Breaking Free - November/December 2021

From the editor

Welcome to our combined November/December edition of Breaking Free. As we head towards the end of a challenging year, we are still facing a degree of uncertainty with more COVID-19 news.  This continued uncertainty is stressful and the holiday season itself can bring additional pressures. In this edition we have included some information on self-care and caring for yourself during the holiday season.  We also offer some guidance on how to ‘say no’.  Often we feel pressured and obligated to take part in activities that we don’t feel comfortable about.  We hope the ideas we are sharing can support you to navigate your way through the holiday season.

In addition, we have provided an article about Adverse Childhood Experiences, which have impacted a large number of people who receive Breaking Free. This article includes links to a range of valuable resources, as well as a new perspective around ACEs – the Number Story.

If you would like to speak to one of our counsellors during this time please call:
Blue Knot Helpline and Redress Support Service on 1300 657 380 Monday – Sunday between 9am – 5pm AEDT.
The National Counselling & Referral Service – Disability will also be open and can be contacted on 1800 421 468 9am – 6pm AEDT Monday – Friday, and 9am – 5pm AEDT Saturday, Sunday and public holidays.

Our Helplines will be open right through the holidays. Please however note that the Blue Knot Office – administration will be closed from 25/12/21 to reopen on 10/01/22.

This year has also been an amazing year of achievements for Blue Knot despite the challenges.  Our 2020/21 Annual Report showcases the programs, services and activities that Blue Knot has provided throughout the year. It is included in this edition for your perusal. This report is testament to the commitment of an incredible team at Blue Knot and also to the real difference we are honoured to make in people’s lives every day. We have also included news from our AGM and board, as well as opportunities to participate in research and also the Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmania government’s response to child sexual abuse in institutional settings.

As always, we are grateful for the support we have received – many kind messages through email, social media and our Helpline services.  Community support is invaluable in helping us help more survivors heal. To this end we have included a short introduction to Doing Good Rewards – an easy way of providing support when you shop. One very big thank you to all our supporters this year and always.

Take care,
From the Blue Knot team

Looking after yourself over the holiday season

Group of people on the beach

Having started 2021 thinking that we would have a better year than 2020, many of us have individually and collectively faced an incredibly challenging year with the threat and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of us it has meant repeated lockdowns, isolation, quarantine, and a range of rolling restrictions  not to mention issues around vaccination.

For many of us our plans have gone out the window and we have not been able to travel and often be with friends and loved ones, even in the hardest of times or to celebrate significant milestones together . For others the economic and health realities are harsh and ongoing. It is with this backdrop that we enter the summer holiday season. Holidays, when some people gather, or when others are more alone can be a challenging time of the year. Expectations from family members and arrangements can cause emotions to run high and interpersonal pressures to increase.

For many of us who are living with the impacts of complex trauma, this time of year can be especially difficult because of heightened feelings of loss, fragmented relationships, and the expectations posed on us both internally and by friends, family and communities.  And all of this compounded by ongoing new rules and regulations, designed to keep us safe but challenging all the same.

As we all face the pressures of COVID-19 and those of other people’s expectations and demands it can be helpful to keep in mind that we all have the right to choose what we want to do, who we want to see, what helps us to feel safe, and when or if we want to do things.

The summer season will pass by once again, as it does year by year. So this year more than ever it is time to do what you can to look after yourself, to keep safe, and if you need support, to reach out to someone you trust. The Blue Knot Helpline and Redress Support Service will operate right through the summer, including on public holidays. You can call 1300 657 380 between 9am-5pm AEDT Monday to Sunday. And for people living with disability the National Counselling and Referral Service will also operate. You can call 1800 421 468 AEDT between 9am and 6 pm Monday to Friday or 9am to 5 pm Saturday, Sunday and public holidays.

Self-care and saying ‘no’

It is important to know that you have the right to say ‘no’ to any activity that does not feel helpful for you. It is your choice. This can be a challenge for many survivors and hard to achieve, especially when demands are coming thick and fast. At this time of the year it can be more difficult to say ‘no’, as there can be more expectations and we often don’t want to upset people.

It’s important to identify and respect our personal limits around being with family, especially with complex families, and around meeting up with friends and community members. If we notice that we are feeling distressed or more vulnerable, it is okay to not go to a particular gathering, or to go for a limited time and have an early exit strategy. Other people’s feelings are their responsibility, while self-care is our own. Saying “no” to activities, events and interactions that are too stressful, distressing or overwhelming, is healthy self-care and good planning.

Some of us can find ourselves alone at a time when others are meeting up with others and this can heighten out feelings of aloneness. For times when you are feeling more isolated it can be helpful to reflect about what might help you to feel safer or more nurtured. This is different for each of us  – for some it might be spending time outside, in nature or by water. For others it is a good book, music, moving your body, yoga or meditation. For more ideas please go to  Maybe you could reach out to a trusted friend or family member if you can think of someone you’d like to speak to or see – if that’s what you’d like to do… and of course you can call one of our helplines and speak to one of our trauma counsellors as we have outlined above.

Help raise money for Blue Knot Foundation while you shop

Blue Knot Foundation has partnered with Doing Good Rewards, a platform that helps charities raise money while you save money on your shopping.  Just by registering, you can save at over 150 retailers, and at the same time help Blue Knot Foundation raise funds to help empower adult survivors of complex trauma.

So how does it work?

Sign up here , register your Visa, Eftpos or Mastercard and get automatic discounts of up to 25% at local merchants and over 150 online retailers. A proportion of your saving is passed on to Blue Knot Foundation as a tax deductible donation.  You don’t have to show your card and you don’t have to give extra dollars!  Not only will you save money on your transaction, you will also be donating part of your saving to Blue Knot Foundation just by shopping as you do now.

We thank you for your support!


Childhood trauma and the ACE Study

ACE Study graphic

You may have heard about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). The term arose from an ongoing study in the US called the ACE study. This study showed that early life trauma is common and that it can cause damaging effects on both physical and emotional health (Felitti, Anda et al, 1998; 2010).  The ACE Study identified 10 categories, each of which represent an adverse childhood experience.

So what does the ACE study reveal?

The number of ACEs determines a person’s overall ACE score. Each adverse experience is only scored once regardless of the number of times it occurred.

The study also shows how the coping strategies children adopt to deal with those potentially overwhelming experiences them can because risk factors for ill-health later in life.

Whereas previously the ACE score or number was mostly perceived to be associated with negative impacts, a newer lens is to focus on our personal story of lived experience and resilience that each number brings and what each of us does with that story.  You can read more on a new site called Number Story which says: “But that number does not define us. It is simply an entry point to our own personal story. Where it leads it up to you.”

While the ACE study and ACE score certainly do not tell the whole of any individual’s story because we all live in particular communities and come from different backgrounds and cultures and many other factors can contribute to the challenges we may experience and opportunities for healing we may embrace. For the good news is that even experiences of early life trauma CAN be resolved and that there are now many more possibilities for healing than in the past).  You can read more about the original 10 ACEs and additional childhood adversities here .

The site clarifies that ‘when the stress of adversity doesn’t go away, that stress can become toxic in the absence of adequate support in childhood. You can read more about toxic stress here, a topic about which Nadine Burke, a US based paediatrician and leader in this area has spoken and written repeatedly

Watch Nadine Burke’s ground-breaking TED talk here: or listen to this podcast as Cathy Kezelman, Blue Knot President discusses Nadine’s book, The Deepest Well with GP and President of the Australian Society for Psychological Medicine (ASPM), Johanna Lynch

The number story is about rewriting our own narrative. While many of us have experienced ACEs and/or additional adversity, and it is important to acknowledge our past traumatic experiences, they do not have to define us. The number story is as much the story of healing, hope and resilience. You can explore your number here and learn lots more about strategies for healing and prevention here as well as on the Blue Knot website .

AGM, constitution and board update

At our Annual General Meeting held this month, we confirmed that the required majority vote of our members supported the adoption of proposed changes to the constitution. If you would like to view our new constitution please go to

At our final board meeting for the year, we welcomed three new directors, but sadly farewelled a number of our long-term directors, some of whose five-year terms had ended. Sarah Gatehouse, who chaired the board in 2021 decided to step down from the Chair role and we thank her for her role this year. Silvio Del Vecchio was unanimously elected to take the role of Chair with Mia Kwok filling the role of Deputy Chair. As we say goodbye to Pip Bell, Angela McKenzie Mountain and Terry Kirkpatrick from the board we welcome Judith Gullifer, Liza Nadolski and Jillian Harrington.

You can read more about our new board members here

You can access the Blue Knot Foundation 2020-2021 Annual Report here

Call for research participants

Barnardos Australia is inviting you to participate in research focusing on the support for children impacted by domestic and family violence.

About the survey

A short online survey (conducted by Urbis on behalf of Barnardos Australia) has been designed to find out about adult Australians experiences of domestic and family violence during their childhood or youth, the impact that it had on their day to day lives, and the types of support that were available to them at the time.

The ethical aspects of this study have been approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of the University of Sydney [Protocol number: 2021/462]. To find out more about this important and unique research please read our information sheet here.

Who can participate in the survey?

We are inviting individuals aged 18 and over who have experienced or were exposed to domestic and family violence in their childhood to complete our online survey. Participation is voluntary and responses are anonymous.

Those who are interested in participating can find out more about the survey and what is involved by reading the participant information sheet which can be found here.

Participants can add their voice to the conversation by taking the Survey here Any questions about the survey can be directed to Dr Caroline Tomiczek from Urbis at [email protected].

Child sexual abuse

Share your story

The Commission of Inquiry into the Tasmanian Government’s Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings was established in March.

It is independent of government.

The Commission wants to hear from anyone who has been affected or has heard about child sexual abuse in Tasmanian Government settings, in particular the departments of:

  • Health (including hospitals)
  • Education (including schools)
  • Communities (including the Ashley Youth Detention Centre and out-of-home care).

The Commission’s scope is new.

It will consider abuse that occurred, was alleged or reported after the year 2000 (it may have occurred before) and impacted not only victim-survivors but also loved ones, supporters and anyone with information.

A safe space

You can choose to share your story Confidentially, Anonymously or Publicly.

It’s up to you

  • Prepare a written submission, with the help of Legal Aid
  • Meet one of our three Commissioners, in a supported and private face-to-face setting.

If you think the Commission’s work relates to you or your experience, you’re not alone.

We are here to listen

To find out more get in touch, via:

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 1800 950 110
Post: Commission of Inquiry
GPO Box 229
Hobart TAS 7001
Or visit our website: