Bi-National Sessions

Promoting and restoring sound mental health in infants and young children: the role of Early Childhood Education and Care

The Australian Government Productivity Commission Inquiry Report on Mental Health published in 2020 recognized that early childhood education and care (ECEC) services are an opportunity to support children’s social and emotional development and identify risk factors for mental health early in life. The Early Years Learning Framework includes strong social and emotional wellbeing for children as one of its outcomes (Department of Education 2009). The percentage of children in formal ECEC is 16% at 0–1 years of age, 58% at 2–3 years and 93% at 4–5 years (excluding those already in school at this age). This means that more than half the Australian population of two-to-three-year-olds have their mental health influenced by the quality of ECEC they receive.

This panel of experienced infant mental health consultants and educators will present snapshots of innovative collaborations to enhance the mental health of infants and toddlers. This will be followed by a focused discussion by the panel and those attending the session on the challenges and opportunities in such collaborations and the recommendations of the Productivity commission.

Panel Chair

University of Melbourne
Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Associate Professor Brigid Jordan (AM, BSW, PhD) is a paediatric social worker and infant mental health clinician and researcher with honorary appointments at the University of Melbourne departments of Paediatrics and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. Her research focus is the impact of early life stress- as a result of serious illness and hospital experience or significant family stress and social disadvantage – on the health and mental health of infants. She co-designed the Early Years Education Program (EYEP) and is one of the Chief Investigators for the randomised controlled trial evaluation of EYEP. EYEP is innovative centre-based early years education and care program for children aged from birth to three years who are growing up with severe family stress and social disadvantage. Together with colleagues, Brigid established post-graduate Infant Mental Health courses in Victoria. She is a past President of the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health and has served on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the World Association for Infant Mental Health.

Panel Members

National Manager Child & Family Service
Goodstart Early learning

Alma O’Donnell currently is employed in Goodstart Early Learning Social Inclusion Team, as National Manager of the   Child and Family Service. Alma is a Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Specialist who carries a Grad Dip and Master’s qualification in Perinatal & Infant Mental Health.   Alma has over 30 years’ experience working with vulnerable families and communities, project development and is responsible for the national roll- out of trauma informed policies, procedures and approaches in Goodstart Early Learning, such as the recently evaluated “Intensive Individual Support Plans”, for infants presenting with significant trauma behaviours, this approach has successfully supported over 150 infants nationally. Alma held the position of team leader in developing an early intervention home visiting programme in Dublin, “Preparing for Life (PFL) , one of the most extensive randomised control trials of an pre—birth – early childhood intervention ,conducted in Europe. The final evaluation found that the programme greatly improved natural birth outcomes, children’s cognitive, physical wellbeing, nutrition, IQ, weight and motor skills. Alma is also currently an external lecturer and clinical supervisor for the Introduction to Infant Mental health course, through the Women’s and Children Hospital, Helen Mayo House South Australia.

Assistant Director-General
Early Learning and Development Branch
Early Childhood and Education Improvement
Department of Education

Over the past 35 plus years, Grant has undertaken teaching and leadership roles across a variety of educational contexts, both nationally and internationally. He has had extensive experience working in both primary and secondary schools as well as in the tertiary sector. While working for the Queensland Department of Education, Grant has been a classroom teacher, Learning Support Teacher, Educational Consultant, Principal, Director and Executive Director. He is currently the Assistant Director General (Early Learning and Development) in the Early Childhood and Education Improvement Division. Across his extensive career, Grant has been involved in numerous national and state education committees and has worked on many and varied educational projects and programs.

Secure Beginnings

Dr Robyn Dolby is co-founder of Secure Beginnings, which offers reflexive practice to teams of early childhood educators. She has worked in the field of Infant Mental Health for forty-three years. Her interest is in the emotional communications of infants and children and how these communications are understood by parents and educators. She introduces educators in early childhood settings to the way being still gives them room to really see themselves and the children and to be curious about what is happening in the moment.

Robyn has written the booklets, “The Circle of Security: Roadmap to Building Supportive Relationships”; “About Bullying”; “Promoting Positive Behaviour”; and “Secure Transitions: Supporting Children to Feel Secure, Confident and Included”, published by Early Childhood Australia. Robyn is a licensed supervisor in Marte Meo.

Graduate School of Education
University of Melbourne

Anne Kennedy is a highly respected and experienced early childhood academic, researcher, advocate, consultant and writer. Anne is a fellow of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne. She was a member of the small writing team that developed Australia’s first national Early Years Learning Framework and continues to be actively involved in the development of national and state-based resources and professional development programs for the early childhood sector. Anne is a non-executive director of the Board of The Front Project, a member of the Victorian Children’s Council and has recently been appointed a Board member of the Australian Education Research Organisation, which is Australia’s national education evidence body. Anne worked with Associate Professor Brigid Jordan and the EYEP staff team in the design and development of the EYEP model. Her research roles included ensuring program fidelity and supporting staff in implementing high quality education and care practice in collaboration with the Infant Mental Health clinician and Family Support Worker. Anne’s ongoing involvement as the early childhood education specialist in the EYEP research project has deepened her understanding of the complexities facing many families and the significant developmental, learning and health consequences for their children when universal services find it difficult to meet their complex needs and respond to their issues in ethically responsive and evidence based and informed ways.

Infant Mental Health Consultant in Private Practice

Nichola Coombs is a senior clinical research associate at the University or Melbourne (Departments of Economics and Paediatrics) and Infant Mental Health Consultant in private practice. Nichola initially trained as a Paediatric Occupational Therapist and subsequently as a Child Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist. She has a clinical background working as a psychotherapist with infants, children and parents within mental health in a variety of different settings and countries, with a strong interest in engaging creatively with hard-to-reach, socially vulnerable populations. The Early Years Education Program (EYEP) is an innovative centre-based early years education and care program for children aged from birth to three years who are living with severe family stress and social disadvantage. It involves direct intervention to address children’s identified needs, reverse developmental delays, and reverse and prevent harms from trauma. The EYEP early learning model has the highest quality evidence with a randomised control trial conducted by the University of Melbourne over the last decade and the most positive outcomes to date in Australia. Results showed remarkable impact on IQ, resilience and emotional wellbeing after just two years, putting children experiencing significant family stress and social disadvantage on par with their peers.

Infant Parent Psychotherapies

Keeping the baby at the very heart of practice is the hallmark of infant mental health. The panel members, from Australia and New Zealand, will reflect on clinical interventions that hold the baby and their family at the centre of their thought and practice.

Panel Chair

Campbell is a Consultant Infant and Child Psychiatrist at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne and Honorary Principal Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne. At the University he and colleagues have established postgraduate courses in Infant and Parent Mental Health. These courses developed out of his longstanding experience in paediatric consultation liaison psychiatry and work in infant parent psychotherapy. He has a special interest in the understanding of the inner world of the baby, particularly as it informs therapeutic work with infants and their parents.

With colleagues he has developed models of working in therapeutic groups with troubled parents and infants. He is the President of the World Association for Infant Mental Health and has been a participant in and organizer of a number of local and international conferences and activities in the field of infant mental health

Panel Members

Keeping the baby at the heart of clinical practice - lessons from London's Anna Freud Centre and Tavistock Clinic.

Julie Stone is an infant, child and family psychiatrist with decades of experience working with and for infants and families in distress. She has worked extensively with peri-natal and child and adolescent mental health services and community based organisations, in Australia and internationally. She has a particular interest in helping colleagues develop ways to think about and work more effectively with families, so they can help parents and caregivers reflect on, and attend to, the complex needs of their infants and toddlers. Her focus has been to help practitioners from diverse backgrounds and disciplines to recognise the importance of observing and listening to the very young children; keeping the infant in mind, as they too are immersed in and dealing with the multiple day-to-day challenges that many families face.

Julie was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2000 and was Australia first Zero to Three Fellow in 2002-2003. Over the years of her professional journey, Julie has had the good fortune to be encouraged, mentored, supervised and supported by many generous and gifted clinicians and colleagues including a cohort of colleagues from London’s Anna Freud Centre and Tavistock Clinic who have contributed to the development of infant mental health practice.

Watch, Wait, and Wonder – The Baby is in the Room

Dr Denise Guy is a consultant Child Psychiatrist, working in IMH for over 35 years. She has supported the development of the IMH workforce across organisations including Nāku Ēnei Tamariki (Pakeha and Pacific) and Perinatal and IMH services in District Health Boards. Dr Guy is a founding member of AAIMHI and the Infant Mental Health Association Aotearoa New Zealand (IMHAANZ).

She is a founding Trustee of Incredible Families, which delivers programmes for parents and clinicians. From here she coordinates the Australasian training in the Watch, Wait, and Wonder® Intervention (Muir E., Lojkasek M. and Cohen N 1999) a dyadic psychotherapy addressing problematic infant-parent relationships.


Reflective Family Play

Dr Ewa Bodnar is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist working at the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health (QCPIMH) within the Zero to Four Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS). This is a specialised public mental health service for infants and young children from birth to four years who are not yet at school. Ewa’s role is a combination of direct clinical service delivery as the clinical lead of the infant mental health team, supporting statewide development and training of the infant mental health workforce, and advocacy for the needs of infants.

Child Parent Psychotherapy

Emma Toone is a consultant child psychotherapist leading Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP) at Berry Street: and co-chair of the CPP National Community of Practice in Australia. She is a graduate researcher with the Judith Lumley Centre for Mother, Infant and Family Health, La Trobe University; and supervisor in the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Course, Mindful Centre for Training and Research in Developmental Health, University of Melbourne. Her practice and research interests include trauma-and-violence informed care for babies, children, young people and families; and reflective practice for colleagues in community, health and education. Emma is past president of the Victorian Branch, Australian Association for Infant Mental Health and council member of the Child Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Association of Australia.

Murder in the Family: Fatal outcomes for infants impacted by Family Violence

This presentation is a collaboration between the three presenters who have worked together, and in 2020 published a chapter based on their work of over 20 years called Murder in their family: Making space for the experience of the infant impacted by familial murder (in Supporting Vulnerable Babies and Young Children: Interventions for working with trauma, mental health, illness, and other complex challenges (Eds) W. Bunston and S. J. Jones., Jessica Kingsley Publishers, UK). Drawing on case examples, the complex and annihilating drives and dynamics inherent in relational violence will be explored. Such dynamics often replicate early childhood trauma, where the person who perpetrates the violence seeks to kill off the very relational intimacies, they most crave; closeness, reciprocity, protection and feeling loved. This confronting area of infant mental health will be gently unpacked and considered with candidness. It will talk directly to cases where infants have been at killed at the hands of family members, and infants who have experienced and witnessed life-threatening violence, impinging their emotional and psychological growth. Furthermore, the psychological impacts of murder committed within and by family members does not simply recede over time for the impacted infant. As the child develops the trauma of such life altering events manifest in different ways over different life stages and events and require reprocessing. How we, as infant mental health practitioners can support healing, and the care with which the service systems respond to the infant impacted by violence, can offer much to enhancing the infant’s capacity for recovery.

Senior Clinical Consultant & Trainer. wb Training & Consultancy., La Trobe University

Wendy Bunston, of wb training and consultancy has worked in the child and family welfare sector for over 30 years. She is an adjunct lecturer at La Trobe University and developed the multi award-winning Addressing Family Violence Programs in Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital MHS. She has written multiple articles, chapters, and books, Wendy.bunston@bigpond.com.

Senior Infant Mental Health Clinician and Private Practitioner

Kathy Eyre is a Senior Infant Mental Health Clinician with a background in Occupational Therapy and Family Therapy. Kathy has worked in Child and Adolescent Mental Health for over 30 years, in both public and private settings. Kathy worked on the Peek a Boo Program, facilitating groups for mothers and infants recovering from Family Violence and continues to work with many vulnerable, traumatized infants and their families, eyrekathy@gmail.com.

Senior Clinical Psychologist and Private Practitioner

Nicole Milburn is a Clinical Psychologist and Infant Mental Health Specialist who works throughout Victoria from her base in Melbourne. In addition to general psychotherapy to adults and families, she has conducted therapeutic assessments of infants and children who have been maltreated for more than 20 years and provides training in the Working Model of the Child Interview and Crowell Procedure throughout Australia, Nicole.milburn@mac.com.

Caring for the carers of infants in the hospital setting-restoring safety and security when attachments are disrupted, creating stories of growth and resilience

Infants who are born prematurely, with serious and complex medical problems, including potential disability, or who become chronically sick or seriously injured, often require prolonged periods in hospital and are exposed to events and procedures which can be traumatising for them, their parents and the care giving staff. The usual pathway and transition to parenthood is distorted and sometimes lost completely for parents in this context. Parents may feel they have lost their role and function, or their voice in speaking for their baby and themselves, leading to tensions between parents and the medical system of care, a system which is both life preserving but can at the same time feel threatening. Parents also bring their own vulnerabilities strengths and ways of coping into this stressful context of care as do hospital staff. The impact of an infant’s prematurity, illness, and treatment in turn can impact on an infant’s capacity to communicate their needs in expected or usual ways, and illness and stress diverts normal developmental initiatives, energy and growth toward survival.

This symposium presents varied ways in which infant mental health work and research supports and re-orients systems of care toward the parent- infant relationship and the centrality of this relationship in buffering traumatic stress experienced by infants in hospital, and for their developmental recovery and mental health in the longer term.

The speakers are parents with lived experience, and consumer advocates, and experienced infant mental health clinicians and researchers working in different paediatric hospital contexts.

Panel Chair

Infant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
Head, Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Team, Womens and Childrens Hospital, Adelaide

Dr Ros Powrie is an Infant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and has been Head of the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Team in the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Service at Womens and Childrens Hospital Adelaide for over 20 years. She has trained and taught extensively in Perinatal and Infant Mental Health, initiated with Lynly Mader the development of a multi-disciplinary feeding disorder program, and is currently providing consultation to a Safety and Quality Improvement program in developmental and family based care in the nurseries at the Womens and Childrens Hospital. She is current SA President of AAIMH.

Panel Members

Parent's response to and impact on young children’s procedural distress during burn wound care.

Dr Erin Brown completed her PhD in psychology at the University of Queensland in 2019. She now works at System Planning Branch in The Department at Queensland Health, focusing on evidence-based COVID-19 prioritisation planning and long-term planning of public paediatric healthcare services across Queensland.

From little things, big things may grow: Brief interventions through an Infant Mental Health ward round in Neonatal Intensive Care

Dr Megan Chapman is a Senior Clinical Psychologist at Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. She coordinates RCH’s Infant Mental Health Program, working across inpatient and community settings. Her PhD examined Parental Reflective Functioning in Neonatal Intensive Care, and its relationship to the developing infant-parent attachment relationship, and parental trauma.

When looking is just too Hard

Lynly Mader is an Occupational Therapist and Infant Mental Health therapist in the Perinatal and Infant Mental health team of the Women’s and Children’s hospital in South Australia. Lynly has over 30 years experience in working with families facing multiple adversities including mental illness, intergenerational trauma and parenting children with complex and ongoing medical illness. She has a firm belief in the need to fully support parents as they adjust to a medical diagnosis, with all that entails, as well as assisting the medical system that seeks to support the family. She has a strong interest in working with infants and their families when there are disordered feeding behaviours or dependence on artificial feeding mechanisms. This is the focus of her private practice. She has recently reached certification in ABC (Attachment Biobehavioural Catchup)

Infant Mental Health in a Tertiary Paediatric Hospital Setting - optimising social and emotional wellbeing for all infants across the continuum of care.

Dr Sue Wilson is an infant, child and adolescent psychiatrist who works as a consultation liaison psychiatrist at the Queensland Children's Hospital. She completed a Graduate Diploma in Mental Health Sciences (infant and parent mental health) and Advanced Training in Infant-Parent Mental Health through the University of Melbourne. Her interests are in the social and emotional wellbeing of infants and their parents in the tertiary hospital setting, including infants with feeding and regulatory disorders, those who grow up in hospital and the subgroup who have no primary carer. She is currently chair of the QCH IMH Project Steering Committee.

From the parent’s viewpoint

Hamza and Zehnab are parents with lived experience caring for their young children in hospital. Hamza is the Statewide Perinatal & Infant Mental Health Consumer Co-ordinator in the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health. Zehnab is a consumer representative at a local area health service in Queensland. Hamza and Zehnab will share their experience and insights from the parent’s perspective.

Where is the infant in the mental health policy context in Australia: in clear focus or in a blind spot?

A focus on promoting infants’ mental health by supporting families and communities is a common aim shared by WAIMH and recent Australian mental health policy directions.

Australia’s Mental Health policy settings have been underpinned by an emerging commitment to lifespan psychiatry. The implications of this in the mental health policy environment will be explored in this symposium.

Each presenter has a particular perspective on infant mental health from paediatrics, child psychiatry, academia, longitudinal research, consumer advocacy, health economics, and senior national and international policy leadership roles. These are the perspectives that inform Australia’s policy development processes and policy outcomes. Whether or not this has resulted in a clear, consistent focus on infant mental health will be explored and contrasted with the perspective that infant mental health is in a policy blind spot.

Each speaker will elaborate on their contribution to focus on comprehensively promoting infants’ mental health in the policy environment and highlight the key policy settings that demonstrate this. Brief presentations by each speaker will be followed by a panel discussion.

Panel Chair

Acting Head and Child Psychiatrist, Consultation and Liaison Team
Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, Randwick Campus.

Dr. Nick Kowalenko is a psychiatrist with experience in leadership roles providing policy advice to state, national and international organisations. He is Vice President and Oceania Coordinator International Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professionals (IACAPAP), and Deputy Chair, RANZCP Pacific Steering Group and immediate post chair, RANZCP Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He is also Deputy Chair of Emerging Minds, which is developing Australia’s Digital National Workforce Centre for Children’s Mental Health (0-11years) & Chair, Tresillian Family Services championing workforce development and the promotion of parental, infant and early childhood mental health.

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

Professor Frank Oberklaid AM, MD, FRACP was the Foundation Director of the Centre for Community Child Health at The Royal Children's Hospital for over 25 years. He is Co-Group Leader, Policy, Equity and Translation, at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and an Honorary Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Melbourne. Professor Oberklaid is co-Chair of a steering committee and expert advisory group tasked with developing a National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy on behalf of the Federal Government. He is also Chair of the Victorian Children's Council, which advises the Premier and Ministers on child health policy. Professor Oberklaid also chairs or is a member of several other important national policy committees. He is especially interested in child mental health, prevention and early intervention, and the use of research findings to inform public policy and service delivery. Professor Oberklaid is an internationally recognised researcher, author, lecturer and consultant, and has written two books and over 200 scientific publications.

Professor Child & Youth Psychiatry
Child Health Research Centre University of Queensland.

Professor Christel Middeldorp is Co-Chair of the Childhood Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy Working Party. Professor Middeldorp has a conjoint appointment with the Child Health Research Centre (CHRC), University of Queensland, and Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS), Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service (CHQ HHS). She is affiliated to the department of Biological Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Her research interests involve the role of genetic and other familial influences on the development and persistence of psychopathology across the lifespan. She is the co-Principal Investigator of the Behaviour & Cognition working group of the EAGLE consortium (Early Genetics and Lifecourse Epidemiology). EAGLE aims to identify genetic variants underlying the development and persistence of childhood psychopathology by using data from population based longitudinal child and adolescent cohorts from over the world. She further investigates associations between parental and offspring psychopathology and the development of these associations over time in a clinical cohort consisting of families with children treated at outpatient psychiatric services, who are followed longitudinally.

Professor of Population Mental Health, School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Queensland.
Policy and Epidemiology Group, Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research

Professor Whiteford trained in medicine, psychiatry and health policy at the University of Queensland, Stanford University and the Australian National University. He has held senior clinical and administrative positions, including those of Director of Mental Health in the Queensland and Federal governments in Australia. He worked for ten years on the design and implementation of Australia’s Mental Health Strategy and was Chairman of the Working Group which oversaw this initiative. In 1999 he was appointed to the first mental health position in the World Bank in Washington DC with the task of developing the Bank’s capacity to respond to the rising global burden of mental, neurological and substance use disorders. Professor Whiteford leads the Policy and Epidemiology Group at the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research which has a research program in psychiatric epidemiology, burden of disease, mental health policy analysis and the reform of mental health services. His interests are in how to measure the burden of mental and substance use disorders in the population, and how to improve the health system to efficiently and equitably reduce that burden. He has worked as a consultant to national governments, Commonwealth and State governments in Australia, the World Bank and the World Health Organisation. Professor Whiteford is a former Chair of the Queensland Mental Health and Drug Advisory Council and a member of the National Mental Health Commission's Advisory Board. He was appointed as an Associate Commissioner on the Productivity Commission Mental Health Inquiry. He has clinical responsibilities in general adult psychiatry, teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Chief Executive Officer, National Mental Health Commission
National Suicide Prevention Adviser to Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Ms Christine Morgan is the CEO of the National Mental Health Commission and National Suicide Prevention Adviser to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Ms Morgan is a passionate leader in mental health care reform, committed to listening and responding to the voice and needs of those with lived experience. Prior to joining the Commission, Ms Morgan was CEO of the Butterfly Foundation for eating disorders and Director of the National Eating Disorders Collaboration. As former CEO of the Butterfly Foundation, she led a collaborative advocacy strategy that included amplification of eating disorders as a serious mental and physical health issue. This is now being replicated internationally. In the not for profit sector, Ms Morgan was General Manager at Wesley Mission, over the areas of Corporate Services; and Community & Family Development. Prior to joining Wesley Mission, Ms Morgan was Executive General Manager responsible for managing the strategic direction and business unit effectiveness of the Wholesale, Broadband & Media Business Unit at Telstra.

Ms Morgan brings connection and passion to mental health reform, built on the networks she established in the corporate world, her broad legal expertise, her extensive not-for-profit experience and her strong ability to demonstrate to people how their contribution can make a real difference.

Consultant Psychiatrist, Women’s and Infant Mental Health, Albert Road Clinic Melbourne
Professor of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne

Professor Newman has qualifications in Psychology, Infant and Parent Interventions and Child Psychiatry. She specialises in Perinatal and Infant Mental Health and early life psychological Interventions and consults to Child Protection and early childhood services. She focuses on Womens mental health, support for early parenting and developmental difficulties of infants and young children. She is trained in Infant and Parent Psycho Dynamic Therapy. Her current research is evaluating relational interventions for parents with complex post traumatic conditions and early parenting.

Professor Newman is Professorial Fellow of The University of Melbourne and leads a research program in Parent-Infant Therapy. She co-ordinates training in Perinatal Psychiatry and Psycho Dynamic Psychiatry. She is an experienced teacher in these areas and trains a variety of professional groups in early intervention approaches.

Professor Newman is a strong advocate for young child asylum seekers abd refugees and works to highlight the damage that can be caused to young people by detention and the refugee experience in Australia. She is Convenor of the human rights group Doctors for Justice and works wi the National Justice Program and human rights lawyers protecting vulnerable populations in health, immigration and forensic systems.

Australian Centre for Precision Health
University of South Australia

Professor Segal is the Foundation chair and lead of the Health Economics and Social Policy Group at the Australian Centre for Precision Health (ACPreH), University of South Australia.

The purpose of her research is to improve the life chances of the most vulnerable populations. This is pursued through cutting edge research working in partnership with clinicians, service providers and government to conduct policy-driven research to achieve evidence-informed policy and practice. This transdisciplinary work draws upon research from diverse, yet related disciplines such as public policy economics, population health, psychology, ethology/evolutionary theory, epidemiology, econometrics and social work.

Working with an interdisciplinary team and in partnership with the NGO sector and government her research program runs across several inter-related fields to describe and understand the relationship between childhood adversity and trauma and poor outcomes. It explores the options for intervening to disrupt these pathways, with a focus on child and adolescent mental health, family support services and community-driven cross-disciplinary models, and policy and practice translation elements that can achieve change on the ground that will help vulnerable children and families and reduce societal costs.

Statewide Consumer Coordinator Perinatal & Infant Mental Health
Children's Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service

Hamza currently holds several appointments in a range health and mental health related roles from a lived experience carer perspective. He is passionate about creating and facilitating development of health consumer informed policy making, advocacy and service development from a lived experience perspective. His own journey from a perinatal and infant mental health perspective is informed by challenges faced following the birth of his two wonderful children; and the impact this had on physical and emotional wellbeing in the development of thriving and healthy children and parents. Current pieces of work Hamza is engaged with leading includes the role of State-wide Consumer Coordinator for the Queensland Centre for Perinatal & Infant Mental Health, strategic lead for the World Wellness Group Multicultural Connect Line, a community reference group member for AHPRA, member of the Royal Australian College of Physicians Consumer Advisory Group and the Royal Australian General Practitioners Shaping a Healthy Australia Working Group and tutor with the University of Queensland focused on public policy development. Prior to these roles Hamza was an inaugural member of the Health Consumers Queensland Collaborative, an advisory council member of the Queensland Mental Health Commission and board member for Brisbane South Primary Health Network. He also led and facilitated establishing a national network of consumers and carers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds across Australia.

Panel Members

Queensland Mental Health Commissioner

Ivan Frkovic brings substantial policy, academic and patient-centred experience to the role, having worked extensively within the mental health system in Queensland for more than 20 years. With a focus on strengthening partnerships and collaboration, he oversees delivery and implementation of the state’s new strategic plan for Mental Health Alcohol and Other Drugs, Shifting Minds. Ivan has held senior positions across the system, including Deputy Chief Executive Officer,National Operations for Aftercare, one of Australia’s oldest non-government mental health organisations. Previously, Ivan was Director of the Community Mental Health Branch, Department of Communities with responsibility for policy development, funding and reform of the non-government mental health sector in Queensland. He was also Director in the Mental Health Branch, Queensland Health, where he led public sector policy, funding and services reform. With a strong belief inthe power of human connection, Ivan is a family man with four grown children, and has a great love of music and culture.

Infant Mental Health in Covid-19 Times

Covid-19 has changed the world we live in and has required us as professionals and human beings to pivot and adapt to a different way of interacting with each other, our families and our colleagues. This change has been required of us with little warning and with a reactivity that has brought its own challenges. This has been difficult enough for us as adults to understand and accept. This symposium explores the impact of Covid-19 and the pandemic on infants and young children, reflects on what they have observed and experienced and the impacts on those that interact with them, both in a nurturing and in a therapeutic role.

The symposium begins with an exploration of Covid-19, the virus itself, its impacts as an infectious agent and the pandemic it has created. This will then be followed by the presentation of a national and international collaborative study designed to broaden our understanding of the impact of the pandemic on the social and emotional wellbeing of infants, young children and their families. Further presentations will demonstrate the use of virtual platforms to adapt interventions to situations where social distancing and isolation prohibit face to face contact, but therapeutic support is essential to maintain mental health and wellbeing.

Panel Chair

Infant and Child Psychiatrist

Izaak Lim is an infant and child psychiatrist working at Monash Health in Melbourne Australia. He holds an adjunct appointment in the Department of Psychiatry at Monash University, where he teaches ethics in mental healthcare. He has a special interest in the ethical complexities of working clinically with families in the perinatal and early childhood period.

Panel Speakers

The COVID-19 Worldwide Pandemic impact on families, science and uncertainties

Prof Kim Mulholland is an Australian paediatrician, trained at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne and the University of Melbourne. He has spent half his working life working outside of Australia in developing countries such as the Gambia, Sudan, India and at World Health Organisation in Geneva and the London at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In Melbourne he established the Centre for International Child Health in 2001 and leads the New Vaccines Group at the Murdoch children’s research Institute. This group focuses on projects in low- and middle-income countries with projects in Fiji, Vietnam, Mongolia, India and Ethiopian. Kim has been very involved in advising the WHO regarding responses to the Covid-19 worldwide pandemic and the problems of social equity within the pandemic response.

Young children’s mental health during the pandemic: Early Results from COVID-19 Unmasked Global Collaboration

Dr De Young (BPsychSc Hons 1; Clinical Psychology PhD) is a registered clinical psychologist and early-mid career research fellow. She is the Service Evaluation and Research Co-ordinator at the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health (QCPIMH), Children’s Health Queensland and also holds an appointment with the Centre for Children’s Burns and Trauma Research, Centre for Children’s Health Research and the School of Psychology, University of Queensland. She is internationally recognised as a leading expert in the diagnosis, assessment, prevention and early intervention for PTSD following medical trauma during early childhood. Alex has also been involved in developing evidence-based resources and interventions as part of the Birdie’s Tree stepped-care model for communities affected by disruptive events (i.e., natural disasters, COVID- 19). She is currently leading a global collaboration with 9 countries to understand the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on young children and families.

Internet Parent Child Interaction Therapy: using video-conferencing to provide live parent coaching during the COVID-19 pandemic

Jane Kohlhoff, PhD is a clinical psychologist and Associate Professor in the University of New South Wales School of Psychiatry, Australia, and Research Fellow at Karitane, Australia. Dr Kohlhoff conducts clinically oriented and translational research in the area of perinatal, infant and early childhood mental health. She has particular interests in attachment theory and clinical applications, early parenting interventions, and the roles of early environmental and biological factors in the intergenerational transmission of psychopathology.

Psychotherapeutic Engagement with Infants and Parents through Virtual Media: the Use of Screens and Devices during Covid-19 and beyond.

Campbell Paul is a Consultant Infant Psychiatrist at the Royal Children’s and Royal Women’s Hospitals Melbourne. With colleagues at the University of Melbourne he has delivered postgraduate courses in Infant and Parent Mental Health since 1992. These courses developed out of a longstanding experience in paediatric consultation-liaison psychiatry and infant-parent psychotherapy. He has a special interest in the understanding of the inner world of the baby, particularly as it informs therapeutic work with infants and their parents. With Frances Salo he has developed models of working in therapeutic groups with troubled parents and infants. Campbell has been the director of the Australian training centre for the Newborn Behavioural Observation program at the Royal Women’s Hospital Melbourne. He is President the World Association for Infant Mental Health.

Facilitating PlaySteps, a parent child interaction group, virtually during COVID lockdown

Beverley has a background in Maternal Child Health and Family Therapy. She has over 25 years’ experience working with families during the antenatal, postnatal and first years of children’s lives. Beverley is passionate about supporting parents to develop strong, positive attachments with their children by facilitating the space and opportunity for learning and developing through playful and joyous interactions. Beverley has developed several evidence informed early parenting programs, delivered education to professionals and participated in numerous research projects. Her present role is Assistant Director Clinical Services, Educator and Research, Tweddle Child and Family Health Service, Melbourne.

The Infant Mental Health and Child Protection Nexus

Child protection systems work with some of the most vulnerable infants and families in our communities. These infants and their caregivers (be they biological parents, foster carers or others) are usually in need of the support and skills infant mental health intervention can provide. Both the infant mental health system and the child protection system are complex, overstretched, often siloed, and can be difficult even for professionals to navigate. This panel asks the question – given these challenges, how can infant mental health practice support child protection practitioners, and how can child protection practice support infant mental health?

Panel Chair

Clinical Psychologist
General Manager, Accoras

Suzie Lewis is a psychologist with many years experience working in clinical and community mental health as a clinician, manager and policymaker across government and not for profit organisations. She has been working in and advocating for infant mental health for over a decade. She is General Manager with Accoras, an early intervention mental health NGO that is currently piloting Attachment and Biobehavioural Catch-up in Queensland, with the goal of making mental health interventions for more accessible for infants and families in proximity to the child protection system.

Panel Members

Parent-infant, child, adult, and family psychiatrist

Dr Karen Gaunson is a parent-infant, child, adult and family psychiatrist who has worked across suburban, regional and rural mental health settings in both public mental health services and private practice. She is particularly focused on the needs of infants and young children involved in child protection and court processes, working systemically and individually to promote recovery, development & relationship security amidst ongoing adversarial processes and caregiving disruptions. Karen was a taskforce member on the recent Victorian Mental Health Royal Commission, and is committed to creating better systemic responses to the needs of infants and families.

Mental Health Social Worker

Catherine McQueen is a mental health social worker with specialised training in infant and parent mental health and developmental trauma. Catherine has over 20 years experience in working therapeutically with infants, children and families involved in the child protection, out of home care and mental health systems. Her practice approach includes working collaboratively with families and professionals in order to achieve the best possible outcomes. She is also experienced in supporting professionals and agencies to strengthen trauma informed practice and service delivery through a range of mechanisms including training, supervision, case consultation and reflective practice. Catherine is currently a Principal Practitioner with the Victorian Child Protection service.

Child psychotherapist and psychodramatist

Dr Patricia O’Rourke is a child psychotherapist and psychodramatist with extensive experience working in proximity to child protection systems in the public and private sector. Patricia holds significant expertise in straddling the divide between infant mental health and child protection, with previous roles include Clinical Lead and

Coordinator of the Infant Therapeutic Reunification Service, an award winning partnership program between the South Australian Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and Families SA. She has led innovative practice approaches and seen firsthand how infant mental health and child protection systems can work collaboratively to achieve better outcomes for infants and families.

Closing the mental health gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants and young children

This symposium will focus upon the issues of policy development and delivery of service development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants, very young children and their families. In many Aboriginal communities the prevalence of and consequences for infants, children and young people of mental health and relationship difficulties can be profound and seem disabling. Mainstream and other services have all too frequently not acknowledged the importance of recognising and providing support for the emotional well-being of infants, very young children and their families. There have been many mental health plans for Australia as a nation, and at state and other levels, but perhaps still little progress has been made.

Panel Chair

Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Professor at the University of Western Australia, Commissioner with the National Mental Health Commission, Australia

Helen Milroy is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia but was born and educated in Perth. Currently Helen is a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Professor at the University of Western Australia and Commissioner with the National Mental Health Commission. Helen has been on state and national mental health advisory committees and boards with a particular focus on Indigenous mental health as well as the wellbeing of children. From 2013-2017 Helen was a Commissioner for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.


Chief Executive Officer of SNAICC (Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care)

Catherine is an Arrernte/Luritja woman from Central Australia and has a strong background in senior management positions with First Nations organisations. She was most recently CEO of First Nations Media Australia and previously Regional Director of Jawun Indigenous Corporate Partnerships, Central Australia Regions. Catherine has also held senior roles within the Northern Territory Education Department, the ABC, and NITV/SBS. A journalist by trade, Catherine’s motivation has always been to drive change that leads to positive outcomes and options for First Nations people. Over the past 10 years she has worked primarily in managerial roles where she has led multidisciplinary teams, overseen workplace transformations, and advocated for policy change. Catherine is excited to continue to build the organisation’s strong platform in representing the voice of the next generation – our children.

Associate Professor, Latrobe University
NHMRC Career Development Fellow (2019-2022)

Catherine Chamberlain is an Associate Professor and NHMRC Career Development Fellow (2019-2022). A descendant of the Trawlwoolway People (Tasmania), her postdoctoral research program aims to improve Indigenous health equity by developing strengths-based family-focussed strategies in pregnancy, birth and early childhood. She has over 25 years' experience in reproductive and child health, including program and hospital service management, policy implementation, guideline development, evidence-based practice and research. Her mixed method research experience includes qualitative research, epidemiological research, research translation and evidence synthesis.

In 2019, she was awarded the prestigious Lowitja Institute Research Leadership award. A/Prof Chamberlain currently leads a large multi-institutional multi-jurisdictional and multi-disciplinary NHMRC / Lowitja Institute funded community-based participatory action research project entitled Healing the Past by Nurturing the Future which aims to co-design perinatal awareness, recognition, assessment and support strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents experiencing complex trauma. She is also a Chief Investigator on an NHMRC CRE to redesign maternal, newborn and child health services, and an NHMRC partnership project to implement caseload midwifery for Indigenous women in Victoria.

Treasurer, SNAICC
Director Innovation and Practice Development, Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak Ltd (QATSICPP)

Candice is a Social Worker with over 15 years’ experience working across government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs. Candice has strong family connections to Yarrabah in North Queensland. Candice manages and leads the Innovation and Practice Development team at QATSICPP. Candice is responsible for providing leadership in the analysis of policy and legislation to inform the design of programs that will improve practice and reduce risk. She has provided significant leadership in the design, delivery, management, and evaluation of projects to improve child and family wellbeing across Queensland. Inspired by the advocacy and leadership shown by every worker in this sector, Candice leads and coordinates the development of appropriate sector responses in the areas of training, external supervision etc. She also supports the development of the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Kinship Care Program.