Social work service models for women in forensic mental health systems

Investigator: Rebecca Diss

Supervisors: Marty Grace, Leila Rahimi, Fiona Jessep

Rational & Aims:

  • Female prisoners within the State of Victoria serve their sentences in women-only prisons, whereas women forensic patients are committed to a mixed gender facility. Women in forensic mental health services are a minority group within a service designed around the requirements of men (Dominelli 2002)
  • Women accounted for 30% of the total admissions to Thomas Embling hospital over the 2014-2015 period (Victorian institute for forensic mental health 2015). Very little research has been conducted into the services for female patients in forensic mental health systems, resulting in a significantly limited evidence base to inform social work practice.
  • The aim of the proposed research is to explore staff experiences of current support services for female forensic patients within a forensic mental health facility, to gain a better understanding of how these services support the female patient’s recovery journey, and to generate ideas for the development of women-specific services within forensic mental health systems.


  • The study will utilise an online survey and semi-structured interviews with current staff members that work with female forensic patients.
  • Interviews with current staff will provide an in-depth and rich understanding of their perceptions and experiences of the services and needs of female forensic patients at Thomas Embling Hospital.
  • The student researcher will seek participants (approximately 15) for online surveys that work on the following units- Daintree, Barossa and Jardine, as these units accommodate women forensic patients.