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 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


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

From the Editor

As we entered 2021, I think many of us hoped that the worst was behind us.  As a country, we are relatively lucky.  We appear to be managing COVID-19 pretty well, and we are fortunate to not see the rising case numbers and tolls that other countries are experiencing.  We have cooperated as a community and taken the necessary precautions to minimise the spread and act quickly when a case emerges. But that has often come at a personal cost.  Mask wearing, isolation and lack of contact with our friends and family has impacted on the mental health of many people in our community.  As yet, we don’t know the full extent of these effects.  Our lead article highlights the challenges that some people have experienced during this time, and the particular challenges which survivors may experience. It is important for us to support each other, and if you need support, to reach out and ask for help. Sometimes this is difficult too, but we all need support, at times.  The important thing is to stay hopeful.  We are all in this together.

The last few months have been extremely busy and eventful here at Blue Knot Foundation.  We are proud to announce that Dr Cathy Kezelman AM (President of Blue Knot Foundation) has been nominated for Pro Bono’s Impact 25 Awards. These awards were started in 2014 and each year they aim to recognise innovators, collaborators and changemakers from across the social sector who are making a positive impact in the community.  Your support would be greatly appreciated and helps raise awareness for Blue Knot Foundation and adult survivors of complex trauma.  Cast your vote here.

We have also released new Organisational Guidelines for Trauma-Informed Service Delivery.  These updated guidelines build on the 2012 guidelines and will revolutionise trauma-informed responses to the growing social impacts of the trauma crisis in Australia, particularly given the global health pandemic.

As always, we thank you for your continued support of the work that we do.  We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Breaking Free.


Warm regards

The Blue Knot Team


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So... Podcast with John McKenna

Advocacy and counselling for people with disabilities and their families

 

Are you into podcasts? The latest episode of “So…with John McKenna” discusses the emotional and advocacy support available for people with disability who have experienced trauma, or are thinking about telling their story to the Disability Royal Commission. Closed captions and transcript of the episode are available too.

Listen to the Podcast HERE

Read the transcript HERE

 



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Restoring Hope are looking for men to share their story

To Be Valued

I value others suggestions
I value other’s advice
I value other’s opinions
Of myself I have to think twice.


I look to what others portray
I look to what others do
I look to their way of thinking
Still I’m wearing my worn-out shoe.


I respect the people I know
I respect the dialogue they utter
I respect the work that they do
Unfortunately –
I see myself from a different point of view.

I marvel at their world - not mine!
I marvel at what they’ve achieved
I marvel at how they see life so sublime
For me there’s work to do in the meantime.

I need to value my own suggestions
I need to value my own advice
I need to value my own opinion
I need to value myself & not think twice.

- Joan


 

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The armchair of depression and the cushion of anxiety

 

I had a wonderful psychologist, Steph, and we have been working on depression and anxiety.

It came to me that my depression was a large, overstuffed club armchair, and my anxiety was an equally overstuffed cushion.  Both heavy, cumbersome and covered in greasy, very prickly, rough fabric.

I can choose to sit in it and hug the cushion which is very uncomfortable, and the arm of the armchair, being so overstuffed, it is impossible to balance an ashtray nor cup of tea on, that I am driven to get out of it after a while.

Wherever I go, I have to drag the chair and cushion with me, spend hours jamming it into the car, pulling it out, walking around it, tripping over it, that sometimes I think “I really couldn’t be bothered”, and I leave it at home.

If I do something good for myself, like talk to a friend, go out, without them, the chair and the cushion will sometimes end up sulking in the garden shed, licking their wounds, and being very pissed off.

The cats think nothing of depression nor anxiety, and happily sharpen their claws on them and shed hairs all over them.

- Rebecca


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IN THE NEWS

Disability royal commission finds Federal Government responsible for 'serious failures' during COVID-19 

People with disability have been "forgotten and ignored" during the pandemic, leaving them "stressed and frightened," a Commonwealth report has found. 


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Pell to publish diary of Aust jail time 

Cardinal George Pell, who was convicted and then acquitted of sexual abuse in his native Australia, reflects on the nature of suffering, Pope Francis' papacy and the humiliations of solitary confinement in his jailhouse memoir, according to an advance copy obtained by The Associated Press. 


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Building back better for people with a disability 

This International Day of People with Disability is our chance to learn from what we’ve been hearing in the royal commission and start thinking about how we can create a disability-inclusive Australia post COVID-19, writes Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, president of Blue Knot Foundation. 

 


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Royal Commission exposes demeaning and exploitative practices against workers with disabilities 

People with disabilities can face enormous daily life challenges, so it's distressing to know that the majority say they also regularly suffer workplace exploitation. And that's the focus this week at hearing 9 of the Disability Royal Commission -- to get a sense of the scale of the problem and the trauma it's causing.  

Read more


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Child survivors of family violence need to be recognised 

Everyday when we turned into our street coming home from school I’d feel sick. If his car was there, the sick feeling turned to fear. What’s he’s going to do? 

Survivors reflect on Australia sex abuse inquiry, three years on 

The landmark inquiry gave survivors a chance to talk, while legal changes have allowed them to seek redress. 

'We don't know everyone's circumstances': When you are exempt from wearing a mask 

As Wollongong gets used to life where face masks are mandatory in many public indoor settings, it's important to remember some people are lawfully exempt from the new rules. 

Malka Leifer faces an Australian court for the first time over abuse charges  

Malka Leifer has for the first time faced an Australian court charged with sexually abusing three sisters while principal of a Melbourne ultra-Orthodox Jewish school. 

Irish survivors need real apology: expert  

Survivors of abuse in Irish homes for unmarried mothers and their children need a sincere apology and meaningful action, says an Australian trauma expert.  About 9000 infants died in Irish homes for unmarried mothers mostly run by the Catholic Church from the 1920s to the 1990's.


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Retta Dixon Home victims in limbo as operator AIM barred from National Redress Scheme 

The organisation that operated the infamous Retta Dixon Home in Darwin, where multiple children were allegedly raped and abused between 1947 and 1980, will not be a part of the National Redress Scheme. 


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Dissociation and coping with trauma: One of Lynne Malcolm's favourite programs  

Hear the compelling account of a woman who, after a childhood of family abuse, lived with identities too numerous to count—and how she eventually became integrated. Warning: some listeners may find aspects of this program confronting. 


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A Hopeful New Year


As we enter a new year, into a year that feels eerily similar to 2020, our hopes of a magical renewal with the New Year have not been realised. However, this does not mean that there is no reason for a degree of hope. Just as holding hope is a critical element of recovery for all survivors of complex trauma, it is a time for us all to hold the hope that a time of fewer restrictions, fewer lockdowns and a vaccine roll out is on the horizon. This hope is real but often hard to sustain.

It is also a time acknowledge the challenges of these times, the separation from friends and family, facemasks, quarantine, the disruption of services and supports, and the biting financial reality for so many. There is little doubt that these factors are taking a toll, and although Australia is faring better than most countries, we cannot deny the impact. It is a time of uncertainty, of threat, of illness and loss, and of greater hardship. It is a time of isolation – physical and emotional and of individual and collective fear. Yet this time is also an opportunity for us to pull together as individuals and communities. And a time during which we can build a greater understanding of ourselves and others, and the tolerance which accompanies it. For we are all dealing with this threat so let’s try and do it together.

With threat or perceived threat, the stress or survival response is activated. Survivors often have a heightened stress response because of their prior trauma and adverse experiences. Already allergic to stress, survivors are often primed to respond to further triggers. The sight of face masks, a person coughing, and the 24/7 media and social media activity can all trigger our stress response further. This can cause us to be jumpy and anxious, and at other times, shut down and withdrawn. Understanding why this happens can help you to build strategies to feel and be calm. There are some useful strategies here on the Blue Knot website.

As social beings, connection is important. During this pandemic we have been obliged to undertake varying degrees of social distancing, forced isolation and social restrictions. Decisions made with our best interests at heart have often disrupted our ability to physically be with the people we trust and with whom we feel safe. Many of us already grappling with feeling safe in relationships, have found our separation from our key supports especially difficult. For those of us who enjoy a hug and reap nurture from gentle safe touch, social touch has at times, not been an option. Healthy touch can be connecting and itself can support the nervous system to be robust and resilient. Many people find that stroking pets, soft sensory toys, weighted blankets – whatever calms and soothes you can help, while hugs are not an option. (so too can different ways to calm your other senses e.g. music, essential oils.) 

Sometimes lockdown brought too much closeness, with no space to which to retreat. Even the way we now gather for a simple task of joining a queue for a coffee is not one of people coming together but rather one of concerted spacing and separation. The wearing of masks, while important (if and when people can wear them) makes us faceless. As we wash our hands time and again, use hand sanitiser and PPE as a barrier to the threat of COVID and to those who carry it, we are, in the interests of health, reinforcing distance and disconnection. 

In Australia we have experienced a substantial amount of grief and loss already – objectively little compared to other parts of the world, but this does not make the loss any less. There has been the loss of life and of health, and the erosion of our usual ways of saying goodbye and attending to loved ones. This has often left us feeling dehumanised. Families across state borders, loved ones across international bodies, restrictions at weddings and funerals, are all necessary steps but ones which also contribute to the disruptions of our social bonds. 

In these times of collective challenge, how do we counteract these forces? Firstly, it is a time to pull together (as much as we can). It is time to look after one another and ourselves (as much as we can). Reach out if you are able. Reach out to a person you care about if you can. Do whatever you can to support your own emotional and physical health. That said Blue Knot knows that for many of us living with the impacts of complex trauma all of these suggestions are easier said than done. Please be gentle with yourself. Know there is help and there is hope, even when it is hard to feel.

You might also find these fact sheets helpful, including one regarding the wearing of face masks for people with complex trauma.



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Dr Cathy Kezelman AM nominated for Pro Bono's Impact 25 Awards

We are proud to announce that Dr. Cathy Kezelman AM, President of Blue Knot Foundation has been named as a nominee for Pro Bono Australia’s 2021 Impact 25 Awards

These awards were started in 2014 and each year they aim to recognise innovators, collaborators and changemakers from across the social sector who are making a positive impact in the community.

Each of the 150 nominees were put forward by their peers and now, the public votes for who they believe to be the most influential individuals within the sector. 

These awards have been an important platform to promote awareness and advocacy for the causes that the winners represent.

 

We would appreciate if you could please show your support for Blue Knot Foundation, Cathy, and adult survivors of complex trauma by casting a vote and sharing across your network.

Please go HERE to vote.

Voting closes on Wednesday 10th February 2021.   


 

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Blue Knot Foundation launches Organisational Guidelines
for Trauma-Informed Service Delivery (Updated 2020)


In 2012 we included the clinical and organisational guidelines in the one publication. Although it was important to present the 2012 guidelines in that format at that time, the trauma-informed organisational guidelines were somewhat overshadowed by the clinical set.  Although the clinical and organisational guidelines do complement one another, they also focus on different areas.  This means that the diverse audience accessing them may conflate and confuse the different sets. Additionally, the sheer volume of material now available for each of these clinical and organisational domains has made an updated single publication impractical. For this reason, we have decided to release the updated clinical and organisational guidelines separately.

These updated Organisational Guidelines for Trauma-Informed Service-Delivery inform diverse audiences, from the human services and legal sectors to health professionals and first responders, to understand how to consider the possibility of trauma in people’s lives and work in ways which empower recovery and minimise the risks of additional trauma. The guidelines will revolutionise trauma-informed responses to the growing social impacts of the trauma crisis in Australia, particularly given the global health pandemic.

Dr Cathy Kezelman (President of Blue Knot Foundation) interviews Pam Stavropoulos (Head of Research) to explain the new guidelines launched to empower recovery from Australia’s growing trauma crisis.  Watch the interview HERE

You can purchase a hard copy of the guidelines or register to download a copy HERE.

 

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'I'm 50. And every day I struggle with the scars left by my cruel, angry mother.'

The author of this story has chosen to remain anonymous. (Image is a stock photo by Getty Images)

Story originally published in Mamamia

* Trigger Warning: This story deals with emotional abuse and may be triggering for some readers. 

About one in five people live with the long-term impacts of childhood trauma. I don’t know what your trauma looks like. I know what it's like for me. For me, it feels like having no safe harbour as a child causes wild and stormy seas for life. 

I’m 50 now, and maybe making some progress. Some of the people I follow on Instagram talk about their long hard road to recovery. Usually, they’re in their 30s. Here I am, at 50, still struggling almost every day with some aspect of it.

I wasn’t sexually abused. I feel like that’s what most people think of when you say abuse. But abuse comes in many forms and sometimes it is not ‘big’.  

For me, my mother took every possible opportunity to lay the blame for her anger on me. Her anger was palpable. I’m ugly, fat, the one with the wrong colour skin, the least deserving.

I don’t deserve. 

I’m not what I should be. These labels bear no relation to what I actually look like or who I am – I know now they were an expression of the betrayal of her expectations of the way her life should be. 

My mum once told me that my dad and the doctor had conspired to swap her birth control pills and my birth was a mistake. She clarified that no, I definitely wasn’t an accident… I was a mistake.

Many of the things she said and did, I’ve blocked out. It’s a protective thing your mind does. I still do it – float off somewhere else when things are hard for me to work through.

I’m being very simplistic in my explanation here because each situation is really complicated and there are usually multiple factors in play. 

My dad really struggled with anger management. He did not hit us but his anger was physical and there were many holes in the wall at home. He stood by and let our mother say really horrible, awful things. Over and over and over. He sometimes tried to make things right but he wasn’t present enough, often enough, to make a difference.

So, as I said, I’m now 50. And this Christmas was the first since I separated from my husband and the first one that my kids have experienced where we are not in the same house. Yes, my issues contributed. So did his. Including how he did not notice how much I struggled.

I stayed over on Christmas Eve and hoped I would make it through to Boxing Day but I really couldn’t. The pressure built in my head throughout the day. The pressure in my chest that I used to think a loving family would fill expanded with the pain inflicted by my difficult childhood and adult liaison with my parents and my sister. 

I walked through the day with a physical ache in my chest and head. It feels like flu but this ache is grief. Sometimes it affects my stomach. I try to smile through the pain or ignore it but around 6pm on Christmas Day I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to leave. I could see my children in their own grief as I went. I sobbed all the way home. I want to be held like I held my own children when they cried (or still cry). I want to know what it's like to have the support of someone who cares for you unconditionally. 

I feel dead inside  – all that is left is grief. Grief because even though I’m 50 I still want a mum. But I’m not the right colour, the right build, the right person and I can’t seem to believe I deserve to be here. Grief because I want to believe I deserve something.

Sometimes I wonder if I can just stop, maybe I’m ‘just’ feeling sorry for myself. I don’t know if it's possible. I know I don’t want to live like this anymore.  

The only thing I do know is if you know and care about someone who you think may have suffered some kind of trauma, just be nice to them. Don’t judge them. Try to make it clear that you aren’t judging them and also that you like them. Make it clear that they are enough as they are. Don’t assume they know. Because they have convinced themselves in every single possible way that they aren’t enough, that everyone hates them and that they are awful people. You will have to do this over many times before they believe you. In their worst moments, they may need to know all over again. And again. This could be a lifelong conversation. It won’t be every day. But you need to know that you may have to revisit your kind words when things get bad for them.

Maybe they are being a drama queen. In which case, they will be relieved to know that (unless they are a narcissist, in which case keep walking). But maybe this is an ongoing seriously impactful part of the less than ideal upbringing they had. Reading a little and being thoughtful in your words and actions will mean more to them than you will know. It's not really a lot you need to do, just a little every so often.

The Blue Knot Foundation finally helped me understand I wasn’t alone. Except for days like today.  


 

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Advocate for sexual assault survivors is 2021 Australian of the Year 

A young advocate who fought for a voice for survivors of sexual assault has been named Australian of the Year. 

Grace Tame, 26, from Hobart, has won the award ahead of high profile finalists including former NSW fire commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, and former Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy, who became nationally prominent faces for their roles during the bushfires and the COVID pandemic respectively.

This is the first time in the program’s 61-year history that a Tasmanian has been Australian of the Year.

Tame, a victim of sustained abuse, took on the restrictive Tasmanian legal system to win the right to tell of her traumatic experience.

From the age of 15, she was groomed and raped by her maths teacher, a 58-year-old who was subsequently jailed. But Tasmania’s sexual assault victim gag law meant she could not legally speak about what she had gone through, although her abuser and the media could discuss the case.

With the help of the #LetHerSpeak campaign, Tame successfully applied to the state’s supreme court to be able to identify as a rape survivor.

The law was changed last year to allow sexual assault survivors to use their names in the media.

“Grace has demonstrated extraordinary courage, using her voice to push for legal reform and raise public awareness about the impacts of sexual violence,” the announcement of her award said.

Tame has spoken out particularly for those abused in institutional settings and has also used her media profile to advocate for other vulnerable groups.

Reflecting on her experience after winning her exemption to speak, she said in an ABC interview: “It’s so important for people to own their own story, their own narrative and to take back control of who they are. And it’s so important that survivors know that it’s not their fault and to have the support of the community and the support of the law.”



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New guidelines to help mitigate Australia’s growing trauma crisis amidst COVID-19 pandemic  

An organisation has released a set of guidelines meant to help people experiencing trauma crisis receive appropriate and informed services from concerned sectors, including healthcare professionals, legal practitioners, and even law enforcement.

Besides being a blueprint for organisations to follow in their work, Blue Knot Foundation’s Organisational Guidelines for Trauma-Informed Service-Delivery aims to “revolutionise trauma-informed responses to the growing social impacts of the trauma crisis in Australia, particularly given the global health pandemic.”

In a media statement, the Blue Knot Foundation said the guidelines will “inform diverse audiences, from the human services and legal sectors to health professionals and first responders, to understand how to consider the possibility of trauma in people’s lives and work in ways which empower recovery and minimise the risks of additional trauma.”

The document is the foundation’s update to the 2012 document titled Practice Guidelines for Trauma-Informed Care and Service Delivery – which set the standards for organisational practice towards trauma mitigation. This new iteration will factor in the advances, conceptualisation, and implementation of a trauma-informed approach over the past 8 years, and its universality beyond clinical treatment.

Moreover, the new document will also account for the changing landscape of service-provision within the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These updated trauma-informed organisational guidelines are being released in a very different context to that of 2012. COVID-19 has not only changed the service and care landscape, but also brought additional trauma to public awareness and individual and community experiences. Trauma experiences are being compounded and we must understand the impact this has on the need for trauma-informed service delivery and care,” said Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, Blue Knot Foundation President.

According to data from the foundation, over 5 million adults in Australia have experiences of complex trauma, which is repeated ongoing interpersonal trauma and abuse, often from childhood, as an adult, or both.

Traumatic injuries can also come in the form of single incident trauma, which includes bushfires, floods, accidents, assaults, and even the threat and reality of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have developed these Guidelines to help inform the lens through which organisations, staff and practitioners work – a lens which explores what has happened to a person on life’s journey rather than a purely biomedical approach,” Kezelman said.

“Trauma is pervasive and it is time our service systems embed an approach which not only acknowledges this but also uses it to inform a far more human response,” she said.


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'The attitude shift that shocked me most about life with a disability'  


Lisa Cox is a media professional and member of Media Diversity Australia, and shares her vision of changing the way disability is represented in mainstream popular culture. 

Society needs to expect more from disabled people — and having acquired my disabilities a little later in life, I can clearly compare and contrast my life before and after. 


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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.