A beacon for hope and recovery

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has shone a light on the millions of Australians living with the long-term impacts of childhood trauma and abuse. With a bill currently before parliament to remove the time limit on instituting civil claims, Victoria has made a significant move in supporting victims of child abuse. The tide is turning but there is still much more to be done.

As a result of the Royal Commission’s work to date we have seen some positive investment in services that enable survivors to find pathways to recovery, however we need more services to fill the substantial gaps. To keep up with the growing number of survivors reaching out to ASCA and other organisations, now more than ever, more government support is needed.

At the start of this year ASCA presented a detailed report in response to the Prime Minister’s call for policy suggestions to inform the Health Budget. The report titled, The cost of unresolved childhood trauma and abuse in adults in Australia, outlines the significant potential cost savings that could be made across governments by actively and comprehensively responding to the impacts of childhood trauma in adults. In other words, greater government support would not simply advance ASCA’s mission to improve the lives of more Australian adults affected by childhood trauma but would be a mutually beneficial investment.

The report considered the weighted costs of four of the numerous trauma-related repercussions Australian adult survivors of childhood trauma face – including alcohol abuse, anxiety/depression, obesity, suicide and attempted suicide. By conservative* measures, the cost to the budget of not addressing the impacts of childhood trauma overall was estimated to be a minimum of $9.1 billion annually; or for child abuse (in all its forms) alone, the minimum cost was $6.8 billion annually.

To break this down, the report found that each of these four major effects on childhood abuse and trauma survivors had large per person costs. Conservatively estimated, the report showed:
•Alcohol abuse costs $4,983 per person, annually
•Mental illness costs $7,686 per person, annually
•Obesity costs $6,042 per person, annually
•Suicide and attempted suicide costs $5,281 per person, annually

To the wider community these figures may appear astounding, however as experts in the field of trauma-informed practice, they merely validate what we have long observed.
(*ASCA’s 1300 Professional Support Line Data Report, released in October 2014, established that of those reporting the impacts of their abuse, 72% had experienced multiple impacts. Therefore, the assumption of survivors imposing just one cost is highly conservative.)

Evidence-based, long-term solutions are needed for the government’s budget challenges. This includes the provision of accessible affordable specialist services including helplines, online support and resources, a primary care workforce, alert and responsive to trauma, accredited skilled health practitioners and trauma-informed organisations and institutions.

We want to collaborate with government, both Federal and State, to help address the structural budget deficit, to reduce health and welfare expenditure and improve tax revenue and health outcomes – exactly what the Abbott government is looking for.

Active, timely and comprehensive intervention in adults revolutionises outcomes for individuals, families and whole communities impacted by childhood trauma and abuse.

I was proud to present ASCA’s ground-breaking report, at the Lighthouse Institute’s Journey to Recovery: The International Conference of Attachment and Trauma Informed Practice, held at The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on the 5-6 March, where I and the wider service community came together to share our experiences and reflect on practice and research into trauma-informed recovery-orientated approaches.