Trauma and Differential Diagnosis

This forum aims to enhance practice and client outcomes by generating lively and informative conversations through expert presentations and an interactive case-study and panel discussion.

This practice forum will support and enhance the skills and knowledge required by health and community services professionals working with children, young people, and families. It will consider and explore the, at times, overlapping presentations of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), and Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) in the context of a trauma history.


Friday 12 May 2017

Department of Health and Human Services
165-169 Thomas Street, Dandenong, Victoria 3175


Tymur Hussein    

To book your ticket, click here. 


9:00am -   Registrations
9:20am -   Welcome 
9:30am -   FASD Presentation; ASD Presentation; ADHD Presentation; RAD Presentation 
10:50am - Morning Tea 
11:10am -  Case Study (small group work)
11:50am -  Panel Discussion
12:30am -  Close

Speakers *** Updated Speaker List ***

  • Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) - Prue Walker
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) - Sonia Street
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – Tim Doyle
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) - Vicky Nicholls

Please note that due to unforeseen circumstances, Adela Holmes is no longer attending the forum, and has been replaced by Ms Vicky Nicholls for Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).

The updated speaker biography can be found here, and includes Vicky's information for attendees:  Trauma and Differential Diagnosis Practice Forum Speaker Bio (UPDATED).pdf



12 May 2017

Close the gap in gener inequality

On International Women’s Day, leading community organisation Connections UnitingCare and national anti-violence initiative, Our Watch believe ending gender inequality is going to require bold action by all Victorian workplaces.

“We spend a lot of time in the workplace and with that, people tend to take on the culture, norms and values of their organisation both in their professional lives and private lives too,” said Connections Chief Executive Officer, Angela Forbes.

Ms Forbes pointed to the results of a report recently released by the Victorian Trades Hall Council titled ‘Stop Gendered Violence at Work’, in which 64% of respondents reported experiencing bullying, harassment or violence in the workplace, and 44% reported having experienced discrimination at work.

“As a woman, it is disappointing that so many of my contemporaries are made to feel disrespected and fearful in their current workplace,” said Ms Forbes.

Connections is one of four and the only community organisation piloting Our Watch’s Workplace Equality and Respect Project (WERP). Under the pilot, each participating organisation will examine how its workplace reinforces gender stereotypes, whose voices are prioritised in decision-making, whether there are flexible workplace policies for both parents and how comfortable staff feel in raising concerns.

“We think, as a community service organisation with a strong reputation in the community, we can use our status and our influence to enter into public conversations about preventing violence against women and support a workplace where we have conversations about gender equality,” said Ms Forbes.

“Core to the philosophy of our programs is our belief that we have an absolute commitment to prevent violence against women, and consequently, children,” said Ms Forbes.

Connections supports more than 2,000 clients and employs approximately 400 staff. Ms Forbes said it was important gender equality is carried through from their community programs into the workplace

“We help staff make the link between gender equality and preventing violence to women. We encourage everyone to be bold this International Women’s Day.

Our Watch Chief Executive Officer, Mary Barry echoed Ms Forbes thoughts and encouraged all workplaces to #BeBoldForChange this International Women’s Day.

“Workplaces have an important role to play in creating an Australia where women are respected and treated as equals in private and public life,” said Ms Barry.

“The leadership of individual workplaces is vital to build momentum to prevent violence against women. Connections is a great example of a bold organisation working to embed gender equality in their culture, practice and conditions.

Both Ms Forbes and Ms Barry believe “the time to make this change is now”.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.

Media: Connections’ Chief Executive Officer Angela Forbes is available for interview. Contact Connections’ Manager, Communications, Development & Events, Kirrilee Torney on or 0409 513 432

A copy of the ‘Stop Gendered Violence at Work’ report is available from VTHC; please contact Prof. Lisa Heap at

Is it possible to eradicate family violence?

During the three year period between 2011/12 to 2014/5, more than 187,000 people sought help from specialist homelessness services because of domestic and family violence, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

In 2014, Victoria Police responded to 68,000 incidents of family violence which equates to one every 8 minutes. More shockingly, of those 68,000 incidents, there were nearly 44,000 children present.

How do we address family violence? What role do community organisations and statutory bodies play in dealing with family violence? Can we eradicate family violence?

The 2016 Connections UnitingCare Conference: Making Lives Better - Improving Life Outcomes for Vulnerable Children and Families will bring together a panel of experts to discuss family violence and the role their organisation plays in eradicating it. Delegates will be provided with an opportunity to address questions to members on the panel.

The panel includes: 

> Dean McWhirter - Assistant Commissioner Family Violence Command, Victoria Police
> Paul Nixon - Chief Social Worker, Child Youth and Family Services New Zealand
> Leslie Fleming - Magistrate Children's Court Victoria
> Kate Hawkins - Supervising Magistrate Family Violence Court Victoria
> Jim Allen - Program Manager, Family and Community Services, Anglicare Eastern
> Dr Lyndal Bugeja - Project Manager, Coroners Court of Victoria

When: 25 – 26 May 2016.
Where: Rydges Melbourne, 186 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000.
Registration: Save $100 off the standard price with our early bird rate of $595 (early bird offer ends 1 May 2016).




Call for abtracts extended

The closing date for the submission of abstracts has been extended to Friday 12 February.

The Connections UnitingCare Conference: Making Lives Better - Improving Life Outcomes for Vulnerable Children and Families, will explore how we build services around clients in a changing, complex world.

conference, making lives better, community, organisation, sector, nfp

We are keen to receive papers which explore and address innovative ideas which respond to the needs of vulnerable children and families in the community.

We encourage submissions from a range of organisations and individuals who can contribute to our knowledge of current practices and interventions which are making the lives of vulnerable children and families better.

The conference will focus on four key sub themes:

1. Cultural responsiveness and awareness
> How agencies manage client’s needs in a culturally sensitive way.
> How agencies manage with less specialist services being available.

2. Early intervention
> How the development of practical skills and tools can help with early intervention.
> Programs that demonstrate vision and innovation which make a real difference and give hope to vulnerable families.

3. Measuring change in the context of challenge
> Dealing with complex families and demonstration of positive outcomes.
> Trauma informed practice in the context of working with clients.
> Innovation in practice and managing demand.
> Examples of latest research and theoretical framework with positive outcomes for clients.

4. Workforce development
> How multidisciplinary teams function effectively to improve outcomes.
> Examples of how working collaboratively has improved outcomes for clients.
> Programs with frameworks that are transferable to different contexts.

This two-day conference will offer a broad range of presentation styles, including:

> Oral presentations
> Interactive workshops
> Poster presentations

When: 25 – 26 May 2016.
Where: Rydges Melbourne, 186 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000.
Registration: Save $100 off the standard price with our early bird rate of $595 (early bird offer closes 1 May 2016).

Flipping good fun - 2016 Pancake Day

This year, Connections and UnitingCare are encouraging everyone to have fun with family, friends and work colleagues throughout the month of February in support of Pancake Day.

Pancake Day is an initiative of UnitingCare and raises vital funds for the 1.8 million Australians UnitingCare agencies assist each year.

This year Pancake Day falls on Tuesday 9 February but events can be held throughout the month of February.

Funds raised help UnitingCare provide practical support to disadvantaged Victorians and Tasmanians.

We encourage you to organise your own events for Pancake Day. You can have a theme, have berries, honey, jam, lemon or cream. Make it a morning tea, lunch or an afternoon treat!

For more information about Pancake Day or to register your event, visit

Did you know? The earliest known pancakes were made about 12,000 years ago from ground grains and nuts, mixed with water or milk and cook on hot stones

Call for abstracts close in less than 3 weeks

You are invited to submit an abstract for the Connections UnitingCare Conference: Making Lives Better.

We are keen to receive papers which explore and address innovative ideas which respond to the needs of vulnerable children and families in the community.

We encourage submissions from a range of organisations and individuals who can contribute to our knowledge of current practices and interventions which are making the lives of vulnerable children and families better. The conference will explore how we build services around clients in a changing, complex world.

Presentation styles offered:

- Oral presentations
- Interactive workshops
- Poster presentations

Abstracts can be submitted which address the following four key sub-theme areas:
•    Cultural responsiveness and awareness
•    Early intervention
•    Measuring change in the context of challenge
•    Workforce development

Abstracts will be peer reviewed by the Conference Program sub-committee. The committee reserves the right to decide the format of the presentations and in which stream they will be presented on the basis of time and space available.
Abstracts should be a maximum of 250 words.


Changing Life outcomes

An Australian first in Out of Home Care for children under the age of three is being launched by leading community services organisations Connections UnitingCare and MacKillop Family Services.

With the generous support of the Phyllis Connor Memorial Trust, Concurrent Care - Breaking down the Silos will accredit families as both Foster and Permanent Carers so they are able to care for the child for as much of their journey from temporary care to permanency as possible.

The program will see identified and suitable families, care for a child as foster carers for the first six months of their placement, whilst all possible efforts are made to reunify the child with their parent(s). At the end of this six months, a decision is made as to the permanent placement of a child whether that be reunification with birth family or permanent placement with their foster carers.  

Speaking ahead of the launch, Connections Chief Executive Officer Angela Forbes, said that this type of model is effective as everyone involved is working towards achieving the best outcomes for the child.  

“Concurrent planning has been working successfully for a number of years in many countries around the world with the results suggesting the model truly does provide the best outcomes for children,” said Ms Forbes.

“Concurrent Care provides an alternative where a child is placed in a potentially permanent placement as early as possible and seeks to reduce the number of placement moves young children may endure.

“We are delighted to be delivering this program with Mackillop Family Services. We look forward to this program being replicated, ultimately improving the life outcomes for many of this country’s most vulnerable children,” Ms Forbes said.

MacKillop Family Services, CEO, Micaela Cronin said what these children need most is a safe, secure and nurturing place to call home. It is important that more people are made aware of the need for stability for these vulnerable children.

“A considerable number of our foster carers would be keen to move from fostering a child to permanent care where they been unable to be re-united with their birth parents, this program will help them to do this.” said Ms. Cronin.

“Allowing individuals and families to be accredited for both foster care and permanent care concurrently will enable greater stability. We believe strongly that this program will provide children the opportunity to live the kind of childhood they deserve,” said Ms Cronin.

Harmony Day

Harmony Day (21 March) celebrates Australia’s cultural diversity. It’s about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone.

Harmony Day is held every year on 21 March to coincide with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The message of Harmony Day is everyone belongs. It’s a day to celebrate Australia’s diversity – a day of cultural respect for everyone who calls Australia home.

This year marks Harmony Day's 15th anniversary.

Help celebrate this important milestone by registering your event and get free Harmony Day promotional material.

There are also educational resources available for teachers and students to celebrate Harmony Day in schools.

Find out about Harmony Day events in your area by checking out our events calendar.

How will you celebrate Harmony Day this year?

21 Mar 2015

Official Opening of the Connections Family Centre

Connections UnitingCare will officially open its new Family Centre on Friday 14 November 2014.

Located in Doveton – an area that is recognised as one of significant disadvantage, the Connections Family Centre has been specifically designed to replicate the family home in order to foster greater engagement with those accessing it. 

Speaking ahead of the opening, Connections Chief Executive Officer, Angela Forbes said she is excited about the opportunities this centre will have not only for Connections’ clients but also for the wider community.

‘Connections has made a significant commitment to the establishment of this Centre, which has been custom-built to meet the needs of its programs and services and we are excited about its potential,’ said Ms Forbes.

‘We are committed to tackling entrenched, intergenerational disadvantage through our effective programs that provide families with the support and skills they need to overcome the challenges they are facing,’ said Ms Forbes.

Presently, Connections runs two programs from this location. These include:

  • Newpin (New Parent and Infant Network) is a centre-based, intensive approach to breaking the cycle of abuse and neglect. Newpin works with families with children aged 0-5 who are under stress to break the cycle of destructive family behaviour and enhance parent-child relationships.
  • Enhanced Therapeutic Contact Service delivers contact services to children in Out of Home Care and their families when the Children’s Court has ordered supervised contact.

‘We believe that the Family Centre complements our extensive suite of services and provides a holistic approach to our service delivery,’ said Ms Forbes.

The Family Centre is supported by four other Connections sites operating in the south-eastern growth corridor of Melbourne – Dandenong, Cranbourne, Narre Warren and Pakenham.

14 Nov 2014

Anti-Poverty Awards announced

Connections has announced the recipients of their unique Anti-Poverty Awards for young Australians to coincide with Anti-Poverty Week.

The Anti-Poverty Awards recognise that there are many young people in Australia who are passionately working towards tackling inequality and injustice both in Australia and abroad. The awards highlight the hard work and dedication of individuals and schools who demonstrate a deep understanding of those in need.

Speaking at the announcement of this year’s recipients, Connections Chief Executive Officer, Angela Forbes said that these awards are an important way to acknowledge the work of many young people which often goes unnoticed.

‘These remarkable young people know that genuine investment in an individual is worthwhile, just as Connections knows that honouring their work and contributing positively for better outcomes for the families with whom we work, is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves as well as to others,’ Ms Forbes said.

‘In light of the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) Poverty in Australia report that states that 13.9% of Australians are living below the poverty line, it is clear that poverty continues to be a concern for all Australians. I commend the recipients for continuing to keep the conversation about poverty-related issues open and relevant,’ Ms Forbes said.

Receiving the Individual Award for 2014 is Sarah Planken. With a long-held passion to improve outcomes for asylum seekers and refugees, Sarah has developed a social enterprise that seeks to limit the social isolation felt by these individuals. The Village Harvest is a space for asylum seekers, refugees and the broader community to connect and share resources, whilst celebrating the value of diversity in Australia.

The Village Harvest aims to encourage the volunteer participation of individuals from asylum seeker and refugee backgrounds, together with local community members to share and assist in the preparation and enjoyment of traditional recipes and cultural celebrations.

‘In Australia we tend to feel cultured by the foods that we eat, but not many of us are  truly aware of the people and cultures behind the flavours. The Village Harvest will be a space to connect, learn and appreciate not only the foods but the identities and stories of those forced to flee their homes,’ Sarah said.

‘I am honoured to be the recipient of the 2014 Anti-Poverty Award and to be part of the amazing alumni of past recipients,’ Sarah said.

Receiving the School Award for 2014 is Parade College. Eddie’s Backpacks was started by a group of students who were looking to make a difference in their community. They had heard about the challenges of foster care and contacted the Foster Care Association of Victoria to find out how they could help. They found out many children arrive in foster care with nothing. The boys provide backpacks to foster children as well as advocating for the rights of children and carers. To date, they have distributed 102 backpacks.

‘Our students are very much the driving force behind the Eddie’s Backpacks initiative and they are the ones who are trying to bring change in the community,’ said Parade College teacher Darrell Cruse.

‘Through all their fundraising and advocacy efforts, the students now understand they are in fact the fortunate ones.’

Encouragement Awards were also awarded to Adelle Laing, Georgie Debenham and Amber Jones, Norwest Christian College and Kingswood College. For more information about their projects, click here.



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