Symposium to examine psychiatry, trauma and history in a global age: the view from Australasia

Wednesday, 10 May 2017


A symposium on Friday May 19th will bring together clinicians and historians to discuss what is unique to accounts of trauma in an Australasian context. The symposium will marshal University of Newcastle expertise on Indigenous trauma, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, clinical approaches to refugees and other diverse populations, plus various historians from around the country on the impact of wartime.

The View from Australasia

ARC DECRA Fellow in the Centre for the History of Violence, Dr Elizabeth Roberts-Pedersen is organising the symposium and will open the day of talks.

“We tend to think of trauma as timeless and unchanging category of experience, but in fact its meanings and expressions have a history. In this symposium we want to ask what that history looks like from an Australasian perspective and how it is reflected in clinical practice”, Dr Roberts-Pedersen said.

Internationally acclaimed historian of psychiatry, Professor Mark Micale, from the University of Illinois will open the symposium with a presentation on trauma and the global psychiatric state.

The following UON researchers will also be speaking:

  • Emeritus Professor John Boulton from the School of Medicine and Public Health will speak about trans-generational trauma in Aboriginal Australia.
  • Dr Bipin Ravindran of the Hunter New England Mental Health Service and UON will speak about globalization, intersubjectivity and trauma in a clinical setting.
  • Professor Catharine Coleborne, Head of the School of Humanities and Social Science, will give a talk on researching traumatic memory.
  • Dr Tamara Blakemore, Lecturer in Social Work will speak on the impacts of institutional child sexual abuse reflecting on the review of the impacts of abuse completed for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The following speakers will also present at the symposium:

  • Associate Professor Hans Pols from the Unit for History and Philosophy of Science, University of Sydney, will speak about trauma and recovery in Indonesia.
  • Professor Christina Twomey, Head of History in the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies at Monash University will talk about misogyny, trauma and the re-embrace of the war veteran in Australia.
  • Dr Rosalind Hearder from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs will speak about peacekeeping and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

About the Speakers

Dr Tamara Blakemore is a social work practitioner, researcher and educator. Her framework for practice is focused contexts and connections and how experience of these prompt, facilitate and constrain wellbeing. Tamara is a conjoint researcher with the Australian Centre for Child Protection (UniSA) with whom she has worked to produced research for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Tamara remains actively involved in clinical practice and is an advocate for holistic, connection based responses to social issues experienced by children, their families and communities.

Professor John Boulton was the Foundation Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Newcastle’s medical school and now has an honorary academic affiliation in Medical Humanities with the Centre for Values, Ethics and Law in Medicine at the University of Sydney and in Aboriginal Child Health at the Telethon Kids Institute, Perth. In 2011 he was awarded the Howard Williams Medal for his career contribution to Paediatrics and Child Health by the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. After his retirement from academic practice he worked for ten years as senior paediatrician to the Kimberley health region. In his book “Aboriginal Children, Health and History: Beyond Social Determinants” (Routledge 2016) he uses the trans-generational effects of frontier and Structural Violence as the frame for the analysis of the deep origins of the low health status of children in remote Aboriginal Australia.

Professor Catharine Coleborne is Head of the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle and an internationally recognized historian of health and medicine. She has published widely on the histories of mental health, families, illness, colonial worlds and medical institutions. With Professor Matthew Smith (Strathclyde, Glasgow) she co-edits the Palgrave series Mental Health in Historical Perspective. She is writing a book titled Narrating Madness in the Twentieth Century.

Dr Rosalind Hearder gained a PhD in History at the University of Melbourne, examining the experiences of Australian medical personnel in Japanese captivity during the Second World War. She expanded on this research in the USA during her 2006-2007 Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin (Madison). Rosalind has researched and published widely in the field of military medical history, including working with the Official History of Australian Peacekeeping and Post-Cold War Conflicts project at the ANU.

Currently she works at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, focusing on mental health research and hospital policy.

Professor Mark S. Micale is Professor of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an internationally recognised historian of psychiatry, medicine and European culture. His books include Hysterical Men: The Hidden History of Male Nervous Illness(Harvard University Press, 2007), and the collections The Mind of Modernism: Medicine, Psychology, and the Cultural Arts in Europe and America1880-1940 (Stanford University Press, 2004) and (with Paul Lerner) Traumatic Pasts: History, Psychiatry and Trauma in the Modern Age, 1870-1930 (Cambridge University Press, 2001). In May and June 2017 he is an International Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for the History of Violence at the University of Newcastle.

Associate Professor Hans Pols is interested in the history, sociology, and anthropology of medicine. He has published on the history of the American mental hygiene movement, the treatment of war neurosis in the armed forces of Australia, the UK, and the USA during World War II, and the history of colonial psychiatry. He currently focuses on the history of colonial and postcolonial medicine in Southeast Asia, including a research project on the history of medicine in the Dutch East Indies and Indonesia. He is also interested on the roles Indonesian physicians have played in the social, cultural, and political movements in the Dutch East Indies and Indonesia in the 1950s.

Dr Bipin Ravindran is a Staff Specialist in Adult Psychiatry with the Hunter New England Mental Health Service, as well as a Conjoint Lecturer and PhD candidate in the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Newcastle. His clinical and academic roles include working with persons from refugee and culturally diverse backgrounds and teaching social and cultural psychiatry.

Dr Elizabeth Roberts-Pedersen is an ARC DECRA Fellow in the Centre for the History of Violence at the University of Newcastle, where she is researching the theory and practice of psychiatry in World War II and its aftermaths. She has published on the history of foreign volunteers in wartime, wartime psychiatry and therapeutics, and sexual violence and the courts-martial regime.

Professor Christina Twomey is Professor of History at Monash University. Her new book, The Battle Within: POWs in post-war Australia, which will be published by NewSouth in 2018. Her interest in trauma stems from analysing changing responses to POWs, who moved from figures of deep ambivalence in the early post-war period to lauded war veterans by the 1980s. She has also published on women and captivity, photography and atrocity and civilian internment, and is the author of Australia's Forgotten Prisoners: Civilians Interned by the Japanese in World War Two (2007) and with co-author Mark Peel, A History of Australia, which will be published in a second edition in 2017.


The symposium will take place Friday May 19th, 2017 between 9am - 5pm at Crowne Plaza, Newcastle.

Professor Mark Micale will also feature in a Free public lecture.