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Tomorrow’s Indigenous psychologists awarded inaugural scholarships

Media release

Five outstanding Indigenous students are the inaugural recipients of the Dr Tracy Westerman Aboriginal Psychology Scholarship, with its Patron – the Honourable Kim Beazley AC, Governor of Western Australia – officially launching the prestigious program.

At the official launch held at Government House last night, the students were awarded the scholarship named in honour of Dr Westerman, a Curtin graduate, proud Njamal woman from the Pilbara region, leading psychologist and Western Australia’s Australian of the Year for 2018.

The inaugural scholarship recipients – Taylah Thompson-Patfield, aged 24 from Midland, Cheyenne Conway, aged 19 from Crawley, Nikki McKenzie, aged 32 from Derby, Yasmin Hunter, aged 18 from Trigg, and Saira (Maheen) Rind, aged 19 from Noranda – are studying a Bachelor of Psychology at Curtin.

The Governor said he felt honoured to be the Patron and officially launch the Dr Tracy Westerman Aboriginal Psychology Scholarship Program.

“When I first met Dr Tracy Westerman I knew that I wanted to help her achieve her vision to reduce the alarming suicide rates in our rural and remote Indigenous communities, where children as young as 10 years of age are ending their own lives,” Mr Beazley said.

“This program will create the cadre of competent Indigenous professionals who will turn this around.”

Dr Westerman, the Managing Director of Indigenous Psychological Services, personally donated $50,000 over five years to launch the new scholarship program, which has attracted additional donations from others who share Dr Westerman’s vision to reduce suicide rates in Indigenous communities.

“These students represent the future of our communities and it is a privilege to be able to support their dreams to improve the mental health and wellbeing of Indigenous people,” Dr Westerman said.

“Across Australia, Indigenous suicides occur at double the rate of non-Indigenous suicides, and, alarmingly, 40 per cent of child deaths in Indigenous communities are by suicide. Through this program, we are supporting Aboriginal students with rural and remote connections to become psychologists, skilled in Indigenous-specific mental health, suicide prevention and intervention programs.”

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry said the scholarship program had the power to transform lives through education in just one generation.

“The Dr Tracy Westerman Aboriginal Scholarship Program is encouraging more students to follow in Tracy’s inspirational footsteps to fulfil their potential and help build stronger futures for Indigenous communities,” Professor Terry said.

“Curtin is extremely proud to partner in this program with such an exceptional group of students as inaugural recipients of the new scholarship and we look forward to seeing them play their role in making tomorrow better for people in the communities in which they will work.”

The Dr Tracy Westerman Aboriginal Psychology Scholarship Program supports Aboriginal students to study psychology at Curtin University in undergraduate or postgraduate courses.

Applicants are required to meet eligibility criteria, including connections to and a desire to continue their work in rural and remote communities on completion of their studies.

The scholarship provides eligible students with $10,000 to help with their study, living and transport costs, providing vital financial assistance at any stage of their undergraduate or postgraduate degree.

For more information about the Dr Tracy Westerman Aboriginal Psychology Scholarship Program, visit here.