What Is Trauma Informed Care?

What is Blue Knot Foundation’s vision for a trauma-informed world? Want to become trauma-informed?


“Trauma-Informed Practice is a strengths-based framework grounded in an understanding of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma, that emphasises physical, psychological, and emotional safety for everyone, and that creates opportunities for survivors to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment (Hopper et al., 2010).

Trauma-informed care and practice recognises the prevalence of trauma and its impact on the emotional, psychological and social wellbeing of people and communities. Awareness of trauma, including of complex trauma has progressed over the last 20 years. This includes the development of the framework called “Trauma-informed care and practice”.

This framework is informed by new knowledge around attachment, development, working with the body, memory and an understanding of self. Frameworks of care and treatment are changing from purely bio-medical (medicine and psychiatry) and/or purely psychoanalytical (psychology) to include the psycho-social (trauma-informed) and a recovery focus (recovery-oriented).

Australia’s 2021 March4Justice. #March4Justice

What is Blue Knot’s vision for a trauma-informed world? Trauma affects us all, directly or indirectly. Many people live with the ongoing effects of past and present overwhelming stress (trauma). Despite the large numbers of people affected, many of us often don’t think of the possibility that someone we meet, speak with or support may have experienced trauma. This makes us less likely to recognise it.

It also means thinking about what may have happened to someone, rather than judging what is ‘wrong’ with them. Our interactions with one another are always important. They are especially important for people living with the impacts of trauma.

Keeping the possibility of trauma on our radar means keeping the sensitivities and vulnerabilities of people who may be trauma survivors in mind. It means being respectful, acknowledging and understanding. Having a basic understanding of how stress can affect any of us can help this process. Knowing this will make us less likely to fuel other people’s stress levels. This means paying attention to the way we engage with other people, as well as to ‘what’ we do.

Trauma interrupts the connections between different systems of functioning in the brain. People recover from trauma when disruptions between different levels of functioning – physical, emotional and cognitive (thinking) – become connected or ‘integrated’ again.

It is important to understand that: Positive experiences in our relationships can help us heal. Negative experiences make our emotional and psychological problems worse. We should not underestimate the capacity of positive interactions to be soothing and validating.

This applies to all of us, and especially to people with trauma histories. Support is crucial to the process of recovery. Positive experiences of relationships are central to trauma recovery. They are also important to general well-being. By employing trauma-informed principles, we can build a ‘trauma-informed’ society. This create possibilities for psychological and physical healing on a grand scale.

In the 1970s gay activists protested against the belief that homosexuality was a disease. In 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10). What does this have to do with Trauma Informed Care? This process was an important shift from division and pathology – “What causes homosexuality?” and “How can we treat it?” – to focusing instead on the health and mental health needs of LGBTQIA+ patient populations.

What are trauma-informed services? Trauma often affects the way people approach potentially helpful relationships (Fallot and Harris, 2001). This is because many survivors feel unsafe. Many lack trust or live in fear.

Becoming trauma-informed is about supporting people to feel safe enough in their interactions with services. To build trust, and help people overcome their fear and sense of betrayal. Becoming trauma-informed is not an end state, but a process.

“You treat a disease, you win, you loose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.” – Patch Adams

It requires a step-wise implementation and review over time. The journey to becoming a trauma-informed service has been conceptualised into 4 sages (Miesler and Myers, 2013):

Trauma aware: Staff understand trauma, its effects and survivor adaptations.

Trauma sensitive: The workplace can operationalise some concepts of a trauma-informed approach.

Trauma responsive: Individuals and the organisation recognise and respond to trauma enabling changes in behaviour and strengthening resilience and protective factors.

Trauma-informed: The culture of the whole system, including all work practices and settings reflects a trauma-informed approach. Trauma-informed services: are informed about, and sensitive to, trauma-related issues’ (Jennings, 2004); are attuned to the possibility of trauma in the lives of all clients; commit to and act on the core principles of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration and empowerment (Fallot and Harris, 2001);

“Every day, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country wake up behind bars of the nation’s prisons. Too many First Nations people don’t have the life path of the majority in this country; the progression from primary school to high school, higher education and then onto employment. Instead, many Indigenous people experience a bleak parallel, going through the traumas of out-of-home care, the carceral induction of juvenile detention, and the final graduation into adult prisons.” – Incarceration Nation, NITV.


have reconsidered and evaluated all elements in light of the role and impacts of trauma; apply this understanding to design systems which accommodate the vulnerabilities of trauma survivors, and enable services which minimise the risk of re-traumatisation;

emphasise physical and emotional safety for all – clients, practitioners and service providers; recognise symptoms as adapative rather than pathological; collaborate with clients, and affirm their strengths and resources; recognise the importance of respect, information, hope and possibilities for connection.

Mehdi Ali:

“I came to Australia asking for safety when I was just 15 years old. Now I am 23 and still in detention. I am suffering. Shame on this cruel policy that destroyed my childhood. #NoOneCanHearUs”

“It’s been a complete trauma. We came as children, we were boys, and we never had a childhood, we were just put in a cage. We did not receive a proper education, we were never allowed to have fun, we just had to try to survive.”

“Eight years of my life lost to detention. The most formative years of my life are gone. These are the years in which I was supposed to spend being a child and choosing a pathway for my future. Instead, these were eight years spent in detention experiencing frustration suffering and misery.”


A key feature of trauma-informed practice is the way in which a service is offered – i.e. the whole context in which it is provided – not just `what’ it entails. As healing from interpersonal trauma occurs in relationship, the wider relational context in which healing takes place is critical.

Want to become trauma-informed? Becoming `trauma-informed’ does not require clinical training or specialist skills. It requires basic knowledge only. When put into practice, this knowledge reduces the likelihood of stressful interactions and helps reduce the effects of prior traumas.

Relating to one another in a trauma-informed way ‘does no harm’ and focusses on the way in which we treat one another as human beings.

Priya, Nades (above) Kopika and Tharnicaa (above) were kept at Christmas Island Detention Centre nearly two years despite trauma informed calls to return them to Biloela, Queensland. Tharnicaa 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.***

To access the trauma-informed guidelines in Blue Knot Foundation’s publication: Practice Guidelines for Treatment of Complex Trauma and Trauma Informed Care and Service Delivery click here:


Source: Blue Knot Foundation National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma (2021). https://www.blueknot.org.au

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

With love,

Dr Louise Hansen
PhD in Psychology.
Human Rights Activist.

#HealingTrauma #Justice4Australia #YouBelong

Pink – What About Us? (2017)

“We are searchlights, we can see in the dark
We are rockets, pointed up at the stars
We are billions of beautiful hearts
And you sold us down the river too far
What about us?
What about all the times you said you had the answers?
What about us?
What about all the broken happy ever afters?
What about us?
What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
What about love? What about trust?
What about us?
We are problems that want to be solved
We are children that need to be loved
We were willing, we came when you called
But man, you fooled us, enough is enough, oh
What about us?
Sticks and stones, they may break these bones
But then I’ll be ready, are you ready?
It’s the start of us, waking up, come on
Are you ready? I’ll be ready
I don’t want control, I want to let go
Are you ready? I’ll be ready
‘Cause now it’s time to let them know we are ready
What about us?
What about us?
What about all the times you said you had the answers?
So what about us?
What about all the broken happy ever afters?
Oh, what about us?
What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
Oh, what about love? What about trust?
What about us?
What about us?
What about us?
What about us?
What about us?
What about us?
What about us?”


“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 Tharnicaa and Kopika; 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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