Deirdre Gartland is a Senior Researcher in the Intergenerational Health Group at Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI). 

Tell us a little bit about your journey into research?

I completed a science degree at the University of Melbourne, with an honors year in psychology. I then worked as a research assistant while I tried to work out what I wanted to do with my life. 

Being a curious person, I just loved the research process, so much so that I haven't stopped working in research ever since. 

I have worked at MCRI since 2008. In one form or another, my role and passion centers around data – collecting data, managing data, and working with data to find the stories within. I also enjoy sharing the findings in different contexts and to different audiences, including families and health professionals in the community.

What research are you undertaking here at the MCRI?

I co-lead our groups' research program called Strengthening Families, with a focus on men, women and children's mental and physical health, particularly in populations at higher risk of adverse life experiences. 

We seek to better understand and promote resilience, recovery and effective interventions to improve child and family outcomes in the context of social adversity or trauma. For example, some of my research has focused on intimate partner violence – which we found to be as common as depression in the postpartum period and beyond – and the mental and physical health impacts for mothers and their children, and the factors that support resilient outcomes. We hope to improve the identification, recognition and response from health professionals and the community for families experiencing violence.

I also recently finished co-developing, with Aboriginal and refugee background communities, a child resilience measure to explore and describe what factors support resilience in children, including children from diverse contexts and backgrounds. 

The Intergenerational Health research group is strongly committed to working collaboratively with communities to create and conduct research that will make a positive difference for individuals, families and communities.

What excites you most about working in this field?

I am fascinated by how many individuals and families deal with the challenging and sometimes awful things that happen, and not only survive, but grow in the process, for example in personal understanding, life skills or in their motivation to help others in similar situations.

I am particularly passionate about helping families who are experiencing social adversities such as poverty, discrimination or violence. Research can build the evidence needed to better understand what support is needed, how to improve existing supports and families access to support. Building resilience in children and families can improve outcomes for children across their life.

Tell us a little bit about yourself outside of MCRI?

Outside my work at MCRI, I am lucky mum to four amazing children aged between 10 and 18 years, a dog, and a cat. I love to travel, garden and read, and have recently taken up crochet with one of my 16 year old daughters – a totally unexpected but mindful and addictive response to the pandemic lockdown. We have just completed a set of three figures from My Neighbour Totoro (for those who also enjoy Studio Ghibli films).