The new dates for the 17th WAIMH Congress will be 22 – 26 June 2021. On behalf of the WAIMH 2021 Organising Committee we want to let you know that it is full steam ahead to bring you an amazing Congress next year that we know will be worth the wait! The Congress committees are regularly meeting and planning for WAIMH 2021. We thank you for your continued support.
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands and waters throughout Australia, and pay respect to the Elders past, present and emerging. We recognise the importance of connection to culture, land, kinship and community to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander families. We acknowledge the cultural practices and traditions still carried out today and being passed down to future generations.
The year 2020 has not been easy for any of us with the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Had things gone the way we expected, the WAIMH 17th World Congress in Brisbane would now be a beautiful memory and we would all be back home telling our friends and colleagues what a wonderful experience it was. Instead we all have had to adjust to the current situation worldwide, and I wish to thank you all for your patience as we have tried to figure out what would be the best option concerning the WAIMH Brisbane Congress.
Through the numerous discussions with our colleagues in Australia and worldwide it has become obvious that the situation with the pandemic can look very different in different countries, and even in different regions within countries. Currently, in Australia and New Zealand the governments are easing restrictions and looking towards a future with a more open society that might allow social gatherings quite soon. In contrast to that, medical experts and epidemiologists are warning about the possibility of a second or even a third wave of COVID-19. Without a crystal ball we cannot have any certainty about how things will be in June 2021, but through our discussions we have tried to figure out what the possibilities might be, and to prepare for them.
Postponing the Congress for a year gives us some time to see which of the possibilities becomes most likely. The best possible scenario naturally is that either there is a vaccine or the virus has been eradicated, and we can safely have a Congress with participants from all over the world. It is also possible that in June 2021 Australia and regions close to it will be allowing much larger gatherings, and participants from those regions will be able to attend the Congress in person, while participants from other continents and regions cannot travel, and we will need to offer them participation in the Congress as an on-line event. It is also possible that in June 2021 we will still have a pandemic situation and we will have to organize a full eCongress on-line, as many associations are already planning to do.
What I trust I can say with certainty is that we WILL have the 17th World Congress of the WAIMH in Brisbane one way or another, and we are looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible – hopefully face-to-face, but at least on-line if need be.
My grandmother used to say often that there is nothing so bad that it won’t bring something good with it – the Finnish version of “Every cloud has a silver lining”. One of the good things this year is that the WAIMH made a digital leap and organized three wonderful webinars for its members and for you who had registered for the Brisbane Congress. Another good thing is that we still have the 17th WAIMH World Congress in Brisbane to look forward to!
I most certainly look forward to the possibility of seeing you all there and being able to share experiences and many smiles and laughs with you. Until then let us wash our hands, keep each other safe and live in hope of getting together in the 17th WAIMH World Congress in Brisbane June 2021.
Around the world there are many profound and distressing challenges facing infants and their families. These have all been intensified in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that some 36 million people have been infected with this virus, and over 1 million people have died. Babies are now arriving into a world which is very different than the one into which babies were born just last year. The COVID-19 pandemic brings with it serious increase in poverty, unemployment, lack of access to medical care and immunisation and intrafamilial tension and violence. We have seen global catastrophes before, such as world wars and other pandemics and those of our colleagues from mental health have played critical roles in community recovery.
The 17th WAIMH International Congress will be held in Brisbane from 22-26 June 2021 and this represents an important opportunity for us to honour infants and their families by sharing our understanding of the troubles that they face and how we may be able to help. This is a chance for us to share with each other what we’ve learned from our clinical work, our research, the efforts of our public health services and from working directly with and supporting vulnerable infants and families in our own countries.
The Congress theme of “Creating Stories in Infant Mental Health: Research, Discovery and Regeneration” could not be more pertinent to the task facing us just now. Everyone has stories to share about the traumas experienced by infants and their parents and everyone has stories to share about ways we have responded to try to ameliorate their distress and the impact on the infant’s inner world and development. To quote Colwyn Trevarthen the newborn arrives “with emotions and motives for action which sustain intersubjectivity”. I am sure that each of you will have stories to share at our Congress about the impact of global or localised trauma upon the baby’s own inner world and relationships. Infants and toddlers may experience the challenges of physical illness, intergenerational trauma, parental mental illness, being homeless, seeking asylum or separated from parents. Often the strength and resilience exhibited by the baby is mirrored in the creative ways that infant mental health clinicians and services support and provide treatment.
The WAIMH Congress in Brisbane will be a hybrid Congress in that you will be able to participate in a lively and interactive way from your home or office in your own country, or if travel allows you by being in Brisbane in person. The Congress organisers and the Scientific Program Committee are working to ensure that even more people can participate than before.
In my work over the last 7 months I have learned a lot about how babies and parents can connect with us via telehealth and video/telephone; from our infant patients’ gaze, their gestures and their voice it is almost as if you are there in the same room. Playfulness can travel back-and-forth from screen to screen. Maybe this is not surprising when we look back over the work of Spitz, Winnicott, Tronick, Stern and others showed us how attuned infants are to crucial social communications from others.
At the Congress we will also be very keen to learn more about the positive resources that infants and families may draw upon. The Covid-19 pandemic provides opportunities for doing things differently from before, to learn from some of the qualities of the human condition that sees positive adaptation in the face of stress. Our work with babies and parents will be very different after this.
We look forward to meeting with you in person or virtually at the Congress in Brisbane next year. Each of us will have experienced the impact of the current global crisis in some way, and we hope that the Congress will provide an opportunity for supporting each other in our work.