FAMILY THERAPY IN VICTORIA
Dr Gávi Ansara | VIC State Representative
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The Victorian Association of Family Therapists (VAFT) was founded in 1979. It developed out of a Family Therapy Interest Group based in Melbourne, and was incorporated in 1989, becoming VAFT Inc. The membership grew to approximately 900 family therapists during the 1990s.
Dr Geoff Goding, was primarily responsible for introducing Family Therapy to Victoria in the late 1960s. Geoff was Psychiatrist Superintendent of Bouverie Clinic (now known as The Bouverie Centre) which at that time was a child guidance centre in Carlton. Influenced by Walter Kempler, a gestalt family therapist, Geoff promoted the idea of the whole family being involved when the child was presented for therapy. Following the arrival of Brian Stagoll in the early 1970s, and boosted by a visit to Bouverie from Salvador Minuchin at that time, Structural Family Therapy was embraced. Building on Brian Stagoll’s experiences of training in family therapy in the USA and the growing enthusiasm for working with families, a wide range of ideas from North America and Europe began to be embraced by family therapists in Australia. In Victoria, enthusiasm for working using family therapy ideas progressed to forming interest groups, informal training programs, annual National family therapy conferences and the formation of VAFT.
VAFT developed levels of membership, training standards, ethical guidelines for practice, accreditation processes for training in family therapy, supervision standards and professional development for family therapy clinicians. VAFT’s standards were adopted by Queensland Association of Family Therapy and later by AAFT.
From a small study group dedicated to understanding family therapy and practice in the mid 1980s, family therapy training progressed to being officially recognized by Universities and other employing agencies as a relevant and useful qualification for working with families presenting with a wide range of problems. Such has been the popularity of family therapy practice in Victoria that five training programs in Family therapy have been sustained over many years. These are, The Bouverie Centre/ La Trobe University, Williams Road Family Therapy Centre/ Swinburne University, Alma Road Family Therapy, Systems Coordinators Family Therapy Training and Gilead Downs Family Therapy Training. At least two of these training programs have been frequently taught in a number of South East Asian countries.
There are too many significant people who embraced, promoted and advanced systemic thinking in their work with individuals, couples and families to list in this brief document. Suffice to say that the final decades of the twentieth century saw a very exciting period of robust discussions and courageous attempts to find ways to be collaborative across the many disciplines that make up the health and welfare field.
VAFT has had a central role in the many discussions over many years aimed at forming a national association for family therapists and for workers who wished to become more fluent in thinking systemically. After much robust discussions and not insignificant sense of loss and grief, the membership of VAFT voted to give up the strongly held VAFT identity to promote a new identity in the form of the Australian Association of Family Therapists. VAFT was devolved in 2011 and officially became the national association, the AAFT.