Overview of the National Conference

Our National Conference held in Adelaide this month saw all our staff attend the 3-day conference. During the conference, several key activities and external presentations were undertaken to further develop and improve our service delivery capabilities to deliver “best of breed” postvention support programs.
One of the key activities on the first day was in reviewing our Throughcare Plans which saw the team work in separate groups in an activity to review the existing processes in place, determine and agree on improvements on what was working well and what was not. This then allowed for design changes to be agreed and an implementation plan was presented, and the improvements will now be implemented.
A joint session with Standby Coordinators – Caring on Country – was a great success and our teams were excited by the possibilities of using this program in our communities.
A key focus throughout the week was the development of “Best Practice” models for engaging with families and communities and undertaking role plays to demonstrate those skills. All staff were involved in developing client specific engagement activities based on specific “real life” scenarios and each team presented back to the broader team for comments and input. These sessions were invaluable especially for the newer staff, as these scenarios and role plays assisted in providing insights and a working framework for staff to use “in the field” when supporting individuals, families and communities.
The second day of the conference commenced with Tanja Hirvonen presenting on “Trauma Informed Care”. Tanja is a registered Clinical Psychologist currently based in Townsville, Queensland. Tanja's approach incorporates cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), mindfulness skills and ways of working that are culturally sound and safe when working with Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders. The presentation covered Mental health issues as one of the leading causes of the Indigenous health gap (18% - second only to cardiac disease). When combined with intentional and unintentional injuries (13%) the two issues account for almost one third (31%) of the total health gap. Nearly one third of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population report high levels of psychological distress - 2.5 times the rate of others.
The second presentation of the day was delivered Rosemary Wanganeen, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Institute for Grief and Loss. Rosemary comes from South Australia of Kaurna, Wirrangu, Koogatha and English heritage and Rosemary began her own healing journey in 1987. Rosemary vividly recalls asking herself this question: "where are all these Aboriginal families across Australia going to talk about the death of their loved one in custody?"  This question is what compelled her to research and develop her Seven Phases to Integrate Loss and Grief.  The Seven Phases model was strengthened by studying with Bereavement Educational Services (SA) in 1994 and with COPE (SA) in Counselling Basics and Counselling Strategies in 1991. In her presentation to the conference, Rosemary presented the Seven Phases model introducing the framework to explain the 7 steps methodology.

A workshop to review approaches to community engagement and capacity restoration resulting in an agreed statement of position “Community Capacity building is about promoting the Capacity of Local Communities to develop, implement and sustain  their own solutions to problems in a way that helps them shape and exercise control over their physical, social.economic and cultural environments”
The final day of the conference was establishing team workshops to bring together the learnings and how best to work together as teams across the organisation. This workshop clearly demonstrated the commitment of all staff to the vision and working across functions to support each other in delivering our critical services. This led into the next session which discussed priority setting and what resources and supports are required to deliver on our value proposition.
The final session was a combined presentation and workshop on engaging stakeholders with our services and best practice approaches to stakeholder engagement at the local, Regional, State and National level and ensuring that a consistent message is being delivered across all engagements. The last session was an open question and answer forum asking, “what we had learned” and agreeing on what our priorities are going forward.
Each evening saw the teams engaging in various team building activities as well as opportunities to meet with the Board Chair and Directors.  Timothy Goodwin, Chair, spoke to the participants at a dinner on Wednesday evening and discussed the Thirrili priorities and thanking all staff for their valued contributions to the organisation and, in particular, for the work they do with our families and communities.

Staff were presented with individualised Certificates of Appreciation at the final team building event on the last evening, while enjoying dinner.


Donna Smith


Gail Bellotti

Karen Dodd

Rachael Schmerl

Stephen Smith

Tegan Schefe


Mon 15 March 2021 - Fri 19 March 2021
8:00 am - 5:00 pm