Why Is Trauma Informed Care Vital?

I live and breathe Psychology: I have taught it to children at school and to adults at university. I am a front liner for First Nations Australians in Cape York communities. I have a lived experience of recovering from Psychosis twice. We absolutely can recover. So it breaks my heart to see someone who cannot call Australia home.

We all belong.

Addiction illustrates this tragically. Renowned trauma and addiction expert Dr Gabor Mate says: “The first question you must ask is not why the addiction, but why the pain?”

Trauma and Addiction Expert Dr Gabor Maté.

According to Dr Gabor Maté, if we wanted to create a system that makes addiction worse – that further disconnects someone – then you would design the system we have: silence or judgment, blame, punishment, shame and stigma which results in more isolation and disconnection. Ingredients for trauma. This is Australia’s home.

So what’s the solution?

Five world views explain how addiction is handled. Please consider trauma is like addiction to the extent that we are unable to break the cycle of thoughts, feelings, behaviours that keep us traumatised. This will shed light on our success and failure to handle trauma and addiction in its many forms.

***Trigger Warning***

Five World Views:

  1. Freewill
  2. Religion
  3. The Law
  4. Disease Model
  5. Neuroplasticity

Freewill is addiction is 100% a choice. From this world view, you are ‘weak willed’. So I will judge, shame (i.e. fear of disconnection; being kicked out of the group) and punish you (i.e. addiction and even homelessness is a “choice”. I work hard. You don’t. So I will not help or share what I have with you).

Religion traditionally is addiction is a sin. From this perspective, you are a ‘sinner’. So I will judge, shame and punish you. Join my group. If not, you will go to hell (of course not every Faith says that; many with a Faith are very compassionate).

The Law is you have committed a crime. From this world view, you are a ‘criminal’. So I will judge, shame and punish you. For your own good. But after prison your chance to find job is slim. I gave you a criminal record and a large SPER Debt. People are also afraid of you. I taught them that you are dangerous.

Gerry Georgatos, National Coordinator of the National Suicide Prevention & Trauma Recovery Project (NSPTRP):

“More than half of the incarcerated were unemployed during the month before they were tossed into prison. The majority of the incarcerated are comprised of the lowest quintile of income bases — vaulted below the poverty line, below the “bread line”, in fact well below what I term “crushing’ poverty.”

They are socioeconomically corralled concomitantly with low levels of education and high levels of mental health battles that see many degenerate to drug and alcohol misuse and dependencies. Four in five leave prison with no employment prospects.

More than half of the incarcerated did not have a permanent address during the month before imprisonment. Despite the claim that two-thirds have a fixed address to go to upon leaving prison, the grim reality is it is not true. It is a tick-the-box ruse to score liberty.

More than half leave prison to insecure accommodation, transience or some form of homelessness. More than 80 per cent of the incarcerated have not completed secondary school education. Two in three did not reach Year 8.

Education is a social determinant of good health.
Comparatively, the primary and secondary health of the incarcerated is insidiously poor. I have written widely over decades about the exclusion of prisoners from Medicare, the Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme and also the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

This discrimination is a political and moral abomination. In my view, the majority leave prison in worsening health. The incarcerated, in general, because of markedly shorter life expectancy, are “old” in their 50s.

Poor education, poor primary health, unemployment and housing insecurity are directly linked to the poorest psychosocial outcomes. Cumulatively, they are the drivers of incarceration.

Many people upon leaving prison are not assisted by Centrelink support — often leaving without any identification documents, without health care cards and without bank accounts. These are direct links to reoffending. Eight of ten leaving prison will need to depend on Centrelink support payments.

We are a nation demanding penance through the punitive. We punish relentlessly instead of redemptively. We often do not listen to evidence. Without psycho-educative rehabilitation, you change nothing.”



The Disease Model is addiction is a disease. From this perspective, you are ‘powerless’ with a disease. So here the only solution is abstinence. This will torture you. I have made a trillion dollar industry to make money off your addiction: alcohol, gambling, pornography, etc. You will have to ignore all this and your friendships too. I will not judge, shame or punish you. No doubt you will judge, shame and punish yourself in a system designed to make you fail.

What a tragedy…

Thankfully, the Western world caught up. Neuroplasticity was born (i.e. we are human beings in becoming). Trauma Informed Care followed (i.e. safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration and empowerment) and then the Power Threat Meaning Framework (i.e. while each injustice differs, all stories share the same trauma: the negative operation of power; a call for social and political change). These modern frameworks see addiction is a learnt behaviour that you found along the way and now your primary coping strategy for survival.

Neuroplasticity. #YouBelong

From this perspective, addiction is your “best skill” until you learn a better skill. So here addiction is adaptive (i.e. a strength): The packet of cigarettes stopped your suicide. Drinks helped you talk when you were shy. Cannabis helped you sleep at night. Ecstasy was the only time you felt alive. Playing pokies stopped you from bashing your wife. The substance or object helped you in some way to survive.

However, addiction has a rebound effect: desirable effects decrease and undesirable effects increase over time. This is such a gradual process so you hardly would have noticed it arise. I will not judge you. Shame you. Punish you. I congratulate you for staying alive.

If addiction is your best skill until you learn a better one how about we find you some more helpful skills? They are much less harmful to you and those around you. I will use my education and power to help empower you. Then soon we can both thrive.

Neuroplasticity shows our brains constantly change. We can actively participate too: learn and unlearn addiction. Learn or relearn skills that protect life: body, mind, social connection, culture, country and spirituality. However, this approach fundamentally depends on human rights.

Gerry Georgatos, National Coordinator of the National Suicide Prevention & Trauma Recovery Project (NSPTRP):

“Australia needs a federal human rights act. Every human being should be protected in terms of their rights. Australia’s human rights record, on so many fronts, has degenerated contextually to its lowest ebb during the last quarter-century.”



This approach includes the principles of Trauma Informed Care: safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration and empowerment. It is nonjudgmental. It is not punitive. There is no shame. It does not stigmatise. Five Pillars of recovery include connection, hope, identity, meaning and empowerment.

Australian Geographic: Laura Dance Festival
Cape York, Australia.


See how ‘weak willed’, ‘sinner’, ‘criminal’, and ‘powerless’ with a disease instantly crush Five Pillars of Recovery: connection, hope, identity, meaning and empowerment. This is the very real danger of judgment, blame, punishment, shame and stigma: more isolation, disconnection, further-disempowerment, further trauma and risk of suicide.

Research has demonstrated that the war on drugs caused more harm than addiction itself. Lives are lost, families are torn apart, children and adults are denied a future because they learnt addiction to survive; to take away their pain inside.

The zero tolerance approach is unhelpful because many people are unable to quit their addiction. On top of the harm that comes with addiction they also experience feeling like a ‘failure’, shunned from society, seen as weak willed, a sinner, a criminal or a lost cause.

Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari

Johann Hari’s world famous TED Talk Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong:

“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.”


Alternatively, we could choose to see them just the way they are: A human being. No one puts their hand up as a young child and says: “When I grow up I want to become a drug addict!” At the heart of every person with an addiction is a delicate flower simply trying to survive.

Marcelo Alegre Rubic teaching
Filipino Martial Arts, Manila, Philippines.

So what world view do you have? Freewill? Religion? The Law? The Disease Model? Neuroplasticity? Whatever it is know this: people with an addiction are very smart. They know and feel where you stand. I would argue that the same applies with trauma: they are very close friends.

For any excuses out there: Australia is a wealthy enough country and can easily afford to address this crisis. Importantly, the benefits for all of us overwhelmingly out way the cost.

National Coordinator of the National Suicide Prevention & Trauma Recovery Project (NSPTRP) Gerry Georgatos:

“Political will is needed to end the moral abomination that is Australia’s punitive carceral estate — a dumping ground for those we leave behind.”


As someone privileged with an education that demonstrates recovery from trauma and addiction is absolutely a possibility, failing to prevent further trauma, addiction and suicide is the greatest tragedy. As someone with a lived experience of trauma and addiction – who knows intimately what it is like – I will fight until this is realised.

It is time for a trauma informed Australia. We do not need to wait for leaders to become trauma informed. It requires basic knowledge only. Enough trauma informed mindsets will naturally lead to trauma informed change.

Now you know the power of Trauma Informed Care. Let’s turn this framework into a mindset for personal, social and political change. If you are unable to, you might need help first, to get safe or become ‘unstuck’ from trauma. Reach out for trauma informed care. #YouBelong

It is time for a trauma informed world.

With love,

Dr Louise Hansen
PhD in Psychology
Human Rights Activist

#HealingTrauma #Justice4Australia #YouBelong

Gary Valenciano – The Warrior is a Child (2001):

“Lately I’ve been winning battles left and right
But even winners can get wounded in the fight
People say that I’m amazing
I’m strong beyond my years
But they don’t see inside of me
I’m hiding all the tears
They don’t know that
I come running home when I fall down
They don’t know who picks me up
when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
‘Cause deep inside this armor
The warrior is a child
Unafraid because his armor is the best
But even soldiers need a quiet place to rest
People say that I’m amazing
I never face retreat
But they don’t see the enemies
That lay me at his feet
They don’t know that I come
running home when I fall down
They don’t know who picks me up
when no one is around
I drop my sword and cry for just a while
(I cry for just a while)
‘Cause deep inside this armor
(deep inside this armor)
The warrior is a child
They don’t know that I come
running home when I fall down
They don’t know who picks me up
when no one is around
I drop my sword and look up for a smile
‘Cause deep inside this armor (deep inside)
Deep inside this armor
(deep inside this armor)
Deep inside this armor
(deep inside this armor)
The warrior is a child.”


“The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an invitation from First Nations to all Australians to realise a better future. Learn more and help us educate other Australians.”



“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin
“Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of support we received overnight! We’re able to fund one more Indigenous Psychology student for a full three year Psychology degree from just a 10 minute appearance on ABC #TheDrum.” – Dr Tracy Westerman AM

If you would like to donate, please visit:

My partner Marcelo Alegre Rubic who taught me do not let anyone control your life. #YouBelong

Trauma Informed World was inspired by Kopika and Tharnicaa; two faces that remind us everyday of Australia’s cruel refugee system. One of many systems in Australia that remind us of the negative operation of power. #HomeToBilo

Kopika (left) and Tharnicaa (right) were kept at Christmas Island Detention Centre for nearly two years despite trauma informed calls to return them to Biloela, Queensland. Tharnicaa has spent most of her life detained by the Australian Government and is still in community detention to this day. #YouBelong


***Since the creation of this website the Biloela family were released from detention, returned to Biloela and granted permanent protection in Australia. However, hundreds more people still remain stuck in a system that requires urgent reform.***

Welcome to the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law. Join us to make positive changes for refugees around the world.


New Kaldor Centre policy brief proposes reforms to Australia’s temporary protection system | Kaldor Centre:


You can listen my talk with Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, the President of Blue Knot Foundation on my own healing journey, training and study and how it has informed my work and advocacy for a trauma informed world here:

Trauma Informed World acknowledges and respects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Custodians of the land and waterways on which this educational resource was inspired. I acknowledge and respect Elders past, present and emerging. I honour the continuation of educational, cultural and spiritual practices and celebrate the extraordinary diversity of people and relationships worldwide. This website contains images of deceased persons. There are also swear words in some of the songs presented that portray intense emotions. This website is not intended to trigger people who have experienced trauma. However, if you do find any of the content triggering, each page has a link to Australia’s National Helplines and Websites for immediate mental health support. These are my own personal views and comments and may not reflect the views of my employer.

Australia’s National Helplines and Websites:


To provide the best information possible, Beyond Blue has listed national helplines and external services. All services linked to Beyond Blue are reviewed before they are posted.

Published by Dr Louise Hansen

This is a free educational website on Trauma Informed Care for survival and wellbeing. While each injustice differs, all stories share the same trauma: the negative operation of power. Let’s break the cycle of injustice and trauma together one day at a time. The byproduct of clarity is peace. Joy is peace dancing. Trauma is disconnection. Empathy fuels connection. Knowledge is power: “Love is the absence of judgment.” – His Holiness the Dalai Lama. #YouBelong

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