My name is Belle and I am a young Nyungar woman. My family descends from Bibulmun people from the South West of Western Australia, and my grandmother also has connections in Wongi country in the Goldfields.
Throughout my school years it never occurred to me that I wanted to be a psychologist, however I always knew that I wanted to “help people”. Following a death of a friend from suicide, I wanted to learn more about mental illness and decided to move to Perth to study psychology. While studying my undergraduate degree I was fortunate to work part time for Dr Tracy Westerman at Indigenous Psychological Services under the National Indigenous Cadetship Program. It was during this time that I became interested in trauma and social and emotional wellbeing. I particularly wanted to learn more about the impact of generations of trauma on Aboriginal communities and the ways in which Aboriginal people cope with trauma. It therefore made sense to continue to post graduate studies to begin acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary to work with people with trauma.
I feel extremely lucky to be awarded the first ever Bendi Lango scholarship because of what it represents – the APS is acknowledging the importance of supporting Indigenous students and the need for there to be more Indigenous psychologists working in the community. The financial support of the APS has been a lifeline for me while studying my Masters. It means that I am able to devote my time to full-time study, rather than working part-time to support myself. Without this scholarship I am unsure whether I would have been able to remain in the course.
My experience in the Masters program at Curtin University has been really positive. I have really enjoyed developing my clinical skills and knowledge, however it has been difficult at times. The majority of the course content does not include cultural perspectives on mental health and therapy, therefore certain approaches or skills being taught are not always appropriate when working with Indigenous people. On the positive side, because of the obvious absence of cultural perspectives in the curriculum, I have found that other students are extremely forthcoming and appreciative in learning more about Indigenous culture. It is encouraging to know that new psychologists are recognising the importance of learning culturally appropriate ways of working with Indigenous people and are wanting to learn these skills in the Masters program.