Building a research network: La Trobe's Violence Against Women research Network - LAVAWN (Ingrid Wilson)

Image sourced from Pixabay
We all know that an important part of being a researcher is about connecting with others in our field. 

We often do this through attending conferences, going on study trips and communicating through social media.

Another way is to join a research network.

Or you can do what I did: build one yourself.

In the beginning

I started my PhD with La Trobe University in 2012 at the Judith Lumley Centre. My topic was alcohol-related domestic violence and I was supervised by Professor Angela Taft, a leading public health researcher in the area of violence against women. The issue of violence against women is a public health and human rights issue affecting the health and well-being of women across the globe.

My motivation for starting the research network was both personal and strategic. I was keen to connect with other researchers within La Trobe University, particularly other PhD students, and to learn from them and build a sense of community.

At this time, the issue of domestic and family violence was gaining increasing media and policy attention, especially with the commitment by the Victorian Government to hold the first ever Royal Commission into the Prevention of Family Violence. Hence, I was also aware that many universities in Australia were positioning themselves in gender-based violence research.

As La Trobe University has world-class expertise in the violence against women research field, I felt it was important that the university’s contribution was visible and our unique expertise was promoted in light of potential opportunities arising from the Royal Commission. 

About La Trobe's Violence Against Women research Network (LAVAWN)

The goal of LAVAWN is to draw together the breadth of expertise across La Trobe University working on these important issues.

The network is auspiced by the Judith Lumley Centre under the direction of Professor Angela Taft and coordinated by myself, with support from Jess Ison (HuSS).

The aims of LAVAWN are to:

  • Strengthen and grow La Trobe’s internal and external collaboration and partnerships on violence against women research.
  • Foster innovation in violence against women research, evaluation and knowledge translation. 
  • Build capacity of our student and early career researchers through support and mentorship. 

Members of the network include researchers and higher degree students across the university from different schools and disciplines including Law, Sociology, Rural Health, Public Health, Planning, Sexual Health, Social Work.

With some Building Healthy Communities RFA funding to support the coordination of the network, we have held a number of events to bring the network together over the years.

We've had success in raising the profile of La Trobe within the field: members of the network worked together to produce a submission to the Royal Commission; several members provided expert testimony to the Commission hearings. LAVAWN is also connected into other networks such as the Family Violence Policy Advocacy Network aimed at keeping abreast of family violence reforms across the State.

A spin off group was formed - Rural LAVAWN – comprising La Trobe University staff based at rural campuses. This group of early career researchers (led by Dr Leesa Hooker from the La Trobe Rural Health School) received funding from the Transforming Human Societies RFA to research violence against young women in the Bendigo area.

Refreshing the network

Building a research network is relatively easy - maintaining the energy and momentum of a network is challenging, especially with limited resources.

The relocation of the Judith Lumley Centre to the Bundoora campus at the end of 2017 has presented an opportunity to breathe new life into the network, and connect more easily with students and researchers across the campus.

We are holding monthly lunchtime meetings of the network on the first Thursdays of the month, with the first event to be held on Thursday 1 March 2018, 12.30-1.30pm in the LIMS1 building (Room 501 [Level 5]). 

Each monthly meeting will include snapshots of current research activity across the university, discussion of funding and collaboration opportunities, and a chance for members to connect with others with shared research interests.

The network now has its own web pages on the La Trobe website and we encourage active researchers and PhD students working in the field to have details of their projects, publications and research added to the site: We'll be adding links to network members and their specific research interests so it's a really good opportunity to promote the important work of La Trobe researchers and higher degree students.

Building a network takes energy, but is very rewarding as a way of being part of something bigger than your own research projects.

We look forward to seeing you and hearing about your work!

If you'd like to join the network and/or RSVP for our first network meeting, please email Jess Ison (


Ingrid Wilson’s career trajectory is proof that life comes full circle. 

Her interest in gender-based violence was sparked during her Criminology degree when she completed her Honours thesis on the issue of domestic violence and the legal system. She then spent a decade or so distracted with privacy law policy and human rights, which took her to Sydney and the UK. 

On her return to Australia in 2007, Ingrid worked in policy reform on alcohol working in the Victorian State Government and health policy advocacy in the not-for-profit sector. It was then she noticed a gap in policy on alcohol-related domestic violence that started her on the PhD journey at La Trobe University, which she completed in 2017. Her doctoral work was a grounded theory study of women’s experience of alcohol-related intimate partner violence. 

Ingrid is continuing this work as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Judith Lumley Centre researching the role of alcohol in family and intimate partner violence. In her spare time, she channels her feminist energy into her voluntary role as chair of the board of a not-for-profit women’s organisation – WIRE, Women’s Information. She tweets from @ingridmwilson.