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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

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.

Secure Beginnings
Psychologist

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 Psychotherapy Panel

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.

www.watchwaitwonderdownunder.com

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.