Extra federal funding for child mental health workforce centre welcomed

The Parenting Research Centre has welcomed the Australian Government announcement of a $110 million funding package focused on identifying and preventing mental health problems in children and young people.

The package includes a further $16 million for Emerging Minds: the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health, which is a collaboration between the Parenting Research Centre, Emerging Minds, the Australian Institute of Family Studies, the Australian National University and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. The program has been extended for a further two years until 30 June 2021.

The workforce centre was launched in November 2017 and provides a free online gateway to information, training and resources for professionals and services working with parents, families and children (from infancy to 12 years of age) who are at risk of developing mental health difficulties.

It is also building a national team of child mental health consultants who will work at a state and regional level to support the uptake and implementation of its workforce development learning products, practice support tools, information and resources.

The focus is to achieve early intervention by driving systems change and transforming the delivery of support services for children and their families.

Our role in this major national initiative will be to provide content development expertise and leadership in evaluation services, knowledge synthesis and knowledge translation in parenting, implementation and quality improvement.

Parenting Research Centre Acting CEO Annette Michaux said: “This further acknowledgement by the Australian Government of the importance of early intervention in preventing mental health problems is very, very welcome and critical to building a healthy future for the next generation.

“Supporting children and parents in this crucial early stage by maximising their chances of receiving evidence-based treatments and interventions will create the building blocks we need to create these healthier futures.”

Emerging Minds Chair, Phil Robinson, said: “Addressing emerging emotional and behavioural problems in infancy and childhood can reduce their immediate and short-term impact and, in the longer term, prevent mental health problems developing in adolescence and adulthood.

“We are delighted to have been awarded a further two years funding for the delivery of the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health, in collaboration with our valued partners. This initiative will support staff working with children at risk of mental health difficulties and their parents or guardians, to promote children’s resilience and wellbeing.”

Learn more about the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health.

Building the evidence base to support services for parents and families

The most comprehensive survey of Victorian parents ever conducted has given the State Government important information to shape and deliver services and support to families, Victorian Minister for Families and Children, Early Childhood Education and Youth Affairs Jenny Mikakos MP says.

Speaking at an event to launch the Parenting Today in Victorian survey findings, Ms Mikakos said the survey had “established important baseline data regarding Victorian families and today is a wonderful opportunity for policy makers and practitioners from across the health, education and welfare sectors to collectively consider the implications of these findings for policy and practice”.

The survey, of 2600 parents, was conducted by the Parenting Research Centre and funded by the Victorian Department of Education and Training.

Stand-out findings

Ms Mikakos said some key areas of the survey findings particularly stood out:

  • Only 54% of parents of 3–5-year-olds read to their child every day. This demonstrated a need to support parents in providing a language-rich environment for their children to help build literacy and communication skills.
  • Parents of children with a disability had poorer physical health and were more likely than other parents to report having symptoms of depression and anxiety since having children.

“These findings present a particular challenge to our service system – how can we more effectively engage and support these families and what services and supports would they find most valuable? This is particularly important in the current context as the services available to children experiencing a disability or developmental delay are rapidly evolving through the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

“I extend a challenge to all of you here this morning to think deeply about how these findings can be used to develop our programs and practices. Through the $202.1 million [invested by the Victorian Government] we are striving to build a system where children and families who need more help get more help. Help that is based on the best available evidence provided by services that are inclusive and welcoming to all.”

Best available evidence

Parenting Research Centre CEO Warren Cann said supporting parents was important to improving child outcomes and this was increasingly recognised by all levels of government, with recent policy developments in Victoria such as Education State and the Roadmap to Reform being timely examples.

“The data we have collected through this survey is very rich and will be of immediate value but we’ve also now established a baseline that we can build on over time as we measure progress on how parents are faring and where and how they seek help,” he said.

Conscientious parents

Mr Cann said while Parenting Today in Victoria highlighted key areas for attention, it also demonstrated parents today are in pretty good shape.

“This generation of parents is the most conscientious ever. So we are not talking about broad remedial action here. We are talking about supporting them in their role. By harnessing their enthusiasm and efforts we can support them in driving good outcomes for children.”

Find out more about Parenting Today in Victoria

Minister Mikakos at lecturn launching PTIV 2017

smalltalk offshoot named as finalist in Victorian Early Years Awards

Brimbank Council’s innovative extension of the Parenting Research Centre’s smalltalk initiative has been recognised as a finalist at the 2017 Victorian Early Years Awards. The awards were held in October by the Victorian Government to recognise services and early childhood professionals who are leaders in strengthening the services delivered to children and families.

The council developed an extension of smalltalk called Still Talking, which was designed to build on the progress made by families who had already taken part in the smalltalk supported playgroups. smalltalk was developed by the Parenting Research Centre as a set of evidence-based strategies that help parents - particularly those experiencing disadvantage - to build their confidence to enhance their young children’s learning at home.

It is delivered within supported playgroups in local government areas in Victoria. Funded facilitators convene the groups and coordinate activities such as reading together and engaging in interesting activities so that parents can gain skills in an informal way.

Brimbank Council’s smalltalk Program Co-coordinator Julie McKenzie said the motivation behind Still Talking was to ensure families who had made gains through smalltalk continued to benefit and did not “fall through the net”.

“We want to tap in before we lose them – we want them to increase in confidence and know that they are being respectfully recognised for the positive impact they are having on their home environment.”

Senior Implementation Specialist at the Parenting Research Centre Vince Lagioia agreed: “Maintaining connections with community playgroups can be difficult if families are vulnerable and facing challenges so what Brimbank has done with Still Talking is very forward thinking.

smalltalk itself is also attracting more interest as federal funding requirements are driving an increased demand for evidence-based programs – and we are fielding an increasing number of enquiries from agencies.”

Unlike smalltalk, Still Talking is not a facilitated parent group, Ms McKenzie said. But a smalltalk coordinator does check in with groups to offer brief guidance or support.

The benefits for the families are many, including that they share a connection through smalltalk and can continue to have the best chance at building solid and beneficial interactions with their children.

“We are honoured to be a finalist in these awards because they highlight the importance of our work in supporting parents to build their capacity and their confidence,” Ms McKenzie said.

Brimbank Council is now talking to other local government areas interested in replicating the Still Talking model.

Parenting Today in Victoria study launch

RSVPs are now closed for this event. Thank you for your interest in our event.

If you have registered to attend, we look forward to seeing you. Otherwise, you might like to subscribe to our free newsletter and keep in touch with our news.

On 28 November, we will launch the Parenting Today in Victoria study which shows what Victoria’s parents are thinking, feeling and doing about parenting today.

The Hon. Jenny Mikakos MP, Minister for Families and Children, Youth Affairs and Early Childhood Education, will open the event, to be chaired by Parenting Research Centre Board Chair Mr Tass Mousaferiadis.

Parenting Research Centre CEO Warren Cann and Principal Research Specialist Dr Catherine Wade will be joined by a panel of leading experts, who will discuss the importance of the survey results for policy and for children: Professor Jane Fisher, Director, Jean Hailes Research Unit, Clinical Professor David Bennett, Department of Adolescent Medicine, Westmead Children's Hospital; and Ms Kim Little, Assistant Deputy Secretary, Early Childhood Portfolio, Department of Education and Training.

Policymakers, researchers and practitioners in the health, education and welfare sectors will hear about key findings from the comprehensive parent survey, including that 91% said they had confidence in themselves as a parent and 28% felt they were sometimes too critical of their children.

Date and time
Tuesday 28 November 2017
7.15 am – 9.30 am

The Cube
Federation Square
Flinders Street
Melbourne CBD VIC 3000

Refreshments: light breakfast supplied; if you have special dietary needs, please let us know
Enquiries: Maria Battaglia or phone (03) 8660 3589
No cost: admission is free but places are limited

Download the invitation

Workshop: Using competence-based models for parents with learning difficulties

Professionals interested in developing their knowledge and skills in working with parents with intellectual disabilities are invited to a full-day Parenting Research Centre workshop with international expert Professor Maurice Feldman.

Learn about the Step-by-Step Parenting Program, an empirically-supported, competence-based model for parents with learning difficulties and their children. The workshop will also cover:

  • How to provide a comprehensive parenting assessment using a contextual model that examines external and internal influences on effective parenting.
  • How to apply the model to assessments that include direct observation of parenting skills.
  • Practical application of the content using a case study and observational parenting checklists.

Click here to register and to secure your place

Cost: $127.99

Date: Wednesday 29 November 2017
Time: 9.00am – 5.00am


Rydges on Swanston
701 Swanston Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Refreshments: Morning, afternoon tea and lunch provided

Registration closing date: Monday 27 November 2017

Enquiries: Cathy Grant at P: (03) 8660 3500 or E: healthystart@parentingrc.org.au