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Family Violence Training for GPs in Melbourne's East

26 Mar 2013

For many medical general practitioners, recognising and responding to family violence issues for their patients is a complex issue.

Female patients often present with a physical problem and are not necessarily forthcoming about experiencing family violence.

Now, a new training initiative between regional organisation, Women's Health East, Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) and the Whitehorse Division of General Practice, will address family violence issues for GPs in the eastern metropolitan region.

A workshop scheduled for April 11 will be delivered by NMIT teacher, qualified social worker and psychologist Colette Davis, who has had 10 years working in the family violence field. She will be joined by GP Dr Lyn McKenzie.

Women's Health East Health Promotion Officer, Maria Nicalaou, said research indicated there was limited education and training for GPs in regard to family violence and as they were often the first source of potential help for women experiencing family violence, the workshop was developed to assist and support GPs to recognise and respond to these women's needs.

'It's important to focus on early intervention. As a regional health promotion organisation, we want to improve the health and wellbeing of women and their families in the region. Violence against women is one of our main priority areas,' Maria said.

The workshop will cover topics such as definitions of family violence (legal & common), prevalence of family violence, what family violence looks like and how it happens, impact on women, children, parenting and men and obstacles to disclosure to GPs and other professionals.

In being able to respond effectively, the GPs will also hear about risk assessment, what to actually do, considerations for the children and men and how to work with them.

The training strategy involves case studies, videos, data show, individual and small group activities, client stories, reading and written responses as well as a guest speaker from Eastern Domestic Violence Service discussing the integrated referral pathways and services available in the region.

Colette Davis said the workshop would also look at family violence and its links to depression.

She said the workshop training had been customised to GPs specifically and said it was quite hard for many GPs to assess family violence issues whilst trying to diagnose a patient's medical needs.

'The workshop focuses on how GPs can recognise family violence in the way it presents itself and then for the GPs to know how best to respond,' Colette said.

'Some patients may not disclose family violence but going to a GP is a normal thing to do and GPs need training to be able to pick it up as a problem.

'The GPs are wanting this training so they can respond in an inclusive way to all family members experiencing and using violence.'

Colette added GPs needed to ask sensitive questions if they recognised signs of violence - particularly to ascertain the impact on children.

“Family violence is about power and control of another within the family. It may be physical, but can also be verbal, emotional and economic. One of the impacts of family violence can be depression in victims so it was important GPs understood this.'

Colette said family violence was a complex issue for modern society with every individual experiencing it differently and responding differently.

'Given that GPs are there to respond to a medical need or emergency, managing a patient's emotional needs as well can be a juggling act for them,' Colette added.

'This training is about giving them the tools to recognise and respond to family violence effectively.'

Maria said the initial workshop was a pilot program which would have a rigorous evaluation with further training possible in the future.

Interested GPs and Practice nurses should contact Debbie Neill at the Whitehorse Division of General Practice on Tel: 8878 3723 or
Bookings essential for participation in the workshop.

Interview / Photo Opportunity

Media enquiries should be directed to the NMIT Communications Officer, James Gardener, on 03 9269 1579, 0413 483 182 or

NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) – Situated on six campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne’s north plus a regional campus at Ararat, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce.  NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.