A MORNING tea was held at Dubbo yesterday to support an estimated five million Australian adult survivors of child abuse and other trauma.
The event was hosted by Interrelate Dubbo to mark Blue Knot Day.
"Blue Knot Day helps to raise awareness of child abuse, tackle the stigma of child abuse, foster hope and promote recovery for survivors," Interrelate area manager for the central west Michelle McKenna said.
"Interrelate can help members of the community deal with the effects of childhood trauma and build supportive and healthy relationships that aid in their recovery."
During the morning tea, balloons were released in support of survivors of childhood trauma, and a plaque in Wiradjuri language was unveiled as a mark of respect to Aboriginal heritage.
Interrelate provides face-to-face and phone counselling for those who had survived childhood abuse and was among organisations providing information about the services it offered on the day.
Interrelate's Royal Commission community-based support service clinical specialist Di Frost said much secrecy and stigma continued to surround child abuse and Blue Knot day aimed to tackle that, giving childhood trauma survivors an opportunity to talk about their experiences.
"Childhood trauma including physical, emotional and sexual abuse been linked to mental health issues in later life and a high proportion of heroin users, for instance, have a history of childhood trauma," she said.
"In the past we've treated the symptoms and not the core issue of childhood trauma, it's important to address that to help break the cycle of drug use, rehabilitation then going back to using because we're not addressing the core issues.
"We have lots of scientific evidence about how trauma affects the brain but we know that the brain can heal and recover, so in that there is a good message of hope for survivors."
More recently, Ms Frost said, Interrelate had been funded by the Department of Social Services to provide free support to those affected by processes of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, helping people engage with and attend the Royal Commission and debriefing after it.
She said the Royal Commission had prompted a huge range of emotions among childhood abuse survivors.
"As a survivor myself, I told my story and I found it very empowering and a really important step for closure for me," Ms Frost said.
"I've heard the same for other people. There are a lot of people going to the Royal Commission who've actually never told anyone about their abuse, and for them it's a huge thing that they're able to tell and be heard and be believed."
The public hearing inquiring into the responses of the state to complaints made and litigation instituted by former residents of Bethcar Children's Home at Brewarrina had hit home locally, Ms Frost said.
"For those people it's really important, the way they were treated when they tried to get restitution for their abuse that occurred and how they were treated for over five years, dragged through a terrible court case and not believed, we're hoping the Royal Commission will help make sure that kind of thing can never happen again," she said.
"There are a lot of positives coming out of the Royal Commission, people I have met and talked to have benefitted."
A particular message Ms Frost hoped the day would send out to the community was that was that people could not "just get over" childhood abuse.
"It's a common thing that's said, 'it happened 40 or 50 years ago, just get over it' but they can't get over it, the brain can't," Ms Frost said.
"Childhood trauma is like brain damage, it takes a long time to recover from that, we can't just switch it off. We're talking years of recovery work.
"Of course, people have to want to recover and be committed to their recovery work. But it is possible, it just takes a lot of work.
"The more support we can have from the wider community the easier it will be for people to come forward and seek help for these issues."