Opinion: Now is the time to repair shattered lives

Real Lives. Real Change. That is the message this week to all Australians about the 5 million adults who are survivors of childhood trauma and abuse.

Across the country communities are acknowledging – as part of the national Blue Knot Week – the harm done to the one in four Australian adult survivors of complex childhood trauma. Feelings are being validated, stories shared and support networks strengthened.

Community support is vital. However, for survivors of childhood trauma to really move forward, there needs to be structural change.

There is an urgent necessity for the federal government and its state and territory counterparts to establish a National Centre of Excellence to respond to all childhood trauma. Not providing appropriate services to adult survivors of childhood trauma costs Australian governments an estimated minimum of $9.1 billion a year.  

The Centre would focus on the many Australians who have experienced childhood emotional, physical and sexual abuse as well as neglect – including those who have grown up with community or family violence or other adverse childhood experiences. Many of these traumas occurred outside of institutions – in the home, family and neighbourhood.

The Centre would deliver best-practice services informed by research, a national prevention strategy and a workforce development and training arm.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement last week that the government would establish a National Centre of Excellence to raise awareness and understanding around the impacts of child sexual abuse was an important start. However, now the commitment needs to be broadened.

When Prime Minister Morrison and the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten apologised to the estimated 60,000 Australian victims of institutional child sexual abuse, it was an opportunity to honour our fellow Australians who were brutalised and betrayed while in the care of our institutions.

For many victims this recognition was profound and incredibly moving as they had spent decades in the wilderness of secrecy, silence and denial.

Both leaders also acknowledged the need for action.

The time for perpetrating a hierarchy of trauma and creating tiers of victims has passed. This is about our nation showing compassion and support and helping to turn shattered lives around.

Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, President of Blue Knot Foundation