Our branch covers the Loddon Mallee region from Kyneton in the south to Mildura in the north-west. Other major cities are Bendigo, (where most of the committee members work); Castlemaine, Swan Hill, Echuca, Rochester and smaller towns such as Heathcote, Goornong, Harcourt and Malmsbury.
We have approximately 160 Branch members. Members' expertise ranges from social psychology through to clinical, health, trauma, forensic, neuropsychology and child and adolescent psychology. La Trobe University has played a significant role in raising the profile of psychologists and the APS in our region.
Over the last few years we have successfully conducted workshops in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Sex Based Therapy, Mindfulness, Grief, Forensic Interviewing of Children, Spirituality and Psychology, Working with Step-parents and Child Protection Cases, Running a Private Practice and the Adolescent Brain. The last mentioned talk by Dr Stephen Wood from the University of Melbourne attracted over 120 participants, not only from the field of psychology but also from education, Child Protection, Youth Justice, Centacare and CAMHS. This is our best attended event to date and has helped publicize the role of psychologists in the local community as well as being a topical subject of broad interest.
Rural psychology courses need lots of support with the city-centric bias in tertiary education. These courses are often under attack, underfunded and poorly understood. This is certainly our experience in our region. Despite, or because of, these pressures on our rural academics and practitioners, we have been very busy.
Every three or four years we have conducted a local conference and have attracted speakers on Conflict in the Family, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy and Social Justice. Historically, we have had enterprising and hard working committees though, like other regions, we struggle with involving all our local members, as with most committees. We seem to have a core group who regularly attend, then some who do so on an irregular basis and many who have little or no contact with the Branch. This may be partly due to the geographical spread of our members.
With the advent of the recent Medicare changes to the delivery of psychological services, we ran a joint session with the Division of GPs. Over 50 people attended; including general practitioners and practice managers, as well as local psychologists and one social worker. The evening worked very well in terms of identifying GPs needs and matching them with psychologists with relevant expertise. As a "meet and greet", many connections were made and more activities are planned as a consequence.
Branch Chairs have a relatively easy job where there is a strong diverse committee. We get along well and most of our meetings are held over dinner in order to combine work with pleasure. This has been important and helpful in keeping the branch active and alive.