Orygen research fellow Wilma Peters has been named Social Work Researcher of the Year for her work with young people who have experienced trauma.
Ms Peters was acknowledged as part of the Australian Association of Social Workers’ inaugural National Excellence awards, presented at the Asia-Pacific Regional Social Work Conference in November.
The award recognised Ms Peters’ valuable research into trauma-informed care and early psychological interventions for post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression and substance use in young people impacted by interpersonal trauma. Ms Peters recently undertook a pilot study of Trauma-Focussed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for young people attending headspace services, as part of her PhD research.
Ms Peters said winning the Researcher of the Year award was a privilege and great honour, and that it would enable her to share her research more widely.
“I am so grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this research. I could not have done this work without the support of my supervisors Associate Professors Sarah Bendall and Simon Rice, and my co-researchers in the United States -Professors Judith Cohen and Laura Murry,” she said.
Ms Peters said childhood trauma was a public health concern that was often unnoticed and untreated.
“Providing effective treatments early can help young people overcome traumatic experiences and prevent mental ill-health continuing into adulthood,” she said.
“However, many young people with trauma-related symptoms are falling through the gaps in care. There is a pressing need for better access to specialist evidence-based trauma services to address this need.
“My hope is that symptomatic traumatised young people will have access to early interventions such as trauma-focused CBT and that they will receive this care within a service system that is trauma informed.”*
This is the second time Ms Peters’ work has been recognised this year. She also recently received the Australian Society for Traumatic Stress Studies’ John Raftery Early Career Award for Research in Traumatic Stress in October.
*A trauma informed system ‘realises the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery; recognises the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system; and responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices, and seeks to actively resist re-traumatization’. – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Adminstration (SAMHSA)