The Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA) team is currently made up of the Board and one volunteer. With launch of EDFA in May 2017, we look forward to expanding the team.

The Chair and Treasurer

Gordon Brockway

Located: Western Australia
Day job: Management Consultant

History with Eating Disorders

Daughter has Anorexia Nervosa. Diagnosed at age 17, probably had it since much younger. While weight restored at age 19 using Family Based Treatment over 18-month period, relapsed soon after. Continual decline since. Now 24, refusing to engage in structured treatment program.

Why part of Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA)

Experienced the isolation and constant doubt before we discovered FEAST. Wife and I became much more able to provide effective support to daughter once FEAST was part of our lives.  Want to help other families avoid the delays to recovery we experienced because of our own ignorance and the ignorance of others. By contributing my professional skills, I hope to assist EDFA in this way.

Director and Deputy Chair

Belinda Caldwell

Located: Victoria
Day job: Carer Consultant and Project Manager at Victorian Centre of Excellence in Eating Disorders.

History with Eating Disorders

I am the carer of a 22 yr old daughter with Anorexia Nervosa, who we treated with FBT in adolescence and have continued to support as a young adult thought some subsequent challenges even though her initial recovery was strong and she has remained out of intensive treatment since first being diagnosed.

Since leaving my role as CEO of the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association in 2012 to provide care for my daughter, I have undertaken a number of roles and activities in the eating disorders field

  • Member of Australian and New Zealand Academy of Eating Disorders since 2014
  • Currently the Executive Director of Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T). F.E.A.S.T is an international organization of and for caregivers of eating disorder patients. based treatment, and advocating for research and education to reduce the suffering associated with eating disorders. F.E.A.S.T. serves families by providing information and mutual support, promoting evidence. F.E.A.S.T. believes that empowered caregivers are essential to the recovery process and to advocating for evidence-based treatment and research. F.E.A.S.T. has over 6,000 members on four continents and is run entirely by volunteers and supported through individual donations.
  • F.E.A.S.T partnered with the Butterfly Foundation and ANZAED in 2013 and 2015 to deliver the At Home with Eating Disorders (AHWED) conference for families and carers (www.athomewitheatingdisorders.com) – and is partnering with the Butterfly Foundation, with support from ANZAED, for the 2017 AHWED conference coming up in mid May.
  • Currently employed by the Victorian Centre of Excellence in Eating Disorders (CEED) as it’s first Carer Consultant. The role at CEED has 5 key components:
    • Case consultation – part of internal CEED team clinical discussions & planning
    • Case consultation – join CEED clinicians in providing primary case consultation with care team & parents/carers at AMHS and associated services
    • Training for clinicians – providing lived experience perspective on all aspects of ED & their treatment
    • Resource development- for use by carers & clinicians
      Systemic and service planning with the CEED team
  • Member of the National Advisory Group for the development of the National Agenda for Eating Disorders

Why part of Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA)

Having seen the value of peer support and advocacy through F.E.A.S.T , I felt that there needed to be an entity in Australia to build on the good work of F.E.A.S.T, be able to fundraise locally and apply for grants/funding to deliver local on the ground services for families. I feel that we can effect enormous changes in eating disorder treatment and outcomes by ensuring families are integrated more effectively in treatment and services. My special interest is in working with clinicians to enable them to work with families in a more effective way.

Director

Christine Naismith

Located: Victoria
Day job: Pharmacist

History with Eating Disorders

Eldest Daughter suffered Anorexia Nervosa at age 16-17 in 2012/13.  Drastic weight loss over a short period of time, very unwell & suicidal quite quickly.  Fortunate to be referred to the Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital early on, where we were part of an FBT trial. We were part of the Parent Focused Treatment (PFT) stream & were successful in refeeding our girl to full recovery.  My other Daughter, now 14 (2017), currently has Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) which is proving very challenging.

Why part of Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA)

FBT was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but it worked & we were fortunate to get help early & take action quickly.  While it was a harrowing journey, full of fear, worry, exhaustion & anger, I feel very fortunate that we were able to help set our Daughter free from Anorexia Nervosa & want to give back to help other parents through this scary experience. I also want to bring more awareness to the community about Eating Disorders, so they are not hidden away, but brought to the surface so that help can be sought quickly, which gives the best chance of bringing about recovery. It is such a frightening & isolating time as a carer, so I am passionate about peer support & letting parents know that they are not alone in this awful battle.

Director

Violeta Bozinovski

Located: Victoria
Day job: IT Program Manager

History with Eating Disorders

I have a 16 year old daughter with Anorexia Nervosa. She is a fraternal twin. She was diagnosed ‘by accident’ at age 14 after having desperately tried to get help for her drastic weight loss and resistance to eating. We joined the Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) program for treating eating disorders and were part of the FBT trials. Although we were FBT ‘stars’, which meant our daughter was quite compliant and gained weight quickly, she has since had relapses and has continued with outpatient treatment. Anorexia has impacted the whole family, our other children, our lifestyle and activities. It has isolated us from the world we knew before our daughter became ill.

Eating disorder treatment is the toughest thing I, and my family, have had to endure. During the FBT trials treatment at the RCH we were fortunate enough to be part of a 6 week parent support group program where we met people in the same situation as us, who felt guilt, terror and fear just as we did. The ability to understand, vent, cry, listen, support and care for each other over the 6 weeks forged a strong bond between us. We were all distraught when the 6 weeks were over and were left isolated again.

Since the time my daughter has been weight restored I have undertaken the following activities:

  • Involved as a parent/carer member of the CEED Early Intervention project which developed the Feed Your Instinct online tool for carers (feedyourinstinct.com.au)
  • Along with Christine Naismith, run a local monthly parent/carer support group

Why part of Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA)

Whilst meeting with other parents/carers and trying to navigate eating disorder treatment outside of the hospital it became evident that there is a severe lack of family support. There is no respite, no home visits, no case mangers. I do not want one more family to go through what we, and others, have gone through to get diagnosis, quality treatment and support for their loved ones. I want to ensure eating disorders are no longer a mystery in our society and that families feel connected, supported and empowered to know how to identify and best treat these horrific illnesses.

Director and Secretary

Tim Lethbridge

Located: Western Australia
Day job: Lawyer

History with Eating Disorders

My wife (now 40) has battled anorexia since her teens.  In the 13 years we have been together, she has tried a variety of treatments, some which have involved me and some which have not, including inpatient admissions and outpatient programs, with varying degrees of success.  With the help of a very supportive clinical team, she has turned a corner in the last few years and has managed to maintain a healthy weight, although it remains a daily struggle.

Why part of Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA)

The role of carer for a person with an eating disorder can be a confusing and frustrating one, trying to grapple with a seemingly inexplicable condition that is personal to the sufferer yet directly affects everyone around them.  To the extent that there is help available for carers, it is mostly produced by and for parents of children with eating disorders, where the dynamic of the relationship is considerably different to that of other relationships.  I am keen to bring a different perspective to EDFA, to ensure that partners, siblings and friends of sufferers also have relevant information and support.

Garry Towers Director

Located: Victoria
Day Job: Risk/Audit Consultant and Marriage Celebrant

History with Eating Disorders

In 2013 my 13 year old daughter was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa.  She had just started secondary school and the illness seemed to take hold very quickly although she has said she started hearing “the voice” some months before.  My wife and I noticed a significant change in both her behaviour and personality and whilst an initial GP assessment said she was “fine”, we knew something was terribly wrong.   Whilst researching treatment options my wife found a website for the Oak House Eating Disorder Clinic in Melbourne however unfortunately by then, the Oak House had closed.  We contacted a FBT therapist who had previously worked at Oak House and began weekly family sessions and refeeding.

The refeeding process really showed us the strength of the illness and how entrenched it had become.  Forcing our daughter to eat during that period was the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do. My wife and I are thankful we learned early on the skills required to refeed her as we’ve drawn upon those skills many many times over this journey.  We realised weight restoration wouldn’t completely solve it but also knew she’d have little hope without achieving it.

The ED has been relentless and we’ve had many ups and downs over the past 7 years.  She successfully completed Year 12 and started university then her health declined again towards the end of 2017.  Given she was 19, that opened up the option of residential treatment that wasn’t possible in the earlier years of her illness.  She courageously took the step to attend her first inpatient program staying at Geelong Clinic for 6 weeks.  She desperately wants to be well and enjoy all the things life has to offer and the intense support at Geelong seemed to renew her strength to keep fighting. She still sees her therapist each week.

Why part of Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA)

We realised very quickly that caring for someone with an eating disorder is incredibly difficult and isolating and requires 24/7 commitment.  Daily life as you know it turns on its head and there is very little support available.  Unlike other illnesses it’s extremely difficult to engage others to help administer the medicine (food) given the resistance is so strong and the feeding process is so incredibly distressing for everyone involved.  The impacts of the eating disorder are more complex than we could have imagined and it’s so difficult to know what the next twist will be.  Reflecting on my daughter’s illness and everything we’ve been through I want to contribute to changing the experience for other families.  Accurate information about what eating disorders really look like is lacking in society and support and treatment is severely underrepresented within the health system.  This makes the role of families and  carers and the likelihood of recovery much tougher than it should be.  Through EDFA I see the opportunity to make a positive difference for families and carers by helping to minimise some of the challenges and enabling a smoother path to recovery.

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