Addressing Filicide: Inaugural International Conference for Cross-National Dialogue

Professor Thea Brown welcoming conference participants to the inaugural conference in Prato, Italy.

The conference, the first held to address this worldwide danger for vulnerable children, attracted 53 delegates from 13 countries including Austria, Australia, Canada, Columbia, Chile, El Salvador, England, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa and the USA. The delegates represented the disciplines of law, social work, psychology, general medical practice, paediatrics and psychiatry and brought perspectives of researchers, policy reviewers and developers, medical and judicial service providers, social service providers and filicide survivors. The diversity of outlook and experience was a strong platform for discussion.

The keynote speakers, Julia Stroud (England), Myrna Dawson (Canada) and Peter Jaffe (Canada), gave a great impetus to discussion with all of the speakers emphasising the complexity of the problem yet arguing for optimism in overcoming it.

Some 32 papers were delivered and, considering their diverse national sources and outlooks, their broad appeal was heartening. Many of the papers covered the face of filicide in one particular nation. Such material had not been put forward previously and took the conference towards cross country comparisons. As Professor Frans Koenradt (the Netherlands) commented, the conference showed that “filicide was universal but not uniform”. Papers also addressed particular forms of filicide such as neonaticide, paternal filicide, maternal filicide and familicide. A number of papers addressed child death review committees which are used as a strategy to learn more of such deaths with a view to reducing them. Other papers challenged past ways of thinking about the problem and suggested new ways of approaching it and of assisting families experiencing such tragedies. One paper came from a parent survivor of the filicide deaths of her children and gave clear lessons on the need to improve the health services approach to the parental mental illness, in particular depression.

The conference delegates were very enthusiastic participants and were of the view that the start made by the conference must be taken advantage of so that knowledge could be developed nationally and internationally to overcome this overlooked problem.

Monash University Prato Centre

View of the terrace at the Monash Prato Centre

Monash University Prato Centre is located in the stately 18th century Palazzo Vaj on Via Pugliesi in the historic centre of Prato.   This wonderfully restored building with a beautiful open-air terrazzo is surrounded by medieval towers and provides the location for Monash University in Prato.   Monash secured this location with support from the Region of Tuscany and the local government of Prato and was officially opened on the 17th September 2001.

Taking its name from the Italian word for meadow, Prato has long been a successful commercial centre and is now the third largest city in Tuscany after Florence and Livorno.  Prato’s beautiful historic centre contains medieval and Renaissance buildings of great significance, including the Bascillica di Sant Maria delle Carceri designed by Giuliano da Sangallo, and the palace built by the famous merchant Franceso Datini.   Prato has a rich historical and artistic patrimony, including a mid-13th-century castle built by the Hohenstaufen Emperors, almost perfectly preserved mediaeval walls which enclose the ancient city centre.

Conference Convenors

Program Committee
Professor Thea Brown
Department of Social Work
Monash University
Email: Thea.Brown@monash.edu

Dr Danielle Tyson
Senior Lecturer in Criminology
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Deakin University
Email: Danielle.Tyson@deakin.edu.au

Keynote Speakers

Dr Myrna Dawson

Dr. Myrna Dawson is a Canada Research Chair in Public Policy in Criminal Justice and an Associate Professor, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, University of Guelph. Her research focuses on trends and patterns in violence as well as social and legal responses to violent victimization with particular emphasis on homicide. Funded by the Canadian Foundation of Innovation, she has established the Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence at the University of Guelph.

She is the author of numerous reports and publications and co-author of Violence Against Women in Canada: Research and Policy Perspectives. In 2011, she was a Visiting Scholar at the Faculty of Law, University of Melbourne, and, in 2012, was awarded a TC Beirne School of Law Distinguished Visiting Fellowship, University of Queensland. During these visits, she continued to develop her research which examines intimacy, violence and the law in the international context. She is also a member of Ontario’s Domestic Violence Death Review Committee, Office of the Chief Coroner.

Dr Peter Jaffe

Peter Jaffe is a psychologist and Professor in the Faculty of Education at Western University (London ON Canada) and the Academic Director of the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women & Children.   He is the Director Emeritus for the Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System, which is a children’s mental health centre specializing in issues which bring children and families into the justice system in London, Ontario.  He has co-authored ten books, 24 chapters and over 70 articles related to violence and abuse involving children, adults, families and the justice system.

Many of his publications and professional presentations deal with domestic violence, the impact of domestic violence on children, and child custody and access disputes.  He has presented workshops across the United States and Canada, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica and Europe to various groups including judges, lawyers, mental health professionals and educators.  He is a founding member of Ontario’s Chief Coroner’s Domestic Violence Death Review.  In 2009 he was named an Officer in the Order of Canada by the Governor General of Canada.

Dr Julia Stroud

Dr Julia Stroud is a social work academic and is Director of Social Work Studies at the University of Brighton, where she has overall responsibility for undergraduate and postgraduate courses of qualifying social work education and for a range of continuing professional development courses, including the training of practitioners to fulfil duties under mental health legislation. She has a background in child protection and mental health practice.

Dr Stroud has a long interest in child protection and child homicide from a research and practice perspective. She is concerned particularly with the association between child homicide (including filicide) and the perpetrator’s psychosocial environment and psychological state. She has undertaken a major study in England of 68 individuals who killed, or attempted to kill a child, using pre-trial forensic psychiatric assessments as a source of data (Stroud, J. 2008 A psychosocial analysis of child homicide. Critical Social Policy. 28(4): 482-505). In the past, she has been involved in cross-national studies of child protection systems in Europe and is currently investigating the use of a risk assessment framework for front line police officers making initial child protection visits where.

She is also undertaking a qualitative study, funded by NIHR’s School for Social Care Research, on the use of Community Treatment Orders in England under Mental Health Act 1983, from a service user and practitioner perspective.  Her most recent publication (2011) is a book chapter, The death of a child: the unavoidable truth, in Social Control and the Use of Power in Social Work with Children and Families, edited by Toyin Okitikpi.

Inaugural Addressing Filicide Conference participants.
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