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Studio portrait photograph of Tracy Westerman.

2018 Australian of the Year | Western Australia

Psychologist Dr Tracy Westerman is a trailblazer in the field of Aboriginal mental health, developing a series of psychological tests to identify Aboriginal people at risk of suicide and mental illness.

Tracy has trained more than 22,000 clinicians and professionals in culturally appropriate psychological approaches, and her methods have been adopted internationally.

My mother’s certificate

My mother, Mavis Westerman, was granted this certificate by attending Port Hedland court in 1964. It was a requirement of Aboriginal people under the Western Australian Natives (Citizenship Rights) Act of 1944. To be eligible you had to prove you had severed ties with Aboriginal family, were free of disease, could speak English and were 'civilized' in your behaviour. The government actively sought to assimilate Aboriginal people into white culture.

Aiming high

Working in Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention I have seen the impacts of a self-fulfilling prophecy on my people. My mother was not a citizen of her own country, classified as flora and fauna, excluded from education. In one generation her child has completed a PhD in psychology. Anything is possible.

Observing protocols

We need to ensure that people working with Indigenous communities on issues of mental ill health go through the appropriate protocols, respect the role culture and traditional healing play. It is important that the risk factors are identified and that therapies and counselling skills are adapted to specific cultures.

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