Andrew Herring Andrew Herring

Northfields Clinic @ Early Start officially opened

Counselling and world-leading research come together in a family-friendly clinic

Families’ and children’s counselling services offered by the University of Wollongong’s Northfields Clinic are now more closely linked to world-leading early childhood research following the official opening of Northfields Clinic @ Early Start.

The new arm of UOW’s long-established Northfields Clinic is housed in specially renovated facilities inside the Early Start building that were officially opened in October.

In contrast to the Clinic’s existing adult-orientated counselling rooms, which are located in a neighbouring building and offer limited facilities for children, the Northfields Clinic @ Early Start is specifically designed, furnished and equipped to create a positive counselling environment for children and families.

The welcoming reception area is adjoined by six ‘child friendly’ consulting rooms, each decorated with its own distinctive style and colour scheme.

The new rooms are fitted with the latest technologies, including video conferencing and high speed data connections, enabling better remote counselling, professional supervision or specialist consultations.

As well as increasing Northfields Clinic’s capacity by adding more counselling facilities, Northfields Clinic @ Early Start is making mental health services more attractive and accessible for children and families, allowing more families to be helped while enhancing professional and clinical psychologist internship opportunities.

The new clinic will also co-locate psychology interns and their professional supervisors with researchers whose work is shaping the latest thinking and best practice in early childhood development, education and counselling.

Speaking at the official opening, UOW School of Psychology’s Director of Professional and Clinical Psychology Training, Professor Brin Grenyer, described Northfields Clinic @ Early Start as a “partnership made in Heaven”.

“Northfields Clinic at Early Start is a really wonderful opportunity to have a new family and child clinic for the people of the Illawarra.

“Northfields is now one clinic in two locations - but we can specialise here in Early Start around children and families, which fits with Early Start’s research ethos and why Early Start exists.

“There is such wonderful research happening at Early Start already and I hope this new clinic will put fire under many collaborative research projects that will add value to our understanding of early childhood development and learning.

“This will help us develop expertise that we can translate into best practice in child care centres and early childhood learning centres, fulfilling the vision of Early Start,” Professor Grenyer said.

Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Professor Glenn Salkeld, paid tribute to Professor Grenyer, Psychology School Head, Professor Peter Caputi and Northfields Clinic Director, Mark Donovan, for initiating the idea and thanked Early Start Chief Operating Officer,Anita Kumar, and Early Start staff for their help in making it a reality.

Among the official launch attendees were Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Health and Communities) and Executive Dean, Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health, Professor Alison Jones, Early Start benefactor Mr Christopher Abbott of the Abbott Foundation as well as representatives from several local mental health services and early childhood centres.

Northfields Clinic has provided high-quality mental health services to the community and supervised professional development for the University’s psychology students for 37 years, assisting over 10,000 individual clients and training more than 500 professional and clinical psychologists.