Driving Change – pregnancy, parenting, alcohol and other drugs conference

Registration has opened for the inaugural St John of God Raphael Services pregnancy and parenting, alcohol and other drugs conference in June 2018.

Alcohol and other drugs St John of God Social Outreach About the conference

St John of God Raphael Services WA is hosting a free one-day conference for health providers working in alcohol and other drugs (AoD) and perinatal infant mental health (PIMH).

The conference is the first of its kind in WA to explore research, practices and developments in the field of AoD during pregnancy and parenting. It will provide health professionals working with families during these critical life stages the opportunity to learn from each other, work together and drive change in order to improve pregnancy and early parenting outcomes.

Event information

Date: Wednesday, 13 June 2018
Time: 8.30am to 4.00pm
Location: The Auditorium, Bendat Parent and Community Centre, 36 Dodd Street, Wembley WA 6014
Cost: This is a free event.


The comprehensive program will explore:

  • how to talk to pregnant women about alcohol use
  • a father’s role in alcohol exposure during pregnancy
  • supporting parents challenged by alcohol and substance use
  • the impact of domestic violence on parenting and attachment
  • an Australian fetal alcohol spectrum disorder hub.

View the program and read more about the speakers.

8.30am - registration

9.00am - Program starts

Session one

  • Welcome by Professor Moira Sim
  • Welcome to Country by Ingrid Cumming
  • Driving Change - Opening Address by Bev East - Chief Executive Officer, St John of God Health Care Social Outreach
  • Western Australia Primary Health Alliance Opening Address by Dr Daniel Rock - Principal Advisor and Research Director, WA Primary Health Alliance
  • Conference pre-evaluation by Professor Moira Sim
  • Parent child attachment - substance use - what we can do to promote positive outcomes by Dr Leanne Priestly
  • Consumer presentation


10.30am - Morning tea

Session two

  • Asking women about alcohol use in pregnancy: why and how by Dr Tracy Reibel
  • Systematic review of father's role in alcohol exposed pregnancies by Dr Nyanda McBride
  • Mothers' voices: Parenting support needs of mothers challenged by alcohol and other substance misuse by Professor Ruth Marquis
  • Let's stop it at the start: The complexity and impact of family and domestic violence on parenting and attachment by Peta Nordberg
  • Drug and Alcohol Perinatal Screening (DAPS) project by Jane Leung


12.30pm - Lunch

Session three

  • Health pathways by WAPHA
  • Nurturing families: Trialling the Parent Child Assistance Program Pilot (PCAP) in Australia by Dr Martyn Symons
  • Developing a FASD Hub for Australia by Heather Jones


2.30pm - Afternoon tea

Session four

  • Workshop - key themes, working together by Donna Kristianopulos
  • Where to now? by Professor Moira Sim
  • Kahoot evaluation and close by Professory Moira Sim

Title: Executive Dean Edith Cowan University, School of Medical and Health Services St John of God Health Care Driving Change

Biography: Professor Moira Sim is a general practitioner and a specialist addiction medicine physician with over 30 years in clinical practice in the community and has been at Edith Cowan University since 2004. Moira has worked to increase access to quality care through professional education, advocacy and the establishment of system change through many roles in the healthcare system.

Title: Perinatal Psychiatrist and Clinical Lead, St John of God Raphael Services WA St John of God Health Care Driving Change

Biography: Dr Leanne Priestly is a specialist perinatal psychiatrist, and is the clinical lead at Raphael Services Western Australia. Additionally she has a private practise at the Elizabeth Clinic.
Dr Priestly has been a fellow of the Royal Australia and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists since 2012. She has a special interest in the area of attachment-based practice. This interest developed from her work in London, notably in the mentalisation based therapeutic model. It has been extended through her training in the Adult Attachment Interview, Circle of Security and because she is a mum of two young children.

Abstract: Parent Child Attachment – substance use: what we can do to promote positive outcomes

Raphael Services Western Australia is a secondary, specialised mental health service providing community-based care for families from pre-conception up until the child’s fourth birthday. The services are free to all members of the community with a GP referral and are available across four Perth metropolitan areas.

Underpinning the theoretical focus of Raphael Services is Attachment Theory and Practice. The services focus on treating perinatal mental health disorders and include interventions aimed at enhancing parent-infant/child relationships and promoting competent, confident interaction.

The overall aim of Raphael Services is to achieve a positive life trajectory for the infant and family.

There are a number of factors that can disrupt early relationships between the primary caregiver/parent and infant/child; trauma and loss, social and cultural connectedness and substance use.

In June 2017 Raphael Services WA secured funding through the Western Australia Primary Health Alliance to improve capacity, identify referral pathways and collaborate with alcohol and other drug services to support new or expecting parents who are using mild to moderate levels of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.

In this presentation we will consider the potential impact substance use may have on the parent-child relationship and what can be done to promote positive outcomes.

Title: Senior Research Fellow, Telethon Kids Institute St John of God Health Care Driving Change

Biography: Tracy Reibel has conducted research in the broader area of maternal and child health for over 25 years. She is primarily concerned with the translation of research evidence into clinical practice and health service delivery to ensure that all women are provided with appropriate care which: meets their individual needs; addresses their health concerns; and, optimises the opportunity for good outcomes for themselves and their children.

Abstract: Asking women about alcohol use in pregnancy: why and how

Avoiding alcohol use in pregnancy is generally understood in the broader community, but women receive inconsistent advice about alcohol use and health professionals persistently identify problems with the ‘why and how’ of asking women about their alcohol use during pregnancy.

Any consumption of alcohol by a woman has the potential to provoke physical and neurodevelopmental impacts on a baby in utero. How a baby is impacted is largely determined by the timing of alcohol use, with a baby remaining vulnerable to damage from maternal alcohol use across the whole of pregnancy. Both occasional and persistent alcohol use are implicated; and any negative effects will be lifelong even if these are not immediately identified in a newly born infant.

The AUDIT-C Learning Guide is a self-directed professional development education resource for all health professionals to improve their capacity to effectively ASK, ASSESS & ADVISE pregnant women about alcohol use prior to and during pregnancy in the course of routine care. Funded by WA Health, the Learning Guide covers four areas: 1] prenatal alcohol exposure and FASD; 2] understanding and using AUDIT-C; 3] conducting brief interventions; and 4] breastfeeding and alcohol. The Learning Guide also provides an extensive list of web-based resources which have been vetted for efficacy and evidence.

This presentation will present the frequently asked questions posed by health professionals when addressing the issue of alcohol use with pregnant women.

Title: Senior Research Fellow, National Drug Research Institute St John of God Health Care Driving Change

Biography: Dr Nyanda McBride is a Senior Research Fellow and Team Leader at the National Drug Research Institute. Nyanda’s research encompasses the combined areas of social research and substance use with specific focus on reducing risky use and alcohol related harm and social acceptance of risky alcohol use and harm.

Abstract: Systematic review of father’s role in alcohol exposed pregnancies

Alcohol consumption during preconception and pregnancy is generally considered to be the prospective mother’s responsibility, with many current international alcohol policy guidelines recommending the reduction or non-use of alcohol by pregnant women’s. However, research suggests that decisions about alcohol use can often be influenced by others, in particular the prospective father.

This systematic literature review aimed to explore the impact of fathers’ alcohol consumption during both preconception and pregnancy on their partners’ alcohol consumption during pregnancy, on their partner’s pregnancy health, and on their child’s health outcomes.

The review accessed articles from several scientific databases, and included medium and large-scale studies that provided separate results for paternal alcohol use, and were published between 1990 and 2014.

Studies included in the review (11 studies, N= 41,062) (6-16) provided evidence that paternal alcohol consumption during preconception or during pregnancy has an impact on pregnancy health, on infant health outcomes.

Title: Occupational Therapy Researcher, Edith Cowan University, School of Medical and Health Services St John of God Health Care Driving Change

Biography: Professor Ruth Marquis is an Occupational Therapy Researcher at Edith Cowan University’s School of Medical and Health Sciences. She has extensive clinical and research experience in ageing and disability. Her current research focus is on age-related well-being and how an individual’s social participation is influenced by challenging roles and environments.

Abstract: Mothers’ voices: parenting support needs of mothers challenged by alcohol and other substance misuse

Mothers challenged by alcohol and other substance misuse have identified support needs that are not readily available in our health service delivery. Despite substance misuse health issues, experiences of childhood abuse and lack of parental role models, an in-depth qualitative study in Edith Cowan University’s School of Medical and Health Sciences demonstrated these mothers’ determination in aspiring to parent their children and overcome their addictions.

The voices of these 16 mothers from diverse backgrounds challenge service providers to address some of the issues raised and open their hearts and minds to understand the multiple barriers and stereotypes that mothers experience. Mothers reported fears of losing their relationships with their children and the triggers that lead to a downward spiral into substance use as a mechanism to cope with the experience of child apprehension. In particular, early intervention during pregnancy and after birth were critical as mothers addressed multiple health and social problems.

Early intervention, access to information, legal advocacy, community advocacy and on-going mentorship with parental role models were expressed by mothers as required interventions. This posits the need to challenge our service systems and wider community involvement in identifying and supporting mothers and children in our neighbourhoods who face challenging health and social issues and lack positive family and social networks.

Title: Director Programs and Services, Patricia Giles Centre St John of God Social Outreach Driving Change

Biography: Peta Nordberg has a wealth of experience in the not for profit sector. She brings Patricia Giles Centre a passion for evidence based practice and service excellence; and innovation focused on making a sustainable difference.

Abstract: Let’s stop it at the start: The complexity and impact of family and domestic violence on parenting and attachment

Women are at greater risk of experiencing violence from an intimate partner during pregnancy and post-partum.

  • 36% of women over 18yrs have experienced physical or sexual violence by a known perpetrator since the age of 15
  • Of those women, 22% experienced physical violence during pregnancy by a current partner and 25% have experienced violence during pregnancy from a previous partner.
  • 1 in 4 children are exposed to family domestic violence (FDV).

Children living in homes where there is FDV grow up in an environment of unpredictability, filled with tension, anxiety and fear. Behavioural difficulties exhibited by children include aggression, social incompetence and antisocial behaviour. Emotional and psychological difficulties include anxiety, depression and symptoms of trauma.

The impact of FDV is particularly significant for babies and young children. Babies may experience symptoms of trauma including sleep disturbance, eating problems, and increased crying. Studies found infants aged between one and six years displayed behavioural problems; depression and anxiety; high levels of general distress; and, significant anxiety when separated from their primary caregiver.

At Patricia Giles Centre (PGC) we are working to break the cycle of violence, fear and trauma through the provision of counselling and evidenced based group programs. Our presentation will focus on the success of these strategies.

Title: Project Coordinator National Raphael Services, Social Outreach, St John of God Health Care St John of God Health Care Driving Change

Biography: Jane Leung is a midwife who has worked in regional areas across Australia. Over the last 20 years Jane has worked in parent education and has always had a keen interest in perinatal and infant mental health. Jane has worked in nurse management, on an international health project and mental health projects. She has worked for Social Outreach for the last ten years coordinating projects in Aboriginal maternal and perinatal and infant mental health. Jane is passionate about improving health outcomes through education and working collaboratively.

Abstract: Drug and Alcohol Perinatal Screening (DAPS) Project

The adverse effects of alcohol and other drugs such as tobacco, psychostimulants and opioids on fetal and early childhood development are well known. Pregnancy has been described as the opportune time to address maternal alcohol and other drugs use: studies have found that interventions provided during this time of heightened motivation to change have the potential for stopping or reducing alcohol and other drugs use. (1)

St John of God Raphael Services are dedicated to treatment, prevention, early intervention and health promotion. They provide secondary level specialised mental health (including psychiatric) services to families in the perinatal and infancy stages, from conception up until the child’s fourth birthday.

Raphael Services in Western Australia secured funding through the Western Australia Primary Health Alliance to improve the capacity of Raphael Services mental health caregivers to screen, assess and where relevant, provide an intervention to clients with co-occurring perinatal mental health and mild to moderate alcohol and other drugs issues. The project aims to improve outcomes for families in the perinatal period by increasing client understanding of the risks of alcohol and other drug use and improve referral pathways to alcohol and other drugs services.

This presentation will provide an overview of the planning, implementation, outcomes and future of the project. It includes the successes and lessons learnt along the way. 

(1) Anthony, E.K., Austin, M.J. & Cormier, D.R. (2010). Early detection of prenatal substance exposure and the role of child welfare. Children and Youth Services Review, 32(1): 6–12.

Title: Postdoctoral Researcher, FASD Research Australia Centre of Research Excellence, Telethon Kids Institute St John of God Health Care Driving Change

Biography: After completing a PhD predicting alcohol dependence treatment outcomes using machine learning, Martyn has worked in alcohol and drug research including policy evaluation and monitoring of prescriptions. He has been working at Telethon Kids for three years in the areas of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) prevention and treatment and is currently investigating eye-tracking as a screening tool for FASD, epigenetic markers of alcohol exposure and the PCAP for FASD prevention.

Abstract: Nurturing families: trialling the Parent Child Assistance Program Pilot (PCAP) in Australia

The Parent Child Assistance Program (PCAP) provides women with alcohol or other drug dependence, who are pregnant or recently had a child, with home-visit advocate assistance for three years (Grant, Ernst, & Streissguth, 1999). The assistance provided is positive and non-judgmental and is based on relational theory, motivational interviewing and harm-reduction concepts.

The program has demonstrated reduced alcohol and drug use, higher income, higher rates of children staying with their birth mother, reduction of alcohol exposed pregnancies, and increased use of family planning. A Canadian economic evaluation for 366 women undertaking the PCAP program over three years estimated an incremental cost per prevented FASD case of $97,000 and net monetary benefit of $22 million (Thanh et al., 2015).

Womens Health and Family Services in Perth provides alcohol and drug counselling, mental health, domestic violence and professional training services. They asked Telethon Kids to evaluate a PCAP program pilot in Perth initially funded to provide support for one day a week.

We are applying for funding for two social workers to undergo the training and work full time. We will assess outcome for 30 clients over three years using standard PCAP evaluations including, but not limited to, the Addiction Severity Index 5th Edition, and weekly, monthly, 6-monthly and yearly PCAP questionnaires that assess alcohol and drug use, service access, mental and physical health, family planning, income, child custody, parent-child attachment and a full economic evaluation. PCAP program outcomes will be compared with a treatment as usual control group.

Title: Program Manager Alcohol Pregnancy & FASD Research, Telethon Kids Institute St John of God Health Care Driving Change

Biography: Heather had a background in education and event management before moving into the health sector. She has worked in different roles in the non-government health sector and commenced as the Program Manager with the Alcohol Pregnancy & FASD Research Team at Telethon Kids Institute in 2010. Recently completed projects included the development of a screening and diagnostic instrument for FASD; FASD resources and information for foster carers; FASD knowledge, attitudes and practice in the WA justice system and the development of FASD educational resources for justice professionals. She is currently involved in the development of a national FASD Hub.

Abstract: Developing a FASD Hub for Australia


Information focusing on different aspects of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) can be found on a number of websites hosted by Australian parent support groups, Commonwealth and State government departments, and research and non-government organisations. The purpose of this project was to develop a ‘one-stop shop’ for all Australian information, resources, tools, research and publications.

What did we do?

To identify needs and ideas for the FASD Hub, face to face and telephone interviews were conducted with health professionals, parents and carers, other professionals involved in FASD, researchers and government policy makers across Australia.

The content was developed by the Project Team with advice from the FASD Hub Working Group and other parents/carers and health professionals. The FASD Hub was launched on International FASD Awareness Day, 9 September 2017 and includes FASD information, clinical services directory, training & support and all Australian research projects, resources and publications pertaining to alcohol and pregnancy & FASD). Eight new videos were produced for health professionals and parents & carers.

Following the launch of the FASD Hub an evaluation incorporating an online survey, email feedback and web analytics was conducted. Approximately 30 people per day have been visiting the FASD Hub website. Most of the evaluation respondents found the website to be (1) easy or very easy to use, (2) met their needs very well or extremely well, and (3) was trustworthy and evidence based.
Continued funding in 2018 will enable the development of new resources and information.

Title: Manager, St John of God Raphael Services WA St John of God Health Care Driving Change

Biography: Donna Kristianopulos is an experienced mental health nurse, who has worked in a number of in-patient and community-based mental health services, both in metropolitan and country regions of Western Australia. She has specialised in the area of Perinatal Mental Health for the past 16 years. As the Clinical Nurse Specialist of the Mother and Baby Unit at Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH), and Consultation Liaison Service, Donna played a leadership role in the planning, development and implementation of the service model, referral pathways and policies/procedures of the Perinatal Mental Health Services and Mother and Baby Unit. In August 2017, she commenced her new role as Manager, St John of God (SJG) Raphael Services WA.


Complete the form below to register to attend this event. Registration is free. 

Registrations close on Wednesday 30 May 2018.

Contact us

If you have any questions please contact us:

Tel: (08) 9429 3220

This activity is supported by funding from the Australian Government under the PHN Program.