For over 2 decades Dr Tracy Westerman has dedicated her time and resources in to working tirelessly on reducing the burden on mental ill health and suicide in Aboriginal communities across all of Australia. A proud Nyamal woman from the Pilbara region of Western Australia Dr Tracy Westerman holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Psychology, a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and Doctor of Philosophy (Clinical Psychology). She is now is recognised as a world leader in Aboriginal mental health, cultural competency and suicide prevention achieving national and international recognition for her work. All of this despite coming from a background of disadvantage and one in which she had to undertake most of her tertiary entrance subjects by Distance Education while growing up in a remote Aboriginal community.
Dr Tracy got to experience first hand the difficulties and obstacles that he people faced. That and also after the Fogliani enquiry in to the deaths of 13 young Indigenous people in the east Kimberley town of Kununurra, Dr Westerman knew the urgency and importance of her work and research in to Aboriginal and Torres Strait mental health. Dr Westerman has managed well over 300 individual contracts, appears in numerous government reports citing her innovative work and been invited as an expert witness to a number of Parliamentary Enquires including the recent Royal Commission into Disability, Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with a Disability; the 2016 WA Parliamentary Enquiry into Aboriginal Suicide Prevention, the 2011 NSW Parliamentary Enquiry into the Bowraville Serial Murders, the 2005 NT Parliamentary Enquiry into Substance Misuse in Aboriginal Communities to name a few.
Her combined body of work places her at the forefront of Aboriginal mental health service delivery. Her most notable awards include: • Telstra Women’s Business Awards Winner, Small Business Category (WA), 2020 • Australian of the Year (WA) 2018 • Lifetime Achievement Award, Curtin University, Alumni Awards (2018) • Inducted into WA Women’s Hall of Fame 2018 • 40 under 40 WA Business Awards recognising Adjunct Professor Westerman as one of the best business people in WA under 40 – “Strategic Alliance Award” • The Suicide Prevention Australia Award for Emerging Researcher (2006) • The National Health & Medical Research Council Post Doctoral Fellowship to investigate ADHD in Aboriginal people • The Mark Liveris Award, Curtin University, Health Sciences for best Oral Presentation of PhD • The NAIDOC National Scholar of the Year (2002)
However when speaking with Dr Westerman she will fondly tell you that over her past 21 years of operations she is most proud of the fact that IPS has continued to operate in the absence of funding from government for any of the services. She has self-funded the development of world first unique screening tools, research, intervention programs and training’s. Dr Westerman is also most proud of developing the next generation of Indigenous psychologists by Personally, funding and launching the Dr Tracy Westerman Aboriginal Psychology Scholarship Program (along with Curtin University). This is an Australian first initiative that directly addresses the needs of Indigenous families and communities based upon decades of Inquiries, which cite the lack of access to specialist programs and services in high risk areas. Dr Westerman explains that she started the scholarship as a direct response to this critical need in Indigenous communities which have not been responded to by successive governments.
Listen to this podcast as we celebrate an incredibly powerful yet humble Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health ambassador and champion. Celebrating her and her work for International Women's day 2021 Dr Tracy yarns with SST Host Natasha Ferre