Trauma and children

When a child experiences trauma, their age and level of maturity can influence how they react. Some children find it hard to understand their feelings and struggle to verbalise them. Despite the difference in their ability to describe what they are experiencing, children can be affected by the same range of reactions an adult experiences following a traumatic event.

A child’s age impacts on the way they express their distress and what they may need to recover. There are some signs to look out for in children who may be having difficulties but do not necessarily lead to long-term problems. Most are normal and will resolve in time with the help of caring family members and friends.

Some of the signs to watch for include:
• Reliving the trauma through dreams, play, preoccupation with traumatic events
• Distress when reminded of the traumatic event
• Disorganised or agitated behaviour
• Avoiding reminders
• Withdrawal from people
• Losing interest in significant activities
• Over alert – hypervigilance
• Sleep trouble
• Unusually clingy
• Physical discomfort
• Changes in behaviour eg. regression

It’s important to recognise that the child’s behaviour may be a response to the trauma. Reassure the child that they are safe. Have open honest communication about the experience, including both talking and listening. Give the child special attention and allow them to express their emotions. Offer comfort when they are distressed. Correct any misunderstandings or unwarranted fears.

Give clear honest information in an age-appropriate way. Encourage enjoyable activities and have quality family time together. Maintain routine where possible. Using creative practices such as drawing or writing about the experience helps children to understand and process their feelings. Using play for young children is another way to help them communicate and process what they are feeling. Normalise any emotions they experience.

If the reactions described in this post are severe or continue for an extended period, the child could be experiencing a more serious reaction and may need professional help. Contacting a health practitioner is also recommended if a child is experiencing:
• Severe and continued sleep disturbance
• Severe anxiety when separated from loved ones
• Continued fears about things which may remind the child of the trauma
• Behaviour problems at home or school
• Self-doubts, withdrawal or other significant changes in emotions or personality
• A return to ‘babyish’ behaviour that the child had outgrown
• Intense and ongoing emotional upset
• Substance use, dangerous or risk-taking behaviours.

We offer free state-wide professional counselling to anyone impacted by road trauma and are open Monday to Friday between 9 am and 5 pm. To make an appointment call 1300 367 797.

Paul Illman Honorary Life Membership

Paul has been a volunteer with Road Trauma Support Services Victoria (RTSSV) since 2008.  Paul speaks at our Road Trauma Awareness Seminar (RTAS) about his experiences as a member of the Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB).

RTAS facilitators who have worked with Paul describe him as dependable and sincere, and someone who always displays a positive attitude towards the participants. RTAS facilitator, Peter Carolan said that since the early days, Paul has demonstrated a willingness to attend RTAS even after a busy and full-day at work or when on leave.

Paul has also been a critical player in increasing community awareness about the ‘ripple effect’ of road trauma, something he reinforces in the seminars and mentioned by RTAS participants in their feedback after the seminars. We welcome Paul as a life member and sincerely thank him for everything he has done for us.

Jan Dilworth Honorary Life Membership

In 2009, when Jan retired, and she decided to become a volunteer with Road Trauma Support Services Victoria (RTSSV). Due to her background in administration, Jan felt she could be most useful helping in the office. For the last ten years, Jan has been coming into the office every Friday afternoon to input the data from the Road Trauma Awareness Seminar (RTAS) program evaluations.

Jan has very much become part of the RTSSV family, and although the work she does for us does not put her in the public eye, it is extremely important to us as it shows the impact that RTAS has on the program’s participants and is, therefore, the information we use regularly. Although Jan is a quiet achiever, her presence in the office never goes unnoticed.

We warmly welcome Jan as a life member, and we would like to officially thank you Jan, for your commitment to RTSSV, for all the work you have done over the last ten years and for just being you.

Celebrating 25 Years

Road Trauma Support Services Victoria is turning 25

Join us to celebrate our birthday

5:30pm – 7:30pm Thursday 31 October 2019
Box Hill Pavilion
1155 Whitehorse Road, Box Hill, VIC 3128

Light refreshments will be served.

RSVP by Friday 25 October 2019, places strictly limited.
1300 367 797 or

Our history

Road Trauma Support Services Victoria (RTSSV) was founded in 1994 by a small group of people whose lives had been directly impacted by road trauma. These people understood the need for a specialist service where support could be offered to those who, like them, were suffering because of the injury or loss of a loved one on the roads. They joined with professionals working in the area to provide counselling and support.

From this humble beginning in 1994, RTSSV has grown to offer state-wide counselling and support any Victorian affected by a road incident. RTSSV now comprises a team of staff and volunteers who provide support and education services to more than 7,000 people annually.

In 2015 RTSSV celebrated its 21st birthday and produced a booklet called 21 years.

A regional coordinator’s story – Gillian Scaduto

On a brisk June evening, I head out to the Wantirna Football Club, to do a road safety presentation on behalf of Road Trauma Support Services Victoria. The mist lingers over the large spotlights on the oval and as I exit my car, I’m engulfed with gritty teenager football boots. They run from the trampled grass into the clubhouse laughing and shouting at the same time, eager from the smell of pizza and Pepsi, which fills the air.

I let out a sigh then scan the surrounding faces of youth all eager with sweat and burnt out energy searching over them for Sally, a volunteer speaker. Sally’s son, Charlie was killed in a road crash and she now shares her road trauma story to change behaviours and attitudes on our roads.

Sally and I have come to speak with the 40 plus energetic teenagers, their parents and coaches. We both work together to deliver a road safety presentation in the hope that no one is touched by road trauma.

“This brings back memories of my Charlie and the innocence of youth. We are going to be eaten up along with the pizza. I can’t remember the last time I was in a room with this many young faces, let alone talk to them about my story”, says Sally.

We smile to each other with encouragement; it is a tremendous and heartrending adjustment you must make to a new world after road trauma. Sharing a personal narrative to a football youth crowd is not an easy task; my heart flickers with admiration for the openness and courage that Sally displays. Grief can be many things, but it can also be purposeful.

As the last bits of mozzarella stretch from the pizza box, I am handed a microphone to commence our presentation.

I am the cheerleader warming up the crowd before the big game. Choices are made, statistics are delivered, short films are shown and discussion is elicited between sips of Pepsi, just as the whole team suffers when a player is injured or penalised for making a poor choice or split-second decision in a game, we all suffer when someone does exactly this and is injured on our roads. The ripple travels far and wide, and time has no boundaries for the flow-on effects.

Just like in a game, I feel the need for a quarter-time break or change of players. Sally’s trademark flame-red hair and daisy tattoo dedicated to Charlie, take to the centre of the room. The energetic teenagers slowly sit up in their chairs leaning forward and eyes fixed on Sally, her voice travels deep, her words melt and mould their way into each person in the room in a way that no statistic or video could do. It is honest, it fuses practical wisdom, it connects and reaches spaces that cannot be opened and it is courageous and loving.

The room applauds, the boxes of leftover pizza and rubbish are cleared away, parents gather around Sally to share their gratitude and thanks.

The air is harsh, and the cold hits us as we exit the clubrooms, although we stand and chat as the cold turns our breath into mist our souls are warm from the experience of reaching out to others to stay safe on our roads. Sally’s words, the bonds of a team, the spirit of kindness, the hope of zero road fatalities is caught in that moment and is what we are working towards. Our message has been passed on, and now the positive ripple begins.


A volunteer’s story – Karen Robinson


My volunteering experience with Road Trauma Support Services Victoria (RTSSV), has been a lifeline that has transformed my life, and thus influence my relationships with others most positively and fruitfully!

I came across a quote the other day on Facebook that stated this: “One day, you will tell your story, of how you’ve overcome, what you are going through now, and it will become part of someone’s survival guide.” I feel the work that RTSSV’s volunteers and paid staff do – does just that – for many within our community.

My volunteering story began back almost ten years ago now, on the 5th of November 2009. At our family home, early on a Friday morning, a knock at the front door revealed a young police officer who asked me, was I Karen Robinson, Ben’s mum and I said yes. With words that stumbled around, he said they were not sure they had the right address. He then stated that Ben, my son, had been killed in a single-car crash. Ben was 25, travelling at 140 kilometres per hour on a straight stretch of country road, in the early hours of the morning, with a BAC level of .08, hit a kangaroo, lost control of his vehicle, hit two trees and was killed instantly – the Coroner’s report stated. I want to say here, that he was not a bad person, he was well-loved and liked by many, but he did engage in risky driver behaviour for many years and on the night of his death, made some choices that tragically cost him his life. Ben is greatly missed and especially by me, his mum, his dad and sister.

My family’s grieving process was different, for each of us, but for myself, I wanted to see if I could connect with like-minded people – to give purpose and meaning to my life that had been completely shattered by the sudden and tragic loss of our son Ben. Connecting with RTSSV proved to be, one of many steps I undertook during this volunteering journey of mine.

RTSSV’s volunteer speaker training back in 2011, led me to spend five years as a volunteer speaker, sharing my life experience with road trauma, through the Road Trauma Awareness Seminar (RTAS) program to repeat road traffic offenders – people just like my son. Someone asked me one day “you must feel great after sharing your story” and I thought at the time that, that was not the case. After thinking about it for some time, I thought it was the worthiest of tasks I do in my life and still is!

What has enhanced this journey of mine has also been through the paid work that I now do with RTSSV. My volunteering has led to opportunities given to me by Chris Harrison, Education Services Manager, to undertake the role of Regional Coordinator and the RTAS program Facilitator. The position entails connecting me with other facilitators and other volunteer speakers. My job is to help them stay connected regionally and with head office, help with training and give support where needed. My role as a Facilitator is to facilitate sessions about road safety and road trauma, for traffic offender participants, in the hope they will become, safer and more responsible road users in the future.

My volunteering experience with this organisation has been lifesaving for sure. It has improved my sense of self-worth after our family’s tragic event. It helped me rebuild and re-energised my life to give it meaning and purpose. It has given me opportunities to connect and develop meaningful relationships with likeminded people, and opportunities to take up training to enhanced existing skills, and learn new ones!

As a mother, a wife, a friend, a work colleague and community member – I am genuinely appreciative of this – and thank you.

Karen Robinson
June 2019

Warrnambool police officers donate award

A big thank you to Senior Constables John Keats and Trudy Morland, who were jointly awarded $2500 by the Rotary Club of Warrnambool East, for this year’s Dr John Birrell Award. They have very generously donated the money to our organisation>>

Pictured below is Leading Senior Constable Trudy Morland, Road Trauma Support Services Victoria Regional Coordinator Rhys Tate and Rotary Club of Warrnambool East President Maggie Dwyer.


Bernadette Nugent is appointed as Chief Executive Officer

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Bernadette Nugent, to the position of Chief Executive Officer. Bernadette joined Road Trauma Support Services Victoria in 2012 as the Manager of Counselling and Support Services and has had more than 30 years’ experience working with individuals and families in a variety of settings with a focus on grief and trauma.

Bernadette is passionate about not-for-profit organisations and about offering quality programs and services that are relevant, accessible and responsive to the needs of the community they serve.

Bernadette brings a wealth of experience and strong relationships to the CEO role.

Bernadette is very much looking forward to working with our dedicated team of volunteers, staff, board and stakeholders to continue our work in reducing the incidence and impact of road trauma.

You’re invited to Shine a Light on Road Safety


“To complete this walk, surrounded by people who understand the impacts of road trauma, was very powerful. People talked, cried and laughed together and were united in the ambition to make a difference. I think this is a community of people who will continue to come together each year in support of this event and, who will ultimately help influence change for Victoria’s road users.”

When: Sunday 5 May 2019. Entertainment starts at 11 am, walk from 11.30 am and lunch from 12 to 1.30 pm.

Where: Palms Lawn, Albert Park Lake (between the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre and The Point Restaurant)

Distance: 2km or 5km route. Or just sit back in the marquee seating and enjoy a coffee and chat.

The walk: Wheelchair, mobility scooter and prams accessible. Dogs on a lead are welcome.

Food: Water, coffee, snacks and a sausage sizzle BBQ on site.

Cost: $15 individual, $20 family and $50 team


Helping when someone you know has experienced road trauma

The impact of a traumatic event affects individuals in a variety of ways. Some of the symptoms can be extremely difficult to manage. If someone you care about is experiencing the after-effects of trauma, there are some things you can do to help.

Spending time with them will help them to stay connected. This is extremely important and aids in their recovery.

Listening without offering advice. Allow the person to talk about how they feel. Feelings are natural and normal.

Resist the urge to “fix it”.

Recovery takes time and offering a safe place for them to express how they feel can really help their recovery process.

Offer reassurance that they are safe. Trauma undermines our ability to feel safe in the world.

Encourage the person to ask for help and support. Where possible, offer practical assistance with day-to-day tasks such as cooking or picking up children.

There is no set time for the recovery of trauma. There is usually a natural recovery that occurs after trauma. For some people that can be a slow process and can take months or even years.