Anthea Lemphers, Class of 1990

Class of 1990 alumni Anthea Lemphers has spent twenty-five years studying the complexities of human behaviour in her role as a forensic psychologist working in the criminal justice system.

Class of 1990 alumni Anthea Lemphers has spent twenty-five years studying the complexities of human behaviour, much of which still surprises her.

Completing a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology from Monash University, Anthea’s career started at Thomas Embling Hospital in Fairfield, a secure forensic mental health hospital for patients from the criminal justice system.

“The majority of my early career was spent working on the male acute psychiatric units, a challenging but rewarding environment where the focus of my work was on the assessment, treatment and management of forensic patients.

“Even after 25 years in the field, there is still so much to learn and so many things that surprise me about human behaviour. I often wonder about how a career in forensic mental health influences a person’s view of the world. How could it not?” Anthea said.

After ten years Anthea left Thomas Embling, accepting a management role within Forensicare’s community operations area where she oversaw the assessment and treatment of high-risk individuals who had committed or were at a risk of committing offences.

“Looking back on my career to date, I have treated hundreds of individuals in the justice system, had opportunities to testify in court as an expert witness, regularly written court ordered reports and given numerous presentations at both national and international conferences. The career path I chose is one where you are sometimes confronted by offences that are disturbing and as a clinical and forensic psychologist, I have needed to find a way to work with individuals, despite what I may personally think about what they have done.

“What has often helped is trying to separate the individual from their behaviour and using professional supervision to discuss cases. Some of the patients I have treated over the years have no prior offending history. For these patients, it was their mental illness most often schizophrenia that caused them to commit a horrific offence, sometimes involving the murder of a loved one,” she said.

With at least 1 in 5 people in the community experiencing some kind of mental illness, the vast majority don’t offend, although it can be a significant risk factor.

“Individuals with a severe mental illness are three times more likely to engage in offending and four times as likely to commit violent offences compared to other Victorians. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for some people to have the first opportunity to access mental health assessment and services when they enter the justice system. I am proud that I have had the opportunity to assist some of the most complex and disadvantaged individuals in our society,” she said.

Anthea’s career has continued to flourish, her next role as Director of Psychological Services where she led, supported and grew a team of 20 psychologists to 70 psychologists before transitioning to her current role of Executive Director Community Operations.

“Every day our team works with some of the most complex and disadvantaged individuals in society who may have a mental illness and who are at risk of offending or have already offended. Helping people recover, to build meaningful lives, by instilling hope and reducing reoffending is what success looks like,” she said.

Anthea looks back on her time at Luther College with fond memories, so much so that when daughter Zara was a toddler, she submitted her application for Year 7 2023. A year that has come around all too quickly according to Anthea.

“I had already decided prior to having children that they would go to Luther. There was no question in my mind about which school she would go to. I wanted my daughter to have an opportunity to learn in an environment that focused not just on academic excellence but also considered students’ emotional and mental well-being and one that helped guide her to find her direction and purpose.

“Her first day brought back many memories for me of my time at Luther,” she smiled.

“When I look back, I think about the supportive environment I had, fostered by the teachers who seemed to truly care about the students and the friendships I made during my time there. I also loved participating in musicals, the choir, interschool basketball and the debating team”, Anthea said.

As Anthea reflects on her time at Luther and her outstanding career, including the opportunities (and challenges) its afforded her, it’s her daughter Zara that drives her each and every day.

“I am truly blessed to have such a courageous, funny, compassionate and kind young woman sitting next to me on the couch each night as we share stories from our day. She inspires me to be a better role model for her and a better person in every aspect of my life,” Anthea said.