The second (2020) round announcement of recipients for Dr Tracy Westerman’s Aboriginal Psychology Scholarship Program has been postponed, so we thought we’d take the chance to get an update on the winners of 2019. 

The Scholarship Program was launched one year prior at Government House and supported Aboriginal students studying psychology at Curtin University in undergraduate and postgraduate courses. The inaugural 2019 Scholarships were awarded to five Indigenous students studying a Bachelor of Psychology. 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. As of semester 2, the scholarship program is housed under the Westerman Jilya Institute for Indigenous Mental Health, enabling scholarships to go national. Applications for 2020 have now closed.

In the spirit of giving back to their own communities, students receiving scholarships are those who have connections to and a desire to continue their work in rural and remote communities on completion of their studies. In turn, these students are passionate about closing the gap and improving the lives of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, particularly in the sphere of mental health.

The founder of the program, Dr Westerman is herself a Curtin graduate and Managing Director of Indigenous Psychological Services. She is also a proud Njamal woman from the Pilbara region, Western Australia’s Australian of the Year in 2018 and recent winner of the WA 2020 Telstra Small Business Award.

Originally scheduled for May 2020, the Scholarship announcements have been pushed back to later in 2020. Check back on Scoop in the coming weeks for updates.

The Aim 

Dr Westerman’s vision is to reduce the alarming suicide rates in rural and remote Indigenous communities, where children as young as 10 years of age are ending their own lives.

“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.”

Dr Westerman 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.

Meeting the Students

The inaugural scholarship recipients included: 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.

More details about the background, aspirations and progress of each student can be found here.

The Governor, Dr Tracy Westerman and the 2019 Scholarship Recipients

Supporting the program

Dr Westerman told the Governor, a proud patron and passionate supporter, that while still receiving strong support from the program’s sponsors and partners, COVID-19 has made new fundraising efforts difficult. More details on the program and how to provide support can be found here.

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