Upskilling Health Professionals on Family Violence - MYF 2014

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Key figures from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, the Victorian judiciary and Vic Police joined the first Mind Your Family Conference held on 11th October.

The event, presented by the Monash Alfred Psychiatry research centre (MAPrc), in partnership with the Greater Eastern Primary Health group, was designed for professionals and health practitioners who work within our community, who potentially encounter family violence through their work.

The Hon. Alex Chernov AC QC, Governor of Victoria, officially inaugurated the conference, which was held at Monash University’s Clayton campus.

The event proved to be a successful platform in providing delegates with the skills and confidence to identify, broach the issue of, respond to, and effectively assist women and children who suffer from family violence. Attendees included GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors, lawyers, nurses, social workers, and students.

A broad range of practical topics were covered, including the identification of overt and subtle symptoms, safety planning, helping children to stay safe, what to do when she has not disclosed, when she stays with him, and how to document evidence. 

Discussion also occurred around what to do when perpetrator is the patient, how police and the law intervene, and the current gaps in the system.

Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, Director of MAPrc, gave a thought-provoking talk on the long-term effects of stress caused by family violence.

'Exposure to family violence, whether the child is a primary or secondary victim, has a profound impact on child development. In utero, and as an infant, corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and cortisol are released in response to stress, which impact on developing neurons. Stress in children leads to changes in learning capacity, attention and anxiety. Family violence sets in motion the sequelae of heightened sensitivity to later stress, leads to profound trauma-related outcomes, and even affects gene expression that may be passed on to the next generation.'

The need for closer collaboration between different agencies for the effective management of family violence was highlighted. The development of multidisciplined ‘one-stop-shops’ was identified to be a key factor in tackling this complex issue.

One of the highlights of the day was GP and media presenter, Dr Sally Cockburn’s, captivating presentation on how to manage your own health as a practitioner encountering family violence.

The event also marked the launch of a ‘toolkit’ for Victorian Health practitioners – ‘When She Talks To You about the Violence’ has been adapted by MAPrc from a NSW resource, for use in Victoria. The toolkit is available online at

We hope that you will join us at next year’s Mind Your Family Conference. MYF 2015 promises to be an engaging event that brings together experts to discuss the critical and emerging issues surrounding family violence, and what we can do. We will be offering discounts for early bird and student registrations. Please check the website for updates as they occur or email

 MAPrc Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre, Level 4, 607 St Kilda Road, Melbourne 3004

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