How infant-led practice in family violence settings can nurture hope for infants and families

Content type
Event date

12 October 2022, 01:00PM to 02:00PM


Wendy Bunstan, Kristin Walsh, Tauri Smart, Vicki Mansfield



Infants (0–24 months) are at a critical and formative stage of development. If exposed to domestic violence, they are at higher risk of neurological, psychological and physical harm. When working with families experiencing family and domestic violence, it is important to consider the infant's experience, and recognise their inherent capacities for engagement, exploration and discovery.

Within family and domestic violence practice, infants can be observed formally or informally within a range of settings. The presenters will explore practice contexts, particularly focusing on infant observations and relationship-based conversations that support parents and infants to make meaning and heal.

Recognising the interdisciplinary practices that contribute to safety and care for infants experiencing family and domestic violence this webinar will:

  • Discuss practices that support the infant as an active agent of change in working with families experiencing family and domestic violence.
  • Explore how infant observations and respectful curiosity can support parents and infants to describe their stories of hope and resilience.
  • Consider how preverbal infants communicate with their parents and how they make meaning of their experiences of trauma.

This webinar will be of interest to practitioners working in the child, family, health, accommodation and housing sectors who encounter or directly work with infants, toddlers and families within the context of domestic and family violence.

This webinar was co-produced by CFCA and Emerging Minds in a series focusing on children’s mental health. They are working together as part of the Emerging Minds: National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health, which is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program.

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Dr Wendy Bunstan

Senior clinical consultant, Trainer and Associate Lecturer La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia.

Dr Wendy Bunston is an international author, presenter, researcher and clinician specialising in working therapeutically with infants and their families impacted by family violence. Wendy’s PhD on the experience of infants in women’s refuges won the distinguished ‘Nancy Millis’ award in 2016 and was as a finalist in the highly prestigious 2019 Victorian Premier’s Health and Medical Research Awards. Her current book, Supporting Vulnerable Babies and Young Children, co-edited with Sarah J. Jones is published by UK publishers Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Her chapter ‘The impact of DV and Abuse on Infant Mental Health’ appears in the Routledge International Handbook of Domestic Violence and Abuse (2021).

Kristin Walsh

Rural early intervention family counsellor and Child and Adolescent counsellor with NDIS clients.

Kristin’s main area of interest and practice is using modalities such as Acceptance Commitment Therapy and Dialectal Behavioural Therapy and creative arts combined with trauma-informed practice to help parents and children to heal from trauma and nurture strong healthy attachment relationships. Her work primarily involves providing counselling and education to families around nurturing their child’s wellbeing, both parent and child’s emotional health and using models such as PACE to foster connection and moments of love, joy and hope.

‘It’s a total honour to be part of this webinar and I am looking forward to listening, learning and having important conversations on a subject I could gladly talk about for days.’

Tauri Smart Clinical Nurse Consultant, Child and Family Health Nursing and First Steps Parenting Centre Children Young People and Families, Hunter New England Health District

Clinical Nurse Consultant, Child and Family Health Nursing and First Steps Parenting Centre Children Young People and Families, Hunter New England Health District

Engaging and working with families with multiple vulnerabilities is a passion. I have worked extensively in the Program of Initial Parenting Support in Newcastle, a sustained home visiting model supporting families with multiple and complex psychosocial vulnerabilities including: domestic violence, housing insecurity, food insecurity, mental health and substance use issues, unsupported adolescent pregnancy, child protection involvement, historical and current trauma, and risk of increased Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES). Before this role, I worked in Aboriginal Child and Maternal Health Services in Sydney and then the Greater Newcastle area (Narrangy Booris and then Birra-Li) engaging families with historical and intergenerational trauma.

I feel extremely privileged to be included in the panel and look forward to complementing the other panellists with strategies that clinicians may find useful when looking through a child-focused lens.         

Vicki Mansfield

Practice Development Officer, Emerging Minds.

Vicki has over 30 years’ experience working with children and families. An accredited Mental Health Social Worker, Vicki has worked in a broad range of clinical roles in homelessness services, child and adolescent mental health, family and domestic violence services, child protection, acute hospital settings and private practice. She particularly enjoys the playfulness and creativity that comes with working with children and is committed to holding a safe space for the child’s voice and individual uniqueness to shine. 

For the last 10 years Vicki’s primary area of focus has been perinatal and infant mental health, by providing clinical services, consultation and reflective supervision across Australia. Vicki has a strong commitment to developing relationship-focused practice knowledge and skills, with the aim of promoting infant mental health. She places great value in supporting parents in the perinatal period and feels this is a time of great transformation, which offers many opportunities to make change as parent and child get to know each other. Vicki also works as sessional academic with the University of Newcastle in their Social Work Faculty specifically in the areas of mental health, child protection, grief and loss. She particularly relishes integrating theory and practice.


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