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March 2018 NewsletterShare on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via eMail Share on LinkedIn

From the Editor

In this issue of Breaking Free we highlight our recent move to the Blue Knot Foundation - National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma and its benefits.

You will hear from a survivor who has worked passionately to encourage the federal government to refocus their proposed ‘sorry ceremony. Instead he implores them to honour survivors past and present with a healing ceremony.

Keep up to date with the latest announcements on the Redress Scheme that has established in response to the recommendations provided by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

This month’s MY STORY by Elizabeth reminds us that abuse comes in all forms. In it Elizabeth shares how she survived and the importance of having someone believing in her. This helped her overcome some of her fears, gain a sense of belonging and find a stable relationship.

We also explore the symptoms of childhood emotional abuse and neglect and offer some tips which might aid recovery. In this article we consider styles of parenting and their relationship to emotion.

In the ‘Self Care Resources’ section we introduce a selection of Relaxation Music. This is by no means a complete list. I would love to hear your suggestions so we can expand it.

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

Warm regards,

Jane Macnaught


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Building A Community Of Survivor Support

Blue Knot Foundation - National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma

Blue Knot Foundation recently announced that it had become the National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma. What does this mean?

·         It means our core focus remains the support of survivors and those who support them.

People who experience abuse and trauma in childhood, (which comes in many forms), often struggle with their psychological and physical health. People close to survivors often don’t know what to do and say. Blue Knot Foundation empowers survivors on their journey to healing while supporting those around them.

·         It means we are building a trauma-informed community

Whether it’s from assault or violence, or as the result of a flood, fire or accident, in childhood or as an adult, trauma is very common. It affects us all. By building a trauma informed community, which is a community that understands the nature of trauma, its impacts and possibilities for recovery, we not only support and empower survivors, but we also look after ourselves. 

·         It means we are using research and practice evidence to inform complex trauma treatment, including child sexual abuse

National COE

We analyse evidence from research and practice, to identify what works and what doesn’t work in treating complex trauma. Our work highlights the critical differences between the nature, dynamics and treatment of single incident trauma (PTSD) and complex trauma.

·         It means we are providing education and training

A workforce that understands trauma and works in a trauma-informed way is integral to the recovery of survivors and their loved ones. This includes frontline workers working in a range of roles within the community through to practitioners working therapeutically with people impacted by complex trauma. 

Grass Roots Nature

Winston Churchill Fellow 2017 Clare Law recently met with Blue Knot’s President, Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, Head of Research Pam Stavropoulos PhD. Clare wrote about the meeting and commented that:

“the ‘grass-roots’ nature of Blue Knot comes through loud and clear, but they too wrangle with the challenges of staying connected with the community”


Clare notes that Cathy and Pam emphasised the importance of building safe, trusting relationships and environments, whilst recognising that there are some limitations to how involved communities can be in certain areas of work.  Clare writes:


“If we conduct research, or co-produce with people who, through participating in this process could very easily become re-traumatised and triggered, or fail to be contained due to the difficult nature of the conversations, then we are completely undermining our own trauma informed ethos.

However, through providing clarity, consistency, transparency and safety we can ensure that survivors’ voices are heard and valued, and help to shape the very services that are designed to support them. Without this, we may never reach the people that we really need to reach, and undoubtedly the disconnect between researchers and communities could grow even greater.”

As “Blue Knot Foundation National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma” continues to grow we look forward to further building a community of survivor support.

Clare Law’s full story appears here

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Education and Training

National Redress Scheme

The following is an outline of the National Redress Scheme.

This information was current as at 22nd March 2018 and is subject to change.

The Redress Scheme is being established in response to the recommendations provided by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The scheme seeks to acknowledge people who experienced institutional child sexual abuse, and help them move forward in a way that is right for them.  The scheme will provide redress to people who were sexually abused as children in institutional settings.

It seeks to ensure the organisation responsible for the abuse takes responsibility for it’s wrongdoing and provides redress in the form of a monetary payment, psychological and counselling care and the option (only if wanted) for an apology from the institution.

The state governments of NSW, ACT and VIC, the first states to commit, have announced that they will opt into the Redress Scheme. The scheme which will start on 1 July 2018 (subject to the passage of legislation).

The scheme will run for 10 years. At this stage it will support people who experienced child sexual abuse in NSW, ACT and VIC government institutions – such as schools and state government operated out of home care – as well as people who were abused in Commonwealth institutions. The number of people it will support will increase as other states and non-government institutions including charities and churches opt in.

The scheme will provide redress in three ways

1.       Access to psychological counselling

2.      Option of a direct personal response e.g. apology from the responsible institution

3.       Monetary payment

The level of redress provided – including the amount of the monetary payment – will be different for everyone, because it is based on individual circumstances. A maximum monetary payment of $150,000 has been set by government.

Subject to the passage of legislation, from 1 July, 2018 people who were sexually abused as children in Commonwealth, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and Victorian government institutions will be able to lodge applications for redress, not before this date.

Who can access the scheme?

Like any government scheme, there are rules about who can apply such as:

  • It must include sexual abuse
  • An institution or organisation must be responsible for the abuse. The scheme doesn’t cover non-institutional abuse, such as by a family member
  • The abuse must have happened when you were aged under 18.
  • It must have happened before 1 July 2018, when the scheme starts.
  • You must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident to apply.
  • The institution or organisation responsible for the abuse must have joined the Redress Scheme.

So far, only the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and Victorian governments have agreed to join the scheme. This doesn’t yet include the churches and charities.

Find out more about the scheme at www.dss.gov.au/redress

National Redress Information Line is now open on 1800 146 713.

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My Story – by Raine

My Story By Elizabeth

My Story for Breaking Free

I Am Me. I Am Real. And I Belong

I am not a survivor. They were not trying to kill me. Maybe they did not care if I died. Maybe I could have died if they hit me wrong. Or if I tried to get away. But they were not trying to kill me, so I could not be a survivor.

I was in oblivion. They did not want me. They tried to ignore I existed. I had nothing of my own. Hand-me-down clothes, a shared bedroom, no identity. If I made myself known, I was shooed like a fly, derisively dismissed. If they could not just ignore, they made me go away. Locked me in my room, hit me, crushed me, made me regret being at all.

Then they moved on, as if the nuisance fly had finally been squashed and would no longer bother them. The bigger I got, the harder they pushed, until they broke me. Broke my face, broke my spirit, my faith and trust in the world, my will to live. They invaded my body, making that not my own, either. I was powerless and empty, bereft. I wanted to melt into the ground, dissipate like smoke. Not exist. Not be. There was nothing here for me, not even me.

But, as much as they tried to make me go away, to will me not to be, squash me into nonexistence, I still was, and I was in their home.

I was still their burden.

Try as I did to not be, I still was.

I was invisible, unremarkable, plain, unknown, part of the background everywhere I went.

I hid in the shadows.

I craved but dared not draw attention, and I still lived.

Then someone believed in me.

Someone else noticed me and was kind.

Halting, frightened, at times terrified.

Over many years, I began to tiptoe out of the shadows.

I learned to smile.

To swallow my fear of rebuff and talk to people.

More people believed in me.

I stood up in this world.

I walked. I dance. I am not a survivor. I am. I am me.

I am real. And I belong.

By Elizabeth

P.S.  I emerged from a physical and emotionally abusive and neglectful home 22 years ago, and feel I am still on the journey out of it - at least the part I carried with me. I am now in a stable relationship with another who has walked (is walking) this path, have two beautiful teenage children, and am exploring a new career in the non-profit sector.

Trigger Warning:

Warning: This article may contain content that could disturb some readers. If reading this story causes you distress and you need support, please call the Blue Knot Helpline on 1300 657 380 (9am-5pm AEST, 7 days). Calls that cannot be answered directly will be returned as soon as possible, so please leave a message with your phone number, and state of residence.

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Understanding emotional neglect

By Jane Macnaught, Breaking Free Editor

People are often not aware that they have experienced childhood emotional neglect and abuse until adulthood and their symptoms become more apparent. Because it’s mostly silent and invisible, emotional neglect is often overlooked in our society.  Unlike physical neglect or abuse, where there are often physical signs such as bruises or children coming to school underfed, emotional neglect is more difficult to identify.

It is possible for even the most caring and well-intentioned parents to be emotionally neglectful. In fact, the largest subset of emotionally neglectful parents genuinely do love their children and want the best for them.  People raised by emotionally neglectful parents are often primed to under-respond to their own children’s feelings.

For healthy development, loving a child while critical is not enough by itself. Parents must also be in tune with their child. To be in tune with another person, especially a child, a parent needs to be aware of and understand their own emotions.

Understanding emotions

When a parent is not emotionally attuned to a child, they do not share their positive reflections with their child. It is therefore difficult to develop a positive sense of self, often leaving the child with a poor self image, low self-esteem and being overly sensitive. Emotional neglect often occurs in families with unrealistically high expectations or few opportunities for attentive listening, and/or in which a child’s emotional experiences are invalidated to the point she/he doubts their self.

Symptoms of Emotional Neglect

Author Dr. Jonice Webb, (reference at end) describes a range of symptoms of childhood emotional neglect in adulthood:

·         “Numbing out” or being cut off from one’s feelings

·         Feeling like there’s something missing, but not being sure what it is

·         Feeling hollow inside

·         Being easily overwhelmed or discouraged

·         Low self-esteem

·         Perfectionism

·         Pronounced sensitivity to rejection

·         Lack of clarity regarding others’ expectations and your own

While these symptoms don’t necessarily mean you were emotionally neglected, if you identify with more than one, it may be worthwhile to seek professional  support – you could call the Blue Knot Helpline and discuss your issues with one of our experienced trauma- informed counsellors. Call 1300 657 38 from 9-5 Mon-Sun.

What parental styles can be associated with emotional neglect of children?

Some parents experienced emotional neglect as children themselves. Most parents are well-intentioned and do the best they can - however some parenting styles and characteristics are associated with emotional neglect:

Authoritarian parents want their children to follow the rules, and have little time or inclination to listen to their child’s feelings and needs. As adults, these children may either rebel against authority or become submissive.

Permissive parents have a laissez-faire attitude to child rearing and let their children fend for themselves. As adults these children can struggle with setting boundaries and limits for themselves.

Parents with narcissistic qualities feel the world revolves around them, making life all about the parent’s needs instead of the child’s. As adults, these children may have difficulty identifying and meeting their own needs. They may even feel that they don’t deserve to have their needs met.

Perfectionistic parents often believe their children can always do more or better. Their children may grow up to be perfectionists, and set unrealistically high expectations for themselves, resulting in anxiety around feelings of never being good enough.

Absent parents can be removed from a child’s life for a variety of reasons, such as death, illness, divorce, working long hours, or frequent travel for work. Children of absent parents often largely raise themselves, and become overly responsible and overburdened.

Absent Parents



If you think you may have been emotionally neglected as a child here are some tips:

1. Learn to be aware of your emotions


If you’ve spent your adult life disconnected from your feelings, the first step is to learn to notice and become aware of feelings - good and uncomfortable feelings. When you feel a change in body sensation – e.g. flood of warmth, racing heart, eye twitches – slow down, perhaps place your hand on your chest, notice the next in breath and become aware of the emotional experience. No need to alter your reaction, simply notice the change.


2. Use Descriptive Emotional Language


Develop your emotional literacy – find words to describe how you feel - if you didn’t grow up in a home where people talked about their feelings you may need to expand your vocabulary. For example you might say you are feeling happy – but perhaps a more accurate word is that you are feeling hopeful, creative, or satisfied.  These words can start a more meaningful conversation in which you explain how you’re feeling more accurately, and provide the listener with more information.


You may feel betrayed, jealous, let down or numb but instead say you are angry – this can confuse the listener, making it harder for them to respond or support you.  Using more descriptive language can enrich relationships. You can search for new ‘feeling’ words on line.


3. Identify your needs, and take steps to meet them.


Many adults who experienced emotional neglect as children don’t know what they need and don’t feel they deserve to get their needs met. Developing your emotional vocabulary can help you explore your needs. When you begin to understand what you need you may also starting noticing what helps.


4. Acknowledge That Beliefs Are Not Always Facts


If you believe you don’t deserve to have your needs met, see it as just that - a belief, not a fact.  It can be helpful to begin to deconstruct old beliefs you’ve held for a long time that may no longer hold true. Like everyone else, you have emotional needs that you deserve to have met, no matter what you experienced in childhood.


5. Take Care, Be Gentle, Nurture Self Compassion


Be gentle and kind to yourself, take it slowly. Adults who experienced emotional neglect as children often have difficulty with self care.  If you are unaware of your own feelings and needs, you might not know where to start. Try treating yourself with the same care and gentleness you would give a small child. Be tender and compassionate, cast aside the self critical and judgmental side for a while and experience a different version of yourself.



Webb, J. (2012). Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect. New York, NY: Morgan James Publishing.




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Advocating for a Healing Ceremony

“MPs need not apologize, they did no wrong, let us host a healing ceremony – rather than a sorry ceremony”

Two years ago Robbie Gambley travelled to Sydney to hear the apology from the Department of Education in person.  A former school student who was sexually abused says that, after more than 40 years, he now has the apology he has been waiting for.  When he received the apology he also gave an emotional account of what had been done to him in the school grounds and in the home of the school teacher. Like many victims of childhood abuse, Robbie said for years he felt like he was the one to blame.

Robbie with a Horse   Robbie aged 10 and Brownie

In 2007 Robbie discovered that his abuser was still working in the school system. In fact he had risen to the rank of school principal. Robbie took action and this resulted in the teacher being convicted. The Education Department's legal counsel followed up the personal apology with a letter that Robbie said felt sincere. At that time he said "And I now have this apology, so the healing process is continuing. All I would like to see now is the national redress scheme roll out to and a federal healing ceremony."


Robbie wrote to the Prime Minister when he was the Communications Minister. And he has continued to write to MPs and Senators on both sides of government encouraging them to consider a national healing ceremony. Although he received heartfelt responses from several the most significant was:


"ROBBIE, I am so sorry what that school teacher did to you".


This gracious phone call came to his home in Casino at 3.30pm one Thursday afternoon in early February this year.  Robbie says these "magic words" of apology from Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull were delivered with deep kindness.


The phone call from Parliament House marked a major milestone in Robbie’s decade long campaign for justice for child abuse survivors like himself. While he was honoured by Mr Turnbull's heartfelt apology, Robbie feels the idea for a sorry ceremony is not appropriate:

“The MPs in the House of Representatives didn’t do the wrongs and it’s not their job to apologise, it’s for the perpetrators and the institutions that did this insidious damage, they are the ones who have to apologise." During the phone call with the PM Robbie canvassed his vision for an alternative healing ceremony to Mr Turnbull.

Robbie GambleRobbie Gambley: Boiling The Billy On The Farm Where His Dad Was Born

Ideas for a Healing Ceremony

** Smoking ceremony with indigenous community members outside Parliament House

** Healing song/music with didgeridoo and Australian voices

** A minute's silence "– this is most important - I feel there is a need for a minute’s silence for the beautiful, innocent people who did not make it through their horror & who are not here now with us, and they should be here."

** A presentation of survivor vignettes that emphasise the importance of moment when someone says: “I BELIEVE YOU”

** Speakers from the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse; e.g. Julia Gillard, who announced the Royal Commission; Justice Peter McClellan AM who was the chair of the Commission and the Prime Minister

**To conclude the momentous occasion, everyone could "having a cuppa in the great hall" in reflection of the historic event

Thank you Robbie for your courage and determination…In early February this year, Malcolm Turnbull announced that he will make a national apology before the end of the year to victims of institutional child sexual abuse.

You can read more about Robbie Gambley’s story in these news reports




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Self Help Heading



In this section, we will review self care/help resources our Blue Knot Helpline counselling team collects to share with people who call the Helpline. We are delighted to share these ideas with our Breaking Free readers. What is helpful for one person may not be right for someone else so please experiment, explore and find what suits you.

Music Suggestion from Blue Knot Helpline

8 Relaxing Music Ideas

Music can really affect our mood.  Can you recall listening to music that soothed you, made you happy or made you feel agitated?   One of the reasons that we listen to music is because it is enjoyable.  When we are stressed it can sometimes be difficult to listen to music.  Often that’s because music reminds us of old times.  Therefore finding some new tunes can be helpful.

We have collated a list of relaxation music that has been recommended by members of a Facebook group, moderated by Irene Lyons, based in Canada.  Irene’s work is focused on nervous system regulation.  You may like to look at her sites:



This list is just a start and certainly not complete. If you would like to help us collate a broader list, we would welcome your ideas and suggestions – email newsletter@blueknot.org.au

Relaxing Music

The Music

Our choices in music are very personal. Music that one person finds relaxing make not appeal to another., The following are suggestions from members of a group interested in calming the nervous system. I hope you find something new and relaxing in this list:

1. Marconi Union - Weightless (Official 10 Hour Version)


2. Relaxing Hang Drum music for Yoga and Meditation from Best Relaxing Music (instrumental)


3. Deva Premal & Miten:  Om Namo Bhagavate /Gayatri Mantra


4. Irene’s Yin Yoga / Savasana, a playlist of soothing sounds with vocals


5. Trevor Hall | You Can't Rush Your Healing | KALA | Forgive



6. The Fairy Ring Mike Rowland Part 1 and Part 2 an album of healing music



7. Brian Eno - Ambient 1: Music for Airports 


8. Native American flute and beautiful nature, birds singing in forest.



There are many ways to access a wide range of music from different free sources.  You can subscribe to music streaming services for low monthly fees – for around $10/month e.g. Pandora and Spotify. These provide access to almost all the music you could ever desire.  YouTube is free and there are other places you can access online music at no cost.

What is your favourite music for relaxation?

Could you help us?

What would you like to add to this list?

Write to the editor at newletter@blueknot.org.au


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.

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In the News Heading




What we all need to know about memory

Why do we sometimes struggle to remember? If you’re not sure, you're not alone. There’s been a lack of understanding about memory for a long time – and it’s had dire consequences. Read more

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Article 14

All institutional sex abuse victims deserve redress, including prisoners

The national redress scheme for child sexual abuse victims should be extended to cover physical violence, a support group for people who grew up in state care and orphanages says. The Care Leavers Australasia Network on Friday welcomed both NSW and Victoria signing on to the $3.8 billion federal scheme. The network supported the royal commission into institutional child sexual abuse and has long advocated for a national redress scheme. Read More

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'KICK IN THE GUTS': Govt funds stadiums over survivors


THE State Government has been slammed over its "disgusting" response to a Casino man's calls for NSW's participation in the Common- wealth Redress Scheme for child abuse victims. Robbie Gambley said the state's inaction on the scheme was a "kick in the guts" for abuse survivors. Read More

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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.

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