The 4th Australian Postvention Conference was held at the University of NSW, Sydney, from 5-7 June 2014. The Conference was held for the bereaved by suicide and their families and for those working with/supporting them.
One hundred and sixty-seven Delegates attended the full Conference and an additional seven Delegates attended only the pre-conference workshops. Generous sponsorship enabled 87% of Delegates to receive either partial or full Conference sponsorship. Thirteen percent (13%) of Delegates were full-fee paying. Funding was provided by
• The Commonwealth Government Department of Health
• The Western Australian Ministerial Council for Suicide Prevention (supporting ten WA bereaved attendees), and
• The NSW Government.
While 72% of Delegates came from metropolitan areas across Australia, it is significant that 28% of Delegates came from Australian rural and remote areas. This reflects the fact that postvention is a need present in every corner of the nation.
Four pre-conference workshops were held on the day preceding the main conference.
1. Professor Robert Neimeyer (USA) – Techniques of grief therapy: Responding to traumatic loss.
2. Professors William and Beverly Feigelman (USA)– Devastating Losses: How parents cope after a child’s death from suicide or drugs.
3. Pastor Astrid Staley – Theology and practice: Entering the world of the suicide bereaved.
4. Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson – Suicide in Aboriginal families and communities can uncover much unhealed trauma.
Healing Family relationships after suicide is hard work – presented by Professor Bob Neimeyer (USA) and Dr Diana Sands (Sydney), an invitation-only workshop specifically for peer-led support group facilitators provided learning opportunities to enrich facilitators’ skills and to create a new and expanded vision of group processes. It offered opportunities for interactive learning, networking, and a space for Delegates to share a wealth of diverse experience.
Between 50-60 Delegates attended the all-day workshop, leaving fewer numbers of Delegates to participate in the Day 1 Conference program. The content of the first Conference day was structured for professionals, academics and para-professionals supporting those bereaved by suicide.
Twenty-eight concurrent papers were heard on Day 1. An all-day workshop was also held on Day 1.
Day two was shorter and the session content was targeted to the bereaved by suicide. The day offered six concurrent 1 ½-hour workshops and a Healing and Remembrance Ceremony. Overall, Delegates rated the Conference highly. Delegates expressed a particular interest in postvention for indigenous peoples and for youth. Seventy-four percent of Delegates found the Conference very or extremely valuable, and those bereaved by suicide expressed a desire to hear more ‘lived experience’ stories.
Some Delegates believed that separate conferences are needed; one for professionals and academics, and one for the bereaved. This issue remains a dilemma for the Conference Planning Committee. While it is understood that things of a professional nature, such as statistics and facts and figures can be of little interest to those bereaved by suicide, there is much to be gained and learned by the continual exchange of experiences between professionals and those bereaved. This indeed generates the richness and value of the Conference experience.
Some Delegates found that the Conference offered too many choices and that the Conference venue was not suitable due to the poor availability of breakout rooms and the small area for general circulation. However, the majority of Delegates felt that the Conference objectives were met to a large extent.
The conference evaluation raised fourteen recommendations. These referred to structure and logistics of future conferences; conference structure and scheduling, and topics for future conferences.
The 2016 Conference Planning Committee will consider these recommendations. If you have any suggestions for Australian speakers, conference workshops, or other conference activities that you would like to see included in the 2016 Australian Postvention Conference, please contact us