School of Population Health

Australian first Women’s Trauma Recovery Centre addresses urgent need

Illawarra Women’s Health Centre

Dr Patricia Cullen from UNSW’s School of Public Health and Community Medicine (SPHCM) is working with the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre to establish an Australia first, Women’s Trauma Recovery Centre. 

The Centre will provide integrated and long-term support for women recovering from the traumatic impacts of violence and abuse and is designed to be easily replicated across the country. 

Currently, domestic and family violence services focus largely on crisis intervention, with less emphasis on and few resources for long-term recovery, explains Dr Cullen. 

“The Centre will transform services by focusing on the emotional, mental and physical impacts of trauma,” said Dr Cullen. 

“The Centre will be a place of healing and provide wrap around services including medical and mental health care with legal support, financial counselling, and ongoing care-coordination and advocacy,” she said.

A recent evaluation of 1800RESPECT domestic violence helpline undertaken by researchers from UNSW Social Policy Research Centre and Gendered Violence Research Network, commissioned by the Australian Government Department of Social Services, 

“This evaluation shows that the helpline provides much needed, quality 24-hour counselling services, however it is less effective for callers with complex and ongoing needs and circumstances," said Dr Cullen. 

“A one-hour session isn’t going to be enough for repeat callers or where there are limited or no local services,” she said. 

“The Trauma Recovery Centre is designed to fill this gap, to support women who have complex circumstances and need long-term, multi-faceted face to face support.”

An evidence-based approach to supporting domestic violence survivors

A priority of the Trauma Recovery Centre is embedding robust evidence within services and programs to improve the long-term health, wellbeing and lives of women and their families.

In partnership with the lllawarra Women’s Health Centre and led by Dr Cullen, the SPHCM will drive a research agenda underpinning the Trauma Recovery Centre as a cutting-edge interface with the community to co-design research and service innovations.

Plans to establish the Centre has been driven by the community, and has support locally and nationally, across all sectors impacted by domestic and family violence, including the police, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, Domestic Violence NSW, Women’s Health NSW, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatry, as well as local, state and federal government representatives.

The new proposed Centre has been receiving media coverage, for example, on ABC NEWS and in the Illawarra Mercury 

Read an in-depth Q & A with Dr Cullen as part of her work with The George Institute. 

Celebrating Resistance and Resilience – a photographic exhibition of domestic and family violence survivors 

At 6.30pm on 2 April 2020, the Wollongong Art Gallery is presenting a photographic exhibition of family and domestic violence survivors.  

“The exhibition will be a powerful call to action to garner momentum to establish the Australian first Women’s Trauma Recovery Centre,” said Dr Cullen.

Taken by Walkley Award winning photographer Sylvia Liber, the intimate large-scale photos cut through the words and statistics of family and domestic violence. It will highlight its long term mental and emotional trauma, as well celebrating the strength and resilience of the women impacted. 

The exhibition is a partnership between the Illawarra Women's Health Centre, the Illawarra Mercury, Waples and Domestic Violence NSW.

Image - Dr Trish Cullen with Sally Stevenson, manager of the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre, at Parliament House, Canberra to discuss Australia’s first of its kind Women’s Trauma Recovery Centre

Contact Name : 
Dr Trish Cullen