Domestic violence pioneer leaves lasting legacy in Western Sydney

Dr Maria Nittis is leaving Western Sydney LHD after 13 years running the forensic medical unit.

For the past 13 years Dr Maria Nittis has helped hundreds of families experiencing the scourge of domestic violence.

The forensic medical unit’s department head has been instrumental in changing the way domestic violence victims and their families are helped to regain their lives.

At the end of the month, Maria will leave Western Sydney to take up a senior clinical forensic medicine role at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM) in Melbourne and with the Monash University Department of Forensic Medicine.

“I’m looking forward to this new challenge in Melbourne,” Maria said.

“It will include managing a team of forensic medical officers and nurses who assess sexual assault and domestic violence victims, interview police detainees, give expert opinions in court and perform forensic toxicology.

“This was a difficult decision, not only because I’m saying goodbye to my colleagues in Western Sydney but I’m also leaving my children, sisters and elderly father behind.”

Maria holds the camera used to document injuries, which can be used as evidence in court.

Maria paid tribute to one of those colleagues heavily involved in the unit’s foundation.

“The Western Sydney Forensic Medical Unit wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Westmead Hospital’s Dr Ros Crampton,” Maria said.

“She recognised the need for this service in Western Sydney and was central to its establishment.”

The unit was the first of its kind to provide a state-wide service where injuries sustained by domestic violence victims are documented and can legally be used in court.

“The forensic medical unit is recognised both nationally and internationally because of a group of dedicated and passionate doctors and nurses,” she said.

“They have embraced change and have consistently provided better and extended services for the most disadvantaged people in our community.”

Maria said the clinic will be in good hands with Dr Fernando Pisani, who started with the team as a registrar.

Maria and her team have also expanded the paediatric sexual assessment service at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead to Nepean Hospital in Penrith.

They meet regularly with NSW Police crime managers to plan, train and share ideas on better managing domestic violence situations.

“I congratulate the new department head, Dr Fernando Pisani, who started with us as a registrar and is now well placed to take over and set new directions for the unit’s future,” Maria said.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call the Integrated Violence Prevention & Response Services on 9881 8787 for free support.

If you suspect someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, learn how to help here.

In an emergency always call triple zero (000).