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Studio portrait photograph of Helen Milroy.

Doctor and mental health expert
Western Australia | 2021 Australian of the Year

Professor Helen Milroy is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia and was Australia's first Indigenous doctor. She is now a highly regarded expert in child and adolescent psychiatry.

For more than 25 years, Helen has pioneered research, education and training in child mental health, recovery from grief and trauma, and Aboriginal mental health. She is also interested in the application of Indigenous knowledge and cultural models of care, as well as developing and supporting Indigenous medical workers.

Helen was a commissioner on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and on the National Mental Health Commission. She is the AFL’s first Indigenous commissioner and has written and illustrated several children’s books.

Necklace and The Dance of Life

Helen Milroy is a doctor and an artist. Her grandmother Daisy, a carer and a healer, inspired Helen to pursue a career in medicine and combine her cultural knowledge with her specialist training in Western medicine.

This painting by Helen presents a multi-dimensional model of health and wellbeing from an Aboriginal perspective. Her grandmother is represented by the crow on the necklace.

Composite image of a necklace on the left which features a long metal chain and a bird pendant with a small circular pattern. The painting on the right, features colourful imagery including the sun, the moon, clouds and stars, and a star-shaped figure in the centre.

Necklace and The Dance of Life from Helen Milroy

Past and future

From the Aboriginal perspective, carrying the past with you into the future, is as it should be. We are nothing if not for those who have been before us, and the children of the future will look back and reflect on us today ... When all the dimensions are in balance within the universe, we can … truly dance through life.

Working with children

When you work with children, you go on a journey with them. When you see a child recover, smile again, get their sparkle back, sing you a song – there’s no greater reward.

Indigenous healing

We have some amazing healing practices in Indigenous society that don’t get recognised … some very good, well thought out and expert ways of providing healing for children, adults and older people.

This exhibition was developed by the National Museum of Australia in collaboration with the National Australia Day Council. Portrait images supplied by the National Australia Day Council.

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