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

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

From the Editor


Welcome to this month’s edition of Breaking Free.  This month our feature article celebrates survival resilience and recovery. In so doing it speaks about coping strategies, strategies we adopt as a protective response, which we often automatically revert to when we triggered or overwhelmed with emotions. We honour the role of coping strategies but also acknowledge that over the longer term some strategies can become less constructive. We discuss the need for good support to develop other resources to not only cope but also to heal and recover and for some to reach a place of strength and growth beyond recovery.

We also include two important opportunities to be involved in current research which can help to change the future for survivors.  

We also introduce you to our new ambassador Damien Rider.  Damien is a trauma survivor and extreme adventurer who is passionate about sharing his recovery journey and messages of moving forward and possibility.  We welcome Damien and look forward to following his next world record challenges, standing on top of a hot air balloon and skydiving back to earth.  As Damien reaches great heights, he is raising awareness for Blue Knot Foundation and the work we do, as well as much needed funds to support our services to help survivors heal.

Maybe you would like to help us too?  At this time of year we ask our Blue Knot friends to consider supporting the work that we do.  We continue to see increasing demand for our Blue Knot Helpline with demand for counselling increasing dramatically in the wake of COVID-19 and media coverage around sexual assault and harassment.  Your contribution can make a huge impact and all donations over $2 are tax-deductible.  We are grateful for any support. You are helping change lives.

Until next time, take care.

The Blue Knot Team

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Book Review

Along Came a Spider

Child abuse survivors’ stories of the journey from trauma to triumph - Neil Atkinson

In so many ways, although personal accounts are at times difficult to read, this is a book celebrating the victory of the human spirit over personal tragedy. It is not a book of tears and sad stories, but inspiring lives where you cheer for sexual abuse survivors who show the way with courage to rebuild their lives and not let their experiences frame or shame them.’ – Dr Darlene Barriere, Trauma and Child Abuse Counsellor and Psychologist  

In this confronting collection by victims of child sexual abuse, you will read not only of their horrific experiences as children, but also of their lifetime of living with the consequences and after-effects of that abuse. 

There has been silence for too long, and these stories, uncomfortable though they may be to read, should be hidden no longer. The contributors need a voice. They come from various backgrounds: white, Asian, Indigenous, Jewish – male and female, straight and gay. 

It is important that their individual stories are told, and we honour their courage in giving their accounts to show the world that the scourge of child sexual abuse must be brought to light, and hopefully help our society to no longer allow it to be hidden or suppressed. 

The aim of this book is to to encourage other victims to seek help and redress; also useful for healers and therapists of child sex abuse survivors and other traumatised people.

‘There is a need to hear these stories, to know what did happen and what is still happening. A need to not bury our heads and say “it won't happen to me” or “I will never let that happen to MY kid.”’ – Lauren White

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About the author: Deeply scarred emotionally by childhood experiences, Neil Atkinson found his calling, to help and heal. He is a supporter of Indigenous land rights and is against all forms of racial discrimination. His previous book, published by Hybrid Publishers, was The Last Wild West about his experiences in the Northern Territory. He lives in Officer, Victoria.
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University of South Australia - Call for survey respondents

What helps young people create healthy relationships and reject domestic violence?

If you:

Are 18-30 years old
Are fluent in English
Live in Australia
Experienced living with domestic violence as a child

You are invited to complete a survey being conducted by University of South Australia.  More information can be found here

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Technology-facilitated abuse is creating 'terror' in women, and it's on the rise in Australia

Mobile phone apps can be used for surveillance by people perpetrating technology-facilitated abuse. Read more

Extension for Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability

The Morrison Government today announces that it will extend the final reporting date for the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability to 29 September 2023.  Read more

Commission of Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse officially launched in Tasmania

The Commission of Inquiry - Tasmania's version of a Royal Commission - has launched in Hobart. The Inquiry will examine how the Tasmanian Government and its institutions responded to allegations ... Read more

Disability Royal Commission examines vaccine rollout

Three months since the start of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, disability service providers remain concerned that some of society's most vulnerable have been unable to get the jab.Now the disability royal commission will examine those issues in a one day hearing.  Read more

Foundation exec hailed as ‘National Families Week 2021 Champion’

Blue Knot Foundation’s Dr Cathy Kezelman has become a Champion for National Families Week 2021 – Australia’s celebration of the importance of families. Read more

Alarming spike in online child abuse revealed in new report

‘Epidemic levels’: A new report details how authorities have struggled to keep up with a surge in online child exploitation claims.  Read more

It’s Time For Employers To Deepen Their Understanding Of Trauma

It is important for employers to understand the dimensions of trauma, including how both major traumatic events and daily “micro-traumas” impact an employee’s behavior and performance; how past childhood trauma might be triggering certain mental health challenges in adulthood; and the ways in which the workplace itself could be inducing or exacerbating emotional trauma.  Read more

Response to alleged rapes in Parliament House still the same, two years after Brittany Higgins

Two years after Brittany Higgins was allegedly raped in Parliament House, the bureaucrats who run the building have conceded nothing has changed. Read more

NSW adopts affirmative consent in sexual assault laws. What does this mean?

Affirmative consent means that consent is actively sought and actively communicated. This approach shifts from a “no means no” standard to “yes means yes”, in that an individual seeking to have sex with another person must obtain clear, expressed consent from them before (and while) engaging in a sexual act.  Read more

A special program is helping Indigenous offenders with disability turn their lives around

The Murri Court in Brisbane, in partnership with Carers Queensland, is helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander defendants access the support they need to stop re-offending, including from the NDIS - and it's working.  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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Celebrating survival, healing and resilience

'Healing is not just about recovering what has been lost or repairing what has been broken. It is about embracing our life force to create a new and vibrant fabric that keeps us grounded and connected ... keeps us strong and gentle ... gives us balance and harmony, a place of triumph and sanctuary for evermore'. (Milroy, 2013)

The human ability to survive and adapt is amazing. People who have experienced trauma, especially interpersonal trauma (between people) have had things happen to them that should not happen to anyone. 

Each person who has experienced trauma has coped in the best way they can. However ongoing and repeated trauma, especially experienced as a child or young person, can overwhelm a person’s capacity to cope. Such trauma forces a person to adapt to be able to survive and these adaptations are known as coping strategies. People adopt coping strategies to help them manage the strong feelings and changes in arousal which trauma causes. A person’s coping strategies become familiar and in fact often become that person’s default or automatic responses during more stress and trauma. These coping strategies enable a person to survive their trauma and can be seen as strengths that have protected the person as much as possible.

However, some coping strategies do not stay helpful long-term. While the strategies may have been protective before, they often become risks or have negative health impacts. For example, some people cope by using alcohol or drugs, by engaging in self-harm or have suicidal thoughts. Some struggle with rage and aggression. Other people might withdraw and avoid a range of activities and social events. Others shut down and dissociate. All of these coping strategies make sense when people have had experiences of trauma. It is important to understand coping strategies and their role, including in communicating the person’s needs. 

When coping strategies that are no longer protective are identified, it is important to have the right support to find other ways to cope. It is critical to not remove coping strategies until you have strengthened your other resources. Your coping strategies helped you to stay safe in a dangerous world. You used them for a reason. But there are other ways that you can use to manage your pain and distress. But it can take time, patience and good support. It is critical to not be too hard on yourself because we can all go back to old patterns under stress or trauma. 

Many survivors have been harmed in relationships and this can make it hard to trust people and to reach out and find help. This can leave you feeling isolated and alone, and as if you have only a few people they can trust, if any, to talk to or ask for help. It can be hard to feel and be safe but feeling safe is important wherever you are. Because complex trauma happened within relationships, healing also happens within relationships. 

Learning to trust others, to feel safe and to turn to them for support is a crucial step in recovery. Doing so challenges the belief survivors often adopt that people are dangerous. 

Trust your feelings. Choose people who are available for you, connected to you and who can engage you and your experience. This can include a counsellor or therapist who is experienced in working with adult survivors.

It can be helpful to keep a list of your support people and phone numbers including the Blue Knot Helpline and Redress Support Service number – 1300 657 380 (operates between 9am and 5 pm AEST 7 days/week), Lifeline on 13 11 14 for 24/7 crisis support, friends who understand, or your counsellor, or service. It might also remind you to do some activities that nurture you like remembering to breathe, having a cup of tea, going outside and being in nature, connecting with your pets, having a shower, listening to music, drawing, colouring in. Whatever it is that you find helps you to feel calm, grounded and connected. Keep your list on the fridge, on your phone, or anywhere you can easily find it. To find out more go to: https://www.blueknot.org.au/Survivor/support 

Many people can and do recover from trauma but recovery is a process which depends on a lot of different factors. A key factor is good support to help you process the trauma of hurt and betrayal to help build healthy relationships over time.

Our brain can develop and change in structure and function because of our experiences. This means that our brains can also help us recover from trauma. We call this neuroplasticity. The brain responds to social experiences and social experiences shape the brain. The good news is that neural growth and change can continue through life as a result of positive experiences. Positive interactions support the person to build healthy connections between the nerves in the brain and to recover. This can foster healthy development, functioning and secure relationships.

Many survivors go on to tell stories of recovery and of resilience beyond survival. Resilience means the capacity to sustain and respond to life stress, setback and difficulty. Many survivors process their trauma and come to terms with it. They ‘work through’ their traumatic experience so that it is no longer overwhelming. In fact, it is possible to grow beyond recovery. 

Post traumatic growth is the positive change experienced as a result of a person’s journey through trauma. The capacity to survive and negotiate the challenges of significant adversity can promote inner strength and growth (Wilson, 2006). This process can transform a person’s reactions, world view and response to adversity. 
Many people who have experienced trauma can also grow beyond their trauma. The ability to grow through the experience of trauma is sometimes called post-traumatic growth. Tedeschi and Calhoun (2013) identified five main areas of posttraumatic growth:

1. Better ability to relate to others;
2. Seeing new opportunities, priorities or pathways in life;
3. Developing a greater appreciation for life;
4. Better understanding of the considerable personal strengths and abilities that enabled survival; and
5. Creating meaning about the purpose of life and survival (e.g. spiritual or existential meaning).

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Rural Healing Program leads to educational resource

An animated video suitable for community and professional education was the unlikely outcome of a community Healing program in the small town of Mullewa, in Western Australia.

Back in 2019, the WA Centre for Rural Health supported a group of local women to use creative processes to explore their experiences of loss, grief, violence and other adversities. The Healing Project was coordinated by Lisa Lockyer, an experienced mental health trained Aboriginal health practitioner living and working in Mullewa.

At the same time, a University of Western Australia Teaching and Learning Community of Practice involving academic and professional staff from different disciplines identified the need for a teaching resource to be used in a wide range of university courses where students learn about family violence – courses such as population health, medicine, social work, education, and law.

A small grant through the City of Greater Geraldton, which stakeholders agreed could be used for a family violence prevention project in Mullewa, brought together the LCAEVS survey results, the Community of Practice and the Healing Project.

The women in the Healing Project recognised that the intergenerational nature of family violence had normalised violence in Mullewa. Their project to interrupt the normalisation of violence through community education resulted in the adaption of an existing animated video to explain the impact of violence and trauma on children’s developing brains, developed and led by Lisa Lockyer and Poche Research Fellow Heath Greville.  

Some women from the Healing Project acted as advisers on the project, giving feedback on the script and meeting by zoom with Philip Pepper, the animator, to comment on the video’s graphic design.  

Members of the UWA Community of Practice also gave advice on the script. The result is an 8 ½ minute video suitable for community and professional education. Within a week of the video launch, organisations in Geraldton and elsewhere were using it to promote discussions about trauma-informed practice and upskill people working in schools, health, and justice settings. 

The video draws heavily on an existing resource developed by Dr Jacob Ham from Mt Sinai Hospital in New York. We acknowledge Dr Ham’s generosity in allowing us to adapt his concepts and script for Australian audiences. Dr Ham commented on the WACRH video and script: “I love what you’ve done with it. Certainly a huge improvement to what I had made.”

The video has been warmly endorsed by the Blue Knot Foundation: 

“I can’t recommend this short clip too highly. It is a clear critical representation of the ways in which different early traumas can affect a child’s ability to learn. Importantly it also explores what we can all do to change things.”  Dr. Cathy Kezelman, AM. President, Blue Knot Foundation – National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma. 

Learning Brain and Survival Brain: How experience shapes behaviour is linked here

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Restoring Hope are looking for men to share their story

Your Open Heart Can Help Others Heal

Support Blue Knot's EOFY campaign today


Supporting people as they heal from complex trauma starts with an open heart. Yours.

This has been a year of challenges and trauma for many across the country, and the world.

For many of us already facing the pain and distress of violence, abuse, and neglect, this period has only added more layers of trauma. The demand for Blue Knot’s counselling services has never been greater, and the need is only growing.

So many of our reassuring daily routines have been upended. Now, we’re counting on the generosity of Australians like you to help. 

Please support Blue Knot as we walk alongside adult survivors of complex trauma on the journey to recovery, with a donation of $75 this tax time.

The uncertainty of COVID – along with the increased media coverage of sexual assault, abuse and harassment – has highlighted the urgent need for specialised support for many Australians living with the impacts of complex trauma.

I want to acknowledge how challenging these times have been for so many of us. I want to let you know that there is hope, and help, if you are living with the effects of complex trauma.

At present, government funding is helping us meet the growing need. We need your help to ensure that when people call, we have greater capacity to answer, and provide assistance.

That’s why I’m urgently asking for you to donate today to support the growing need for Blue Knot’s services.

When survivors can access trauma-informed services and embark on their recovery journey, the results are often life-changing. The path to healing is rarely straightforward, but when we are heard and understood, we can understand ourselves better, and learn the tools to help – that’s when lives are healed.

Our helpline can provide a first step in that important journey. People living with trauma, along with those who care for them, can access trauma-informed care over the phone, including:

- Short-term counselling support to meet the immediate needs of people who reach out for help.
- Information to better understand and process trauma, including how to support a loved one living with complex trauma
- Referrals for ongoing support, next steps, and ways to continue the journey to recovery

I have seen how this essential service can help survivors heal from complex trauma. I have had my own journey of recovery, and am committed to ensuring that fellow survivors and supporters have every opportunity for healing. This is why we need to expand our services and make sure that as many people as possible can be heard.

With your help we can make sure that the more than 1 in 4 Australians who live with complex trauma, can access the care and support they need.


Thank you in advance for your support. You are helping change lives.

Dr Cathy Kezelman AM
President - Blue Knot Foundation

Please make a tax-deductible donation before June 30 to help us expand our life-changing support services. With your help we can better meet the growing need of survivors of complex trauma.  Donate Now

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Support our new Ambassador Damien Rider as he smashes world records to help survivors heal 

We are delighted to welcome Damien Rider as our new Ambassador. Damien is a multiple world-record-holding adventure athlete, author, creator of One Breath Meditation, and global motivational speaker. Recognised for his International humanitarian work and physical feats, with two National Geographic feature documentaries, and as a speaker in TED talks Asia Pacific and the United States.

Damien was the featured baton-bearer during the 2018 Commonwealth Games. He was also invited to be a keynote speaker for the Royal Commission for his work on raising awareness on Institutional Child Sexual Abuse. His work and dedication have led him to become a globally respected wellness and mindset coach.

Always finding the positive in every situation in life, he has an undeniable resilience to keep moving forward. He continues to challenge himself, discovering what is possible mentally and physically, sharing his discoveries with others.

Damien has his own lived experience of childhood trauma and abuse and his unique and inspirational path to healing and resilience.  He has come on board as a Blue Knot Ambassador combining his passion for supporting people with experiences of complex trauma and possibilities for healing and recovery with his drive to challenge what is possible.

Watch Damien talk about his partnership with Blue Knot here

Read more about Damien's story, and his partnership with Blue Knot Foundation in his interview with Body + Soul here

Help Damien raise funds for Blue Knot Foundation by donating here


13,000 feet world record attempt in support of Blue Knot Foundation

On 19th of June during the Bluff City Balloon Festival weekend, Damien will ride on top of a hot air balloon 13000 feet above the ground. Once he has reached this remarkable altitude he will then walk off the top to skydive back down to the earth, setting 2 world records. Damien will then live-stream as he rides on top of the balloon at 3000 feet, sailing through the sky along with other balloons for a third world record attempt, longest distance travelled on top of a hot air balloon.

As part of this incredible event, Damien will be raising funds in support of Blue Knot Foundation and our end of year campaign.  We will be following Damien in the lead up to the event and sharing across our social media.  Be sure to follow our Facebook and Instagram pages for these latest updates.  

Watch Damien talk about his world record attempt and support for Blue Knot Foundation here

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Stop it Now! Australia victim-survivor consultation

More information on taking part in this research is available here

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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.