What is the Parent-Infant Research Institute (PIRI)?
PIRI is dedicated to improving the well-being of parents and infants.
The Parent-Infant Research Institute (PIRI) was the first independent Australian research institute established to tackle the burden of perinatal mental illness. Our core team of talented researchers is internationally recognised and involved in leading perinatal mental health research across Australia and the world. Most of our researchers are also clinicians at Austin Health, Melbourne, where the Institute is based, and we have close ties with the University of Melbourne. Our aim is to ensure that our research discoveries and evidence-based treatment programs are translated into practical supports and better outcomes for parents and infants.
The year 2022 is PIRI’s 21st anniversary. Since 2001, our founder, Professor Jeannette Milgrom AM, has led the growth of our Institute to be one of the foremost providers of new knowledge and perinatal mental health supports in the country. Supported by over 90 research grants (including large category 1 grants), PIRI’s team has developed, tested and rolled out more than 10 evidence-based programs over the last two decades. Today PIRI is Australia’s largest provider of online supports for perinatal mental health difficulties.
We remain absolutely committed to working with families and health professionals to ensure better outcomes and a bright future for all Australian mothers, fathers and babies.
PIRI consists of an Board and a dedicated group of clinical, academic and research staff whose aim is to conduct research and provide world-class services to women and their families, health professionals and other researchers in the area of parent and infant mental health.PIRI’s work is conducted under two arms, consisting of (1) a research arm which provides a ‘hothouse’ of parent-infant researchers and informs and underpins all PIRI activities, and (2) a clinical unit, the Infant Clinic, which provides model world-class treatments, and provides support to women and their families, health professionals and other agencies in the area of parent-infant mental health. PIRI also conducts public health initiatives and professional development programs.
Clinical and Research Expertise
PIRI is staffed by clinicians and research staff with expertise in infant, child and adult psychology, research methodology, randomised trials and dance therapy. PIRI is renowned for its innovative clinic programs. Staff have published extensively in the scientific literature in the areas of child development, mother-infant interaction and treatment of antenatal and postnatal depression and prematurity.Profiles of the PIRI Research and Infant Clinic staff can be viewed here.
Supporting Health Professionals and Parents
PIRI provides information, training and resources for health professionals, which can be accessed in our Information for Health Professionals section.If you are a parent, friend, or relative looking for support or information, see our For Parents page.
Our areas of specialty include:
- Supporting the mental health of parents in the transition to parenthood
- Antenatal and postnatal depression and anxiety
- Mother-infant relationships
- Infant development
- Mitigating the impacts of premature birth
- Screening and identification of antenatal and postnatal depression
- Developing interventions
- Online treatment programs for perinatal depression and anxiety
- Translating Research to Practice
The development and application of evidence-based, innovative interventions is informed by a specialist team of clinical and academic staff. For an overview of PIRI’s research, click here.
To hear PIRI’s Executive Director, Professor Jeannette Milgrom present an overview of the work of the Parent-Infant Research Institute, click here
Click on PIRI staff for more details.
Click on PIRI Newsletters for our news.
PIRI’s Mission Statement
- To ensure all PIRI activities are informed by the evidence-base and research.
- To create and provide excellent early years services, accessible to all, and supporting suitably trained health professionals.
- To provide a unique contribution to early intervention in Australia in the infant and family health sectors and become the pre-eminent body conducting research into parent-infant difficulties.
PIRI is committed to supporting all parents and their babies (prenatal to 2 years), including those with vulnerabilities, to have the best possible start to life by creating a Centre of Excellence whose activities are designed to improve emotional wellbeing and optimize development. PIRI sees that the roots of this future lie in valuing and protecting every early parent-infant relationship, understanding barriers to optimal infant brain development, improving parent mental health and intervening early.
For PIRI’s full Mission Statement, click here.
PIRI’s core activity is the conduct of basic and applied RESEARCH. In addition, translating knowledge to practice occurs through the development of parent-infant INTERVENTIONS and PUBLIC HEALTH initiatives. Education and TRAINING of professionals (online and face-to-face) is provided through workshops, study days and conferences.
- To build and deepen knowledge and understanding of parent and infant mental health in the perinatal period, parenting and the central importance of parent-infant relationships through a vigorous, innovative and quality program of scientific enquiry.
- To continue to conduct leading international research in the specialist areas of prematurity, ante and postnatal depression and interventions to optimize child development potential and family well-being, from pregnancy until 2 years.
- To continue to roll out research based parenting-infant interventions and work towards a systematic delivery of evaluated treatments in Australia.
- To ensure dissemination and equal and reliable access to high quality early intervention services including provision of a model treatment center.
- To continue to provide public health initiatives to ensure maximum reach of initiatives relevant for universal application and vulnerable populations.
- To provide the highest quality training to suitably trained professionals in order for parents to have access to high quality early intervention services informed by research.
- To raise awareness, promote and disseminate research relating to the importance of parent and infant emotional health to the international and national scientific community and government through publications, journal articles, conference presentations and to the media and the public.
- To advocate for the translation of research knowledge into a concrete National Early Years Policy and influence government policy.
- To promote PIRI’s activities.
In order to achieve our objectives we will:
- Attract talented researchers and clinicians to PIRI, and nurture existing staff.
- Continue to provide a unique team of academics and clinicians (creating a ‘hot-house’ of expertise) with support from Board members and Austin Life Sciences.
- Collaborate with a range of leading researchers, academics and relevant agencies both nationally and internationally to provide the highest quality research and initiatives.
PIRI’s track record
PIRI is an international leader in postnatal depression research and is engaged in active collaboration with groups in Australia, the UK and US. PIRI is Australia’s largest treatment research centre for antenatal and postnatal depression, with a track record of turning research into practice and developing novel parent-infant interventions, training professionals in parent-infant mental health and with expertise in prematurity.
PIRI’s 21-year history of developing interventions for parent-infant difficulties following postnatal depression has resulted in a suite of evidence-based programs.
A suite of evidenced-based programs has been developed through randomized controlled trials for interventions designed to address parental mental health and parent-infant difficulties. Programs include the “Getting Ahead of Postnatal Depression Program”- the only Australian psychological CBT treatment for postnatal depression evaluated in a randomised trial – the program has international recognition (translated into Italian and French). Other programs include “Towards Parenthood” and “The MumMoodBooster” Online Postnatal Depression Treatment Program.
PIRI has also led cutting edge research in prematurity and the effect of parent-sensitivity training ( “Premiestart intervention”) on brain development, with successive funding from NHMRC grants.
PIRI’s extensive publications and journal articles on postnatal depression screening and treatment have attracted international recognition; PIRI co-authored a recent Lancet article on Perinatal Mental Health.
PIRI has developed extensive collaborations.
Involvement with beyondblue since 2001, initially as Victorian Principal Researchers for the beyondblue National Postnatal Depression Program and screening of over 10,000 women in Victoria and Tasmania. PIRI has played a key role in implementation of the Federal Government’s Perinatal Depression Initiative for universal screening of all antenatal and postnatal women for depression and anxiety in Australia. PIRI continues its relationship with beyondblue, has collaborated in the development of an online training for screening of postnatal depression, and of resource development.
PIRI has also had a lead role in screening programs for postnatal depression through an extensive network of over 500 Maternal and Child Health Centres with whom we have collaborated.
PIRI offers training to build capacity in the perinatal workforce to manage antenatal and postnatal depression. This has included provision of extensive training to MCHNs in the Northern Eastern and Hume Regions as part of the DHS PND Initiative link to clinical Services, and a statewide tender with DEECD.
Led by the Parent-Infant Research Institute (PIRI) the Perinatal Depression eConsortium (PDeC) involves partnership with Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA), Monash University, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health and Queensland University of Technology. Evidence-based online resources and apps have been evaluated by PDeC and are available through MumSpace.com.au
The first years of life are critical and when things go wrong we need to intervene early. In these early years, the basic ‘sculpting’ of a child’s brain takes place, a time when infants are completely dependent on their parents and caregivers. There is growing evidence that early experiences influence brain structure and the connections made among brain cells. These connections can affect a child’s immediate and future cognitive, emotional and behavioural development.
Investing in the earliest years to build a brighter future