in the wake of the Coronavirus.  The spate of natural disasters, the High Court Appeal, and now the pandemic are proving to be very stressful and even more so for survivors who are already dealing with the effects of complex trauma.  Many people who have experienced prior trauma, live with a nervous system which is more easily triggered.  The additional stress and anxiety of the current situation can cause agitation, distress and feelings of being unsafe and helpless.  It’s important to have tools to help you cope and this month we have put together some tips and ideas to help support you.

One tip is for you to try and stay connected as much as possible even during these times of physical isolation.  Many people are feeling the effects, and calls to support services are increasing as a result.  Try and keep in contact with friends, family or other support person on a regular basis.  Whether it’s over the phone, or over video call so you have visual contact, it all helps to break that feeling of isolation. It’s your choice.

To help we have also launched our social media campaign, where we ask you to share your Blue Sky Moment.  We’re all in this together and even though we are physically isolated, we can all look towards the sky as a symbol of hope and unity.  By sharing your blue sky moment across Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, your blue sky can communicate a sense of community, hope and comfort to others, to support us to feel less alone.


Take care
From the team at Blue Knot

If you have any comments about what you have read in this issue, contributions for the My Story section, or suggestions for future issues, please contact the editor at newsletter@blueknot.org.au


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Book Review and Critical Reflection in the age of COVID-19

The Plague (1947) - Albert Camus

“Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world;
yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky.  
There have been as many plagues as wars in history;
yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”
                                                                                                                             -  Albert Camus

* Trigger Warning: This article may contain content that could disturb some readers. You may choose not to read it. If you do read this story and reading it causes you distress and you need support, please call the Blue Knot Helpline on 1300 657 380 (9am-5pm AEST, 7 days). 

The book we’re reflecting on today is a literary classic which has once again shown its relevance amidst the global pandemic in which we now find ourselves.  In its main plot, The Plague focuses on an outbreak of the bubonic plague or ‘black death’ in the Algerian town of Oran, as experienced through the eyes of its main character, a doctor who lives and works there.  


Much like all of us, the people in Camus’ novel have had a health pandemic sneak up on them, along with an extraordinary raft of social constraints to try and contain it.  Whilst almost no one alive today has previously lived through the mix of social, health and economic privations people around the world are enduring now due to COVID-19, a great many people throughout history have, including the characters in Camus’ novel.  

Just like them, many people now are experiencing individual and collective traumas and their effects for the first time – literally feeling at risk of serious harm or death, trying to navigate the world in a near permanent state of hypervigilance, having had their sense of safety and meaning rocked, and their supportive connections to others severely strained.  Camus’ novel illustrates how traumatic events (existential threats) can highlight the absurdity of life (that injury, illness and death can befall us at any time) and force us to seek new meaning from it.  They can also make us curious to explore how others have done that, and to seek to see the world through their eyes.  

While this harsh new reality may seem horribly alien to many, it will be strangely familiar to all those who have already survived single or repeated traumas in their lives – and built up a host of skills to help them manage the threats and risks those traumas enlivened them to.  

One thing readers today may find particularly compelling about The Plague is how well it captures the warped sense of time that traumatic experiences creates – which will not only be easily recognizable to trauma survivors and their supporters alike, but also to everyone who has been effected by the pandemic we’re living through now.   At one end of the scale – there is the feeling that our normal sense of time is moving as rapidly as the news of it, and that our memories are being super-encoded; and at the other, our days may seem horribly slowed by the practicalities of social confinement.  

In The Plague, Camus seeks to balance these time ruptures through the methodical recording of the key dates and numbers of deaths central to its plot.  They make grim reading in this COVID-19 world, where just 7 weeks ago 126,122 infections and 4,631 deaths spurred the World Health Organisation to declare COVID-19 a global pandemic, whereas that tally now towers at 3,200,414 infections and 226,893 deaths. In this light, the exponential potential of individual and collective trauma, grief and loss that Camus sought to convey through The Plague may be deeply felt by modern readers.  As a kind of salve, he also incisively captures the bittersweet nostalgia the world may seem to become imbued with just before a major trauma hits, well before its full effects have unfurled and become known.

Fortunately, The Plague’s focus on a form of pandemic that is materially different to the one we now find ourselves in can make it a lot less confronting to engage with than something like Steven Soderbergh’s film Contagion, which should probably be avoided at all costs for a while, for fear it may unnecessarily amplify people’s already high levels of anxiety!  

Finally, The Plague is also a novel that can be read on many levels - with the privations of WWII thought to be just one of the contemporary ‘plagues’ Camus was engrossed with while writing this novel, not to mention the intense sense of suffering that is sometimes so central to the human condition, and potentially to any of our lives.  Over 70 years after it was first published, the Plague remains a cracking read that can still be highly recommended.

Review written by Vanessa Long
Blue Knot Counsellor



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Announcing New Fact Sheet

What is Complex Trauma?


Not all trauma can be categorised in the same way.  There are real differences between complex trauma and single incident trauma and confusion between the two is common.  This new fact sheet helps to explain the characteristics and differences.

Download the Fact Sheet here to learn more.


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Survivor Contribution


Maggie Encourages Other Survivors to Come Forward During these Troubled Times 


My name is Maggie ..

And yesterday (the day after Pell was enquitted) I had my childhood trauma litigation (connected to childhood abuse of all forms in institutions) finalised. 

Like everyone it took me my entire adult life to gain the strength to stand up for myself and decide to take legal action against the State of Victoria.

Like everyone who decided to go down this path - I relived my trauma and had it sit in my face for 3 years whilst legal preparation took place.

My case was due to be heard via an out of court settlement hearing on the 23/3/20.

When coronavirus restrictions came in - I was terrified my case wouldn’t go ahead and that I’d have to hold that trauma in my lap during the play out of the epidemic  

Fortunately the case went forward via a combination of telephone and teleconferencing. 

I feel I was treated with regard and dignity and I’d like to share my experience so others can feel ok to go forward during these changed times. 

- Maggie

 


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IN THE NEWS

There is no excuse for institutions to not join the redress scheme.  Time to stand up and be counted.

 

The Federal Government has acknowledged some survivors of child sexual abuse have died before receiving financial compensation, as it releases the latest data from the national redress scheme.

Read more


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Victorian Government Clears Release of Pell Royal Commission Findings


Unpublished findings about Cardinal George Pell’s handling of child sexual abuse complaints have been cleared for release by the Victorian government. 

Read more


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Threat of Sanctions over Redress Scheme


The Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said: "My expectation is that Victorian institutions who have not yet signed up to the scheme do so immediately - refusing to sign up is just not acceptable."

Read more here


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George Pell says he was a ‘scapegoat’

Cathy Kezelman, president of Blue Knot Foundation told SBS News the interview would have been “very distressing” for many people.


Read more



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Being Able to Publicly Speak Out about abuse gives survivors a means of taking back control

Junkee Media shares a video on what the Pell acquittal means for survivors of child sex abuse, and why they might be deterred speaking out in the future.

Trigger warning: this content may be triggering for survivors of child sexual assault. If you need to speak to a trauma specialist please call our helpline
1300 657 380 or via email helpline@blueknot.org.au.

Watch here


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Living with Complex Trauma in Challenging Times


How to best support yourself during times of stress when you are already living with the impacts of prior complex trauma. 

This includes responding to a range of recent natural disasters and challenging news e.g. impact of the recent High Court ruling, the Coronavirus pandemic, the recent bushfires and flash floods.

People with experiences of complex trauma can find it harder to calm themselves than other people. This is because the traumas they have experienced during their life can leave their nervous system primed to react. This is because their stress response, a physiological survival response we all have to help us cope with threat is on high alert. This means that survivors can be triggered by real or perceived threats in their environment, and feelings of being unsafe. 

Many survivors are also hypervigilant. This is because they are used to scanning their environment for danger, as many grew up in dangerous environments or have lived in them as an adult.  All of these physiological survival responses enabled us to survive often repeated trauma, as a child or adult. 

However, recent events and the current pandemic have brought an understandable degree of anxiety and stress to us all, regardless of whether we have a trauma history. The difference though for people who have experienced prior trauma is that our nervous system is so readily triggered. It can be triggered into agitation and anxiety as well as into shut down or freeze. Some survivors can also be thrown back into the feelings and memories reminiscent of their prior trauma. This includes feeling unsafe and helpless. All of this makes perfect sense in the current context which is why it is so important to have a range of tools and strategies to help support you through this time

There is little doubt that at this time, more than any, it is important to reach out and maintain or establish connection. Even though currently physical connection in a time of social distancing is not as easy to achieve there are a number of ways you can look after yourself especially now.  

Here are some tips which we hope will help. Choose those which resonate with you and take them one step at a time. 

1. In this time of physical isolation social connection has never been more important. It can be difficult for us all to stay connected right now and for many survivors this is not easy at the best of time. However, it is a time that our community is pulling together. Try and see who you trust and feel safe with in your community and reach out on the phone or in whatever way suits you best. This can be to a friend, family member, counsellor or fellow survivor – think about who is in your network. And remember – Blue Knot Helpline operates 9-5 x 7 days a week. You can call 1300 657 380 to speak to a trauma specialist counsellor.

2. Stay emotionally connected. While for many survivors the High Court finding was incredibly difficult, the public outcry and support for survivors has been overwhelming, during the process and since. This shows a community united and true support for survivors. Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria said it all: … “I have a message for every single victim and survivor of child sex abuse: I see you. I hear you. I believe you.”

3. In this time many of us are currently feeling out of control. For many survivors this is a familiar feeling. Creating a routine can help us feel more in control.  For each of us it’s important to establish our own routine. This can include a range of activities including different forms of exercise, connecting with nature, mindfulness techniques, and whatever you personally find helps you which can also be helpful.

4. Is there something that you do which you have found can help you to feel calm?  We can’t always think of something but different people find some of the following helpful… reading a book, listening to music, painting, kitting, woodwork, cooking, crosswords … whatever it is… give it a go when you can.

5. Trauma is often stored in the body and this is why movement can be especially helpful for trauma survivors. From walking to jogging to stretching to Pilates, again we are all individuals. Do what helps you.

6. Going outside in the fresh air, breathing it in – walking in nature, gardening and feeling the earth in your hands. This can help ground you when you’re feeling as though your emotions are running away with you. So too can mindfulness practices – breathing exercises, yoga, meditation. They can help us to get back into our body and more in the present. 

7. Connecting with our senses can also be grounding – a warm bath, a cold drink, a soft blanket, sweet music, the smell of a cup of coffee or a scented candle. Use your senses to bring you back to the present when past memories are intruding on your present day life.

8. And last but definitely not least - be careful not to overload on the news. In this time when digital channels are a form of connection, and we are bombarded 24 x 7 with social media and media news and opinion, it is important to stay as informed as we want to be from reputable sources but limit the risk of feeling overwhelmed by flooding ourselves with channels.      



 

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The Truth

The recent ABC series Revelation featured the chilling first person accounts of a number of the who’s who of Australia’s Catholic paedophiles. Its final episode featured two victims raising new allegations against Cardinal Pell. That episode has since been recalled but there are reportedly now additional allegations pending against the Cardinal, as well as a number of civil cases.

Cardinal Pell, arguably one of the most divisive Church leaders in Australia, received the High Court decision around his custodial sentence for the abuse of two choirboys at St. Patricks Cathedral Melbourne in the 1990s. The conviction was quashed by the High Court on the basis that guilt could not be established beyond reasonable doubt. Notably, it was not a finding of innocence. 

Those were not Pell’s first child sexual abuse charges. In 2002 Pell was stood aside while a child sexual abuse allegation was investigated. It was not proven. Nor was it dismissed. Despite this George Pell rose through the ranks of the Church and was appointed the Prefect of the Secretary of the Economy – the Vatican ‘treasurer’ for 5 years till 2019 and was also a member of the Council of Cardinal Advisers till October 2018. The dissonance between his high regard and repeated elevation within the Church and his oft-judged public demeanour is marked. 

Cardinal Pell’s recent interview with Andrew Bolt on his release attempted to turn the reality of victimhood on its head. It focussed on Cardinal Pell’s suffering and impugned the motives of a swathe of institutions and individuals. The irony of this attack on institutions is notable in that the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse identified 4,000 institutions with reported allegations of child sexual abuse against them.

In the Bolt interview Cardinal Pell implied bias of the Royal Commission against him, a conspiracy of the Victorian police force and its Premier, targeting of him by the ABC and by Witness J - the victim who gave evidence on which the jury originally convicted him. Cardinal Pell in fact saw himself as the ‘scapegoat that’s copped most of this’. 

Both Andrew Bolt and Cardinal Pell used a presumption of innocence (not a failure to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt) to patronise Witness J calling him a ‘poor fellow’ and suggesting that he had been ‘used’ presumably as part of the conspiracy. The reality is that Witness J courageously told his truth about one of the most powerful Catholic leaders in the world. And on hearing of the Cardinal’s freedom, released a remarkable statement – honourable, forthright, moral and most importantly encouraging victims to report to the police if they can (link to statement please). 

Almost 2,500 survivors told the Commission about sexual abuse in an institution managed by the Catholic Church. This was 61.8 per cent of all survivors who reported sexual abuse in a religious institution. It was 36.2 per cent of all survivors who attended a private session. When asked about the reportedly soon-to-be -released unredacted Royal Commission’s Case Study 28 and Case Study 35 into the Ballarat diocese and the Melbourne archdiocese respectively Cardinal Pell claimed that ‘he would be very surprised if there were any bad findings against me at all’. Many predict otherwise. This is because the Commission identified numerous cases where senior officials of Catholic Church authorities knew about allegations of child sexual abuse in Catholic institutions but didn’t act. Given Cardinal Pell’s roles and proximity to child sexual abuse activity this remains to be seen. 

By way of example Pell had told the Commission that convicted serial paedophile Gerard Ridsdale’s abusing “was a sad story and of not much interest to me”. While, on the Bolt Report, the Cardinal did not defend the actions of Risdale, as previously, he commented that Risdale ‘regrets’ his crimes – a minimising aside about a man who had decimated countless lives. 

The Commission identified the need to take allegations seriously, to listen to and hear the testimony of victims, to empathise with their suffering and provide support, and ensure a fair and equitable justice process. It did not question survivors’ motives for coming forward. It did not demean them. And above all it focussed on victims of child sexual abuse and their experiences and needs.

While this time has been very challenging for many of us, the public outpouring of support from the community reassures us that there has been change. Change in understanding and public opinion as we continue to band together to support one another’s truth. As Witness J said “I want to reassure child sexual abuse survivors that most people will recognise the truth when they hear it. I am content with that.” Thank you Witness J for your courage and tenacity. 

 


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Are You Thinking About Applying for Redress?

The National Redress Scheme is a response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It started on the 1st of July 2018 and will end in July 2028.

The National Redress Scheme is available to  any person who experienced sexual abuse as a child (before the age of 18) within an institution, whether that is at school, a sporting club, a religious organisation, foster care or group home to name a few.

The aim of the Redress Scheme is to offer survivors of child sexual abuse within an institution an opportunity to apply for the following:

1. Access to counselling services 
2. A Redress payment of up to $150,000.00
3. A direct personal response such as an apology from the institution, which can take a variety of forms and is open for discussion with the survivor

At Blue Knot we are committed to supporting survivors through the Redress process, which we know can be challenging and traumatising if you are considering applying. Our Helpline counsellors can inform you about how the scheme works, as well as provide on-going support throughout the Redress process including completion of the application form. The support we offer is tailored to  each person’s needs.

We have been working with people applying for Redress since the scheme started.  We understand the rhythm of the process and can support and guide you through it in the least traumatising way, while at the same time honouring your unique needs and journey.  The counsellors supporting Redress applicants are the same trauma-informed counsellors who provide support on the Helpline. They are skilled at working with survivors with experiences of complex childhood trauma and if you want to apply for Redress, will be able to join you as you undertake the process.

For those of you who  have already started the process and have a friend, family member or support worker who is assisting you we can also help support them.  We offer a  mentoring program which has been specifically set up to support friends, family members and support workers. The program provides a confidential space for support people to chat with a trauma specialist counsellor and to access their own support as they also undertake this journey alongside you.

For those of you who have already put in an application, are waiting for a response from Redress and are finding this difficult please give us a call as we can provide support during this time.  We are currently working with other people who have also found this process very challenging, so we understand the impact it can have.

The team at Blue Knot are here to support you during at all stages of the process, whether  you are considering undertaking the Redress process, or you have already commenced your application. This can include providing you with information about the Redress Process, helping to determine your eligibility, taking the journey with you or helping you find a face-to-face service in your local area.

If you would like to have a chat about how we can help you, please call us on:

1300 657 380 from 9-5 Mon-Sun for a confidential conversation or you can email us at redress@blueknot.org

We look forward to hearing from you and offering you our continued support.


 


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National Counselling and Referral Service Extends its Areas of Support


Blue Knot Foundation has been delivering the National Counselling and Referral Service supporting people affected by or engaging with the Disability Royal Commission. This service will continue unchanged. 

Blue Knot is also aware that the Coronavirus pandemic and restrictions around social distancing has the potential for greater risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation and may further disadvantage people with disability with experiences of abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation.

For this reason, Blue Knot will be elevating its promotion of the National Counselling and Referral service as a key trauma-informed support for people with disability, family members, carers, advocates and workers who have experienced or witnessed abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation during these difficult times. Anyone who wishes to access this support does not need to make a submission or have any prior involvement with the Disability Royal Commission.

You can call the National Counselling and Referral Service on 1800 421 468 . 

This service operates from: 

9am-6pm AEST/AEDT Mon-Fri and 
9am-5pm AEST/AEDT Sat, Sun and public holidays.

It is a specialist service which provides short-term phone counselling support and referrals for people with disability, their families and carers.

What the service provides

professional short-term counselling and support
a gateway to frontline counselling services
supported transfers to and from the Royal Commission, advocacy and legal support services
information and referrals about other useful services
information about trauma and distress and why people can feel overwhelmed

How to contact the National Counselling and Referral Service (NCRS) 

There are a number of ways you can contact the NCRS depending on your accessibility needs, and the type of service you require.  

Telephone:  Call 1800 421 468 or 02 6146 1468 to speak with one of our counsellors for short term counselling support and referrals.

Video Conference (VC): VC is available to  people who have  restrictions around their ability to contact our counsellors via telephone.  Please  contact us first  by email at ncrscounsellors@blueknot.org.au.  You can call us yourself or with a support person on 1800 421 468 AEDT to discuss accessing this service. This service is  available for a single session with a focus on linking you with local and ongoing supports.

Webchat (WC): Webchat is available for  people who require support, information or referrals.  Webchat is found at the bottom right of the screen on this webpage.  It is not a counselling service . Please refer to the Webchat Terms and Conditions  for further information should you choose to use this service.

SMS: SMS is available to people who have been in contact with us previously in another way. It can be used to provide people with  information or referrals.  SMS contact 0451 266 601. It is not available for counselling support. 

N.B. This is a separate service from the Blue Knot Helpline which provides counselling, support, information to people with experiences of childhood trauma and for support, including around applications to the National Redress Scheme

If in crisis, in need of immediate support or concerned for your safety: Call Lifeline on 13 11 14. 
If you are currently experiencing any form of violence or abuse, or are concerned for your safety, call 000


What you can expect when you call the National Counselling and Referral Service

Our counsellors are here to listen and support you
Everyone’s experience of trauma is different, and everyone has different needs
Counsellors will provide support in your call based on your needs
Counsellors can refer you to longer term supports for ongoing counselling
If you need an advocate, counsellors can refer you to an advocacy service
Counsellors can also provide information about trauma and its impacts 
We try to answer each call when it rings and usually do
Sometimes we won’t be able to answer straight away and you will be on hold until the next counsellor becomes available

Accessibility


If you find it difficult to hear or speak you can contact us through the National Relay Service (NRS). Please phone 133 677.
If you find if challenging to use the telephone, you can contact the National Counselling and Referral Service supporting the Disability Royal Commission using video conferencing.  To do so please connect with us first via email at ncrscounsellors@blueknot.org.au or by calling us yourself or with a support person on 1800 421 468 AEDT to discuss accessing this service.

If you require support in another language you can use the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) free of charge by calling the National Counselling and Referral Service and asking for an interpreter. The counsellor will make the arrangements, or by calling TIS on 131 450 and asking to be connected to National Counselling and Referral Service on 1800 421 468.


 

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Share Your Blue Sky Moment

Although social distancing may prevent us from physically interacting with our friends, family and community, all of us can look towards the sky, and embrace blue skies ahead as a shared symbol of hope, unity and purpose.  It is this common bond that has inspired us to share a Blue Sky Moment, and we invite you to share your Blue Sky Moment in support through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Each and every post will embody a sign of hope and a brighter future ahead.  In particular, people struggling in their daily lives may have a glimpse of a blue sky moment which may resonate with them, letting them know that they are not alone.

How to Participate

We recommend that all posts/tweets:

• Use the words 'share to show your support' or 're-tweet to show your support'

• Include #BlueSkyMoment and tag us @blueknotfoundation

• On Facebook, tag key contacts who are likely to share the post

• Tweet @ key contacts who are likely to re-tweet, as above


Suggested Posts

We’re supporting #BlueSkyMoment to raise awareness for adult survivors of complex trauma. Over 1 in 4 Australians are impacted by repeated trauma, abuse or violence experienced as a child or adult. The isolation and fear that #COVID19 brings can make it even harder for survivors. Go here to learn how to support https://www.blueknot.org.au/Resources/Fact-Sheets/COVID-19 Share to show your support.

Over 5 million Australians experience the long-term effects of complex trauma but recovery is possible. #COVID19 and isolation can make it harder for survivors, but we’re here together showing our support through sharing our #BlueSkyMoment. Share to show your support.

We may be in isolation but we are not alone. We are sharing our #BlueSkyMoment as a sign of solidarity, support and better times ahead. Times are tough but we are part of a community of support and we’ll get through this together #COVID19. Share to show your support.


Here is an example posting


FAQs


There are some clouds / other buildings / our logo / a person in our blue sky photo. Is that okay? 

Yes! Many people struggle to find their blue sky moment. The blue sky moment won’t always be perfect, but that glimpse of blue sky can bring hope. Try to avoid putting too much focus on other objects or people. We are also mindful that images of people should depict them observing social distancing requirements where applicable. We really want to capture the possibility of hope and the sense of unity that can come with a great stretch of blue sky.  

We want to write our own message instead of using the suggested messages.

That’s perfectly fine. We want to make it easy for some of our busy supporters to jump on board with our blue sky campaign, but you can write a caption that’s most relevant to you.  We ask you to please use the #BlueSkyMoment hashtag and tag us @blueknotfoundation so we can easily find and share your photos online. 

How is posting on social media going to help anyone?

In this digital age, social media is an important communication tool. By showing your support, you’re giving people the chance to start conversations at home, in the workplace or with close friends and family. It may also encourage people to reach out for support if they are feeling more isolated as there is support and there is hope.  We want to capture the feeling of endless blue sky and deliver it to the feeds of all Australians. Sometimes it can be hard to remember that a blue sky moment is possible.


Thanks for your support, and we look forward to seeing the wonderful images and messages that you'll be sharing.


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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.