Improving the healthcare response to family violence

Professor Leesa Hooker leads the Reducing Gender-Based Violence (ReGeN) program

It was the inspiring words of a colleague that led Professor Leesa Hooker into her current field.

Now leading important research into gender-based violence, she changed course after more than 20 years as a nurse and midwife in rural and regional Victoria.

Reflecting on her work ahead of International Women’s Day, Professor Hooker says conversations with former La Trobe Nursing Lecturer, Fran Sheean, helped her along the way.

“Fran really encouraged me to consider life in academia and to support the maternal and child health students,” Professor Hooker says.

“She worked here for a very long time and passed away a couple of years ago, unfortunately."

“I wouldn’t be here if she hadn't encouraged me.”

With much of her research aimed at improving the healthcare response to family violence, Professor Hooker also believes her original training has proved invaluable in a more academic setting.

“I think it really enhances your research if you do have that clinical background and understanding of context,” she says.

She is proud of the impact of the Reducing Gender-Based Violence (ReGeN) program she leads, with a strong team of female academics including Dr Jessica Ison and Associate Professor Kirsty Forsdike.

“International Women’s Day is about celebrating women’s achievements and the good work that we’ve done,” Professor Hooker says.

“But there’s lots of work to do to continue addressing gender inequality, which is one of the main drivers of family violence."

“We know that family violence is extremely prevalent – one in three women will have experienced either sexual or gender-based violence in their lifetime, and that we experience higher rates in rural areas."

“We’re going strong and hopefully building and improving women’s circumstances in rural areas.”

Professor Hooker also notes the IWD theme this year of “Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress”.

“It’s about inspiring women to be engaged and provide opportunities to address gender inequality,” she says.

“It’s about inspiring women, like Fran did for me, to step up and have a go.”