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

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

From the Editor

Welcome to the July edition of Breaking Free.  As we all live with the threat of Coronavirus, we consider the challenges of people with disability and chronic health conditions who depend on support teams and advocates.  Many of us are feeling vulnerable, and physically distancing and in some cases lockdown restrictions are raising more feelings of fear and helplessness.  The upcoming August public hearing of the Commission is timely, and with the added impact of Coronavirus, will shine the light on the needs of people with disability at this time and some of the additional barriers to face.

For people with experiences of trauma, needing to wear a mask can be daunting and terrifying.  This requirement is mandated in some places, and although past experiences of trauma are considered, wearing a mask often brings particular challenges.  We have prepared a fact sheet that helps explain some of these challenges but puts them into context.  It also provides a range of strategies to help calm an often jumpy nervous system and settle some of the fear and anxiety.  In addition we launch 2 other new fact sheets on Understanding trauma – one for people with disability in PLAIN ENGLISH.

It is with great pride that we share the wonderful news that Dr Cathy Kezelman AM and Pam Stavropoulos PhD have been recognised and awarded the Pierre Janet award for the “Practice Guidelines for Clinical Treatment of Complex Trauma”.  The award reinforces that Blue Knot Foundation is at the international cutting edge of the area of complex trauma and recognised for its leadership.  Further information is shared in this edition of the newsletter. 

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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New Fact Sheet -

Face Masks and Complex Trauma

Masks are increasingly being recommended within Australia as well as globally. In some areas they are now mandatory. But it is important to understand why many of us with trauma histories may be triggered when we are asked to wear a mask, or even when we see them.  This Fact Sheet outlines the challenges that many people experience when wearing face masks and provides some strategies to help when you are required to wear them.

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We have won an award!

The Pierre Janet Award is given to an individual/s for the best clinical, theoretical or research paper in the field of dissociative and/or trauma within the past year.  This was granted to Dr Cathy Kezelman and Dr Pam Stavropoulos for the “Practice Guidelines for Clinical Treatment of Complex Trauma” by ISSTD (International Society for Study of Trauma and Dissociation).

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New Fact Sheet - Understanding Trauma

What is trauma?  How do you recognise trauma?  How does trauma affect people?  This fact sheet provides a brief summary of the different characteristics of trauma.  We have also developed a Plain English version of the fact sheet.

Download the PLAIN ENGLISH fact sheet here

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Restoring Hope are looking for men to share their story

I'm lost, it's all going to be OK


This was one if the hardest times of my life. 

I moved to the city to try to give myself a new chance at life, and make new friends. 

I didn't cope. It was too busy, too noisy, I was always anxious. I didn't feel at home. 

I'd go outside the apartment to sit and watch the traffic.....

This particular day, I had my head in my hands and looked in the window, and my reflection looked so amazing that I took a photo of it, and then drew this artwork from it. 

It reminds me that even in the hardest times, I still had hope which is why I wrote " everything is going to be OK.... 

And surely enough I moved back from Sydney... And things were OK. 

Despite me being sad with my head in my hands, the colours in me show that I still had my spark.. The darkness above me... Whilst being scary.. Can't get to me.. I'm protected from it. I tried to make the traffic look pleasant which is a contrast to me because I find the traffic so so distressing.. 

- Hannah

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Child sexual abuse redress scheme pay outs $610 slower than expected

Shadow minister for families and social services Linda Burney said last week’s Economic and Fiscal Update showed payments under the National Redress Scheme would decrease by $610 million to mid-2021.

"Trust has to be established, and the implementation process has been slow and it has been fraught," she said. The Blue Knot Foundation advocates for the needs of Australian adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse.

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Convicted NSW priest granted parole

Trigger warning: child sexual assault
Blue Knot Foundation president Cathy Kezelman said it was "nothing short of outrageous" that Ryan would leave prison after serving less than half of his maximum sentence.

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Domestic violence on the rise during pandemic

Support services have also reported an increase in both male and female victims seeking help after domestic violence
Almost one in 10 Australian women in a relationship have experienced domestic violence during the coronavirus crisis, with two-thirds saying the attacks started or became worse during the pandemic.

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Child Safety case loads ‘lowest in decades’, but advocates insist system in stress

Dr Cathy Kezelman from the Blue Knot Foundation centre for complex trauma said child safety workers were prone to burnout, which contributed to staff turnover and chaos within the system.

Read more

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Epstein ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell charged

“Non-one is and should ever be above the law”

Read more

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Disability and Coronavirus

An estimated one billion people are living with disability globally, according to the United Nations. This is fifteen per cent of the world’s population and the world’s largest minority. As a group people with disability have long been marginalised and their basic human rights have frequently been transgressed. Many people with disability face daily barriers to living independent and connected lives, especially now.

The establishment of the Disability Royal Commission in Australia in April 2019 was a watershed moment for many in the disability sector who had battled long and hard simply to be heard, respected and responded to. It is reassuring to see that the Commission is proceeding with a number of public hearings now scheduled and a substantial number of submissions having been received. Still as for many people around the world, the Coronavirus pandemic has brought its challenges to people living with disability. 

Charged with identifying how to protect against and prevent the ongoing and often systemic abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation of people with disability, and better investigate, report and address these violations, the Commission has a critical role to play. The pandemic threatens us all. We are living with an eerie ‘not knowing’ and at times, a sense of helplessness and hopelessness – new to many but all too familiar to many people living with disability. 

As many of us struggle with the anxiety, stress and trauma of social distancing, tighter hygiene controls, isolation, financial hardship, ill-health, grief and loss, many people with disability who have long experienced cumulative trauma are facing further domestic violence and intimidation during lock down and restrictions. Many, dependent on support teams and advocates, have greater challenges accessing critical face-to-face supports. Some are already exposed with chronic health conditions, crowded living conditions and few financial resources. This can compound the fear and threat we all feel.  

The upcoming August public hearing of the Commission is timely. Not only is the question of the impact on COVID-19 on people with disability pertinent in its own right, but it reflects many of those before the Commission – the exclusion of large numbers of our fellow Australians who live with difference, many all too vulnerable as a result of the barriers they face. 

People with disability face a range of barriers to independence, autonomy and meaningful participation in the community. Blue Knot Foundation has been funded to deliver the National Counselling and Referral Service supporting the Disability Royal Commission, as well as people with disability affected by the complex trauma of abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation.

Callers to the line repeatedly express their gratitude around the respect they are shown, the listening and hearing they experience, and the support they receive. For many years, people with disability have experienced discrimination, harassment, coercive control and repeated violations. Many live with daily losses, ongoing trauma and traumatic memories. Callers share their despair and sense of hopelessness, as many of the services and practical supports on which they once depended are struggling to deliver. 

For many it is hard to access the basics – food, shelter, medical care, access, mobility and accurate information. A large number of callers highlight a greater sense of ‘aloneness’ as advocates and advocacy services who they trust and with whom they feel safe are hard to access. Many also express their gratitude to the support they do receive from so many in the sector who give their all every day.

As human beings we share a common humanity. With our humanity we share a common vulnerability – especially now. As a society we need to come together in support and social connection, to be inclusive and recognise and respond to the dignity, autonomy and uniqueness of all Australians. This is a challenging time for us all, but it is a time for us to focus on how we can support people who face daily barriers to participating in a meaningful full life in our society. Let’s also make this a time of hope, possibility and healing despite the very real challenges,  and build on the work of the Commission.

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Second Anniversary Review National Redress Scheme

Following the Scheme’s second anniversary, an independent review is being conducted. Ms Robyn Kruk AO has been appointed to conduct this independent review.

Robyn’s role is to listen to feedback and provide a report to Government. Government will consider Robyn’s report and publicly respond. Robyn’s report and the Government’s response will be published. This process is about improving the scheme and doing it together with survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.

Who can get involved

Everyone can have a say, including people who have applied for redress and people who haven’t i.e. applicants as well as people who have chosen not to apply or have withdrawn as well as their, family, friends, carers and supporters.

How to get involved 

Information about the review can be found at https://www.nationalredress.gov.au 

Input to the review can be provided through:


Submissions are now open now and are accepted until 30th September 2020. An online submission form will soon be available on https://www.nationalredress.gov.au

A submission allows you to write about your experience with the Scheme in your own words in your own way. It can be as long or short as you want it to be. It can include things like reflections on the application process, accessing a support service, redress decision, accessing counselling and direct personal response – anything you want to share at all about the Scheme. 

You can make a submission:

Through an online submissions form - to be published soon.
By emailing redressreviewsubmissions@dss.gov.au. Emailed submissions can be scanned documents or in word or pdf format.
By writing to: National Redress Scheme Review, GPO Box 9820, Canberra ACT 2601
Over the phone. To arrange this, you can send an email first stating a preferred time and date. A call will be made to you at the time requested.

More information can be found at https://www.nationalredress.gov.au

Feedback study
The feedback study will commence in mid-August 2020 and will go to mid-September. This study will invite people to respond to a number of questions about the Scheme. It is designed to help Robyn understand people’s experience through the application process, as well as why some people have chosen not to apply or have withdrawn during the process. Further information on this study and how you can contribute will be posted on https://www.nationalredress.gov.au in early August 2020.

If you have any questions about the review you can email Redressreview@dss.gov.au 

More information on how to make a submission, about the feedback study and privacy concerns is available at https://www.nationalredress.gov.au


If you need support while making a submission or participating in the feedback study, Blue Knot will be able to support you. Please call 1300 657 380 between 9-5 AEST Mon-Sun to speak to one of our counselling team.  In addition support services which provide local support can be accessed by searching on https://www.nationalredress.gov.au/support


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Podcast Review - Deb Dana
Befriending Your Nervous System


Polyvagal theory is an exciting new development in understanding the way our brains and bodies are impacted by trauma. In this podcast, therapist Deb Dana unpacks the complexity of polyvagal theory in this easy to understand invitation to get to know your nervous system.

We all share exactly the same nervous system design. There are four states in everyone’s nervous system, three survival states and one optimal state, a space of safety known as ventral vagal, or the “social engagement” system.

Polyvagal theory recognises a hierarchy - a predictable order of pathways in our nervous system arousal. This can help us understand what has happened if we get overwhelmed. When we are threatened, our stress or survival response kicks in and we move to fight or flight, and if we can’t to resolve the threat, we move to immobilise - dissociate or freeze. This is our biology. This is not a conscious choice. Action is being taken by our body and brain to save us.

Dana describes the freeze response or the immobilising function of the nervous system as like a tortoise - a felt sense of collapse, the urge to hide or disconnect from ourselves and others.  It takes time to come out and poking and prodding will not help. This part of the vagal system is connected to the gut and when all is running smoothly, this system keeps our digestive system functioning optimally.

The other two survival states of “fight” and “flight” are mobilising responses and we each will have a felt sense of this urge to rage or anger or the overpowering instinct to flee. 

The last space is the “ventral vagal state”. You may have heard this referred to as the Window of Tolerance or the state in which we function at our best. This is a neural pathway linking the heart, middle ear and the facial nerves. It connects us to others through social engagement with our open heartedness. All humans look to the faces of others, or listen out for a soothing or caring tone of voice as cues of safety. Dana speaks of this ventral vagal space as holding the three survival states in equilibrium. In ventral vagal we have a felt sense of safety and are capable of clear thinking. We also have a greater access to intuition and insight, and we are calm, relaxed and connected with ourselves and with others. Dana refers to ventral vagal as “the essential ingredient”, in navigating through the world and to “the home we long to go to”. Dana fundamentally believes that even if we, as survivors, haven’t spent much time in this space, our body will always know how to get back here. We just need to practice.

We each have our own default for when our nervous system is overwhelmed. For survivors of complex trauma many of these states of nervous system overwhelm will be provoked in relationship and in situations where we sense threat or danger. We lose connection with our capacity to think clearly in these survival states, and each of us will be familiar with the way we lose our ability to make good decisions, or find it hard to relate with others in calm, clear ways when our nervous system is overwhelmed.

Dana explores pathways back to ventral vagal, encouraging awareness around the cues of safety that are most effective for us individually. We each have our own unique strategies to return to ventral vagal, helping us feel “safe enough” and we can call on to help anchor us there. Some possible anchors in ventral vagal are increasing the length of our exhale, resistance breathing (as though breathing through a straw), intentionally sighing deeply (either sigh with frustration, or sigh with contentment) and spending time in nature. Even looking at pictures of nature or imagining a peaceful calm, safe, beautiful place activates ventral vagal. Music can help us feel safe and regulated, either singing ourselves or listening to music. Seeing the faces of people we care about and who care about us, looking at photos of them, hearing their voice on the telephone. Spending time with a calm person also activates the ventral vagal state. Our biology adjusts to another’s regulated nervous system to get calm. This is called “co-regulation” and this is what our Blue Knot Helpline counsellors are trained to do, to support callers to return to a felt sense of safety, to support them to explore each caller’s most effective cues of safety and to find new ones to add to your unique regulation toolbox.

We encourage you to listen to the podcast and to call our Helpline to discuss your ideas about which cues of safety you can use to anchor in your ventral vagal state and felt sense of safety.

National Counselling and Referral Service (Disability)

The National Counselling and Referral Service is now not only supporting people affected by the Disability Royal Commission. It is 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.

Who can call?

If you are living with disability (or are a family member of or caring for a person with disability) and 

- have experienced abuse, neglect, violence or exploitation 
- are currently experiencing abuse, neglect, violence or exploitation
- are distressed or anxious about coronavirus
- are affected by the Disability Royal Commission

If you are a family member of or caring for a person with a disability

If you are a support worker, advocate or provide a legal or financial service

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.

The service provides:

- short-term trauma-informed phone counselling and support 
- education around trauma and distress
- a gateway to frontline services
- supported transfers with the Disability Royal Commission
- supported transfers to advocacy and legal services
- information and referrals to other services

What happens when you call?

- 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

Ways you can contact us

Telephone:  You can call 1800 421 468 or 02 6146 1468 to speak with a counsellor

Video Conference (VC):   You can use videoconference if you can not or find it hard to use the phone.  Please  first email us at ncrscounsellors@blueknot.org.au  or call 1800 421 468 with a support person 

Webchat (WC): 
Webchat is for people who need support, information or referrals.  It is found at the bottom of our webpage. It is not a counselling service. 

SMS: SMS is for people we have connected with by phone or webchat. We use it to  provide information or referrals. For SMS contact 0451 266 601. It is not a counselling service. 

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.


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 need support in another language you can use the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) for free by:

- Calling the National Counselling and Referral Service on 1800 421 468 and asking for an interpreter, OR

- Calling TIS on 131 450 and asking to be connected to National Counselling and Referral Service on 1800 421 468


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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.