Not seen, not heard
: the invisibility of child and family health nurses in their role of safeguarding children in the Northern Territory

  • Marie Patricia Land

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    In 2005 there was statistical evidence of an increasing number of children in the Northern Territory (NT) suspected of (or actually) suffering abuse and/or neglect. Placing the underlying cause of this increase within an ecological framework, provision of supportive services to assist families ‘at risk’ of harming their children could mitigate the extent of abuse. Child and Family Health nurses (CFHNs) may be an untapped resource to provide those services. The study hoped to provide mechanisms for CFHNs to engage in interdisciplinary and cross-agency collaborative practices and to deliver improved early intervention to vulnerable families.

    This thesis describes a qualitative multi-method study conducted in three phases. An exploratory study was conducted to provide baseline data to inform an action research approach to address any ‘problem issues’ uncovered. The study design was modified due to complex political and bureaucratic changes that impeded the progress of the action research phase. An explanatory case study was then conducted to gain information about the practice directions and policy environment of the health and social care services available to vulnerable families. Interviews with child health and child protection leaders/experts provided data for this case study. Supplementary data were gathered from a purposeful sample of relevant documents to contextualise the information gained in the case study interviews and identify rapidly changing directions in health and social care policy during this period.

    The ability of CFHNs in the NT to extend their role into an early intervention service to support vulnerable families remains problematic without human and financial resources made available for this to occur. Interdisciplinary practices across health and social care services remain limited and there is little local cross-agency understanding of the potential of the CFHN role. The voice of nurses in policy development and leadership positions influencing child health services is limited. In other places in Australia and internationally, the role of CFHNs is more fully developed in supporting vulnerable families and mitigating the ecological risks of child abuse and neglect.
    Date of AwardJun 2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorLesley Barclay (Supervisor), Sue Kruske (Supervisor) & Sandra Dunn (Supervisor)

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