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New guide to help build a trauma-informed disability sector

The Morrison government is backing the creation of a best-practice guide to help the disability sector better support people with disability who have experienced complex trauma.

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston said the government was investing $267,760 in the project to ensure Australia leads the way in supporting people with disability who suffer violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation.

The guide is being developed amid the ongoing disability royal commission, which has uncovered shocking cases of abuse against people with disability.

“The Morrison government will fund Blue Knot Foundation to guide organisations and practitioners on how to better understand complex trauma and deliver trauma-informed care to the disability community,” Ruston said.

She said this was part of Blue Knot’s role delivering government-funded counselling support and referral services for people engaging with the disability royal commission through the National Counselling and Referral Service.

Blue Knot Foundation president Dr Cathy Kezelman AM said people with disability of all ages experienced and witnessed trauma more often than people without disability. 

Kezelman told Pro Bono News the guide was being developed to help build a trauma-informed disability sector, with a range of tools and strategies from which workers can draw on to better understand the impacts of trauma.

“Given the prevalence of disability within the community it is important to build the capacity of the sector around the sensitivities and vulnerabilities of people with disability with trauma experiences,” Kezelman said.

“In doing so it will help reduce the risks of re-traumatisation and foster pathways to healing from trauma.

“It will also help provide tools for disability sector workers to prioritise their own self-care and be alert to the risks of vicarious trauma.”

Blue Knot Foundation has developed a range of guidelines for different audiences and sectors around trauma-informed care and working with people with complex trauma experiences.

Kezelman said it was always important to attune any guide to those who will be using it and have it informed by the people it is meant to support.

She said for this guide, a reference group was being established which will include key organisations working in the disability sector.

“[This will include] different groups such as women, children, First Nations People, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds as well as representatives for groups with different disabilities,” she said.

“Extensive consultations will take place with people with disability, carers, family members, advocates and support workers to include the voices of people with lived experience and those who engage with them in multiple roles.“

The guide is expected to be available by June 2021.

If you have experienced violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation, or are thinking about taking part in the disability royal commission, you can contact the National Counselling and Referral Service on 1800 421 468. 

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