Student scholarship reflections for 2018

Student scholarship reflections for 2018

Each year ACEN awards eight $1500 scholarships to provide financial support for students undertaking a WIL placement in a regional or remote area of Australia as part of their 2017/2018 university studies. Upon completion of the placement recipients are required to provide a reflection of the WIL experience which should

  • Identify the personal growth and skill development as a result of the WIL placement
  • How the ACEN Scholarship supported the recipient’s career aspirations
  • Evidence of the ability to think critically and question biases and assumptions

We are adding the reflections for 2018.

NT Child Protection Placement

outback road
For an amazing three months during the placement, I worked at one of the women’s shelters in a remote community that is about 200km from XXX. I had opportunities to travel to the community throughout the week, and oversight the safe house with two Indigenous ladies. …

More on Leap before you look - the NT Child Protection Placement

Sometimes life will take you to a place you have never imagined before. Sometimes, it is important to leap and see what you can find and feel, which is just as important as thinking and analysing before taking action. Examining, predicting and theorizing about situations are of critical importance, but also practice could shape how you think, theorize and take action. farm buildings at duskMy placement started like the title above. When I decided to apply for the placement, I had been studying social work almost two years in Australia with no experience in working with Indigenous people. Despite knowing the overwhelming situation of Indigenous people and knowing that they are one of the people who need social work the most, all I had was so-called ‘book knowledge’, which I heard from the media and read from books and articles. That being said, I was unsure about how I could work with Indigenous people and communities. I also cannot deny that I had a certain amount of fear and anxiety in going out of my comfort zone and jumping into a new environment. However, I at least wanted to seize the opportunity to immense myself in living, working and learning how to engage with Indigenous people from the ground up, and hopefully make a small contribution to ‘closing the gap’. For an amazing three months during the placement, I worked at one of the women’s shelters in a remote community that is about 200km from XXX. I had opportunities to travel to the community throughout the week, and oversight the safe house with two Indigenous ladies. In the community, poverty, drug and alcohol issues, and family and domestic violence have been chronic and prevalent. There were two major tasks involved my role: one was crisis intervention, supporting clients and their children who evacuated from the incident of family and domestic violence. The other was to facilitate the process of community development, working with other local stakeholders and sharing information as a part of preventative and early intervention approach.

I also spent considerable time in reflecting on what ‘empowerment’ or ‘community development’ mean, which are often times overused terms in our profession. The activities I engaged in were never value-free …

Going ‘out bush’ provided me with challenges as well as great learning opportunities. It was very easy to feel desperate over the lack of resources and remoteness: there was little access to the internet and phone coverage. Sometimes my day started by fixing fax machines, air conditioners, TV and stuck water in the toilet. I did not have access to cars while I was in the community, and I also needed to conduct clients’ full assessment and consultation relying mostly on phone calls. Moreover, there were only minimal services in the community, and we were required to tackle logistical issues to support clients being transitioned to the largest town which is a few hundred kilometres away. Professionally, this meant that I had an opportunity to reflect on and utilize my existing skills and knowledge as much as possible. Learning to be comfortable with wearing different hats at the same time or switching skills simultaneously certainly enhanced my flexibility as a social worker. In addition, it could be the case that things may not go well even if you are flexible and adaptable. Resilience, the capacity to bounce back after setbacks or struggles with limited options, was of critical importance for working in a remote area. Furthermore, engaging with multiple people at different levels in the community allowed me to improve my negotiation and communication skills. Although the closeness and remoteness of a small community may work negatively at times, I also realized that sharing the same locality, close networks, and flexibility are the strengths of a small community. For example, there were many times when local people offered me their great local and cultural knowledge, helped in transport and inspired ideas for community development. I learned relationship building is the heart of community work. Similarly, I learned from my Indigenous colleagues about their strong connection to Country, cultural identity and family and kinship ties. I also spent considerable time in reflecting on what ‘empowerment’ or ‘community development’ mean, which are often times overused terms in our profession. The activities I engaged in were never value-free, and it was critical to examine whose values and needs are reflected in community work, and what are the needs of the community. What I regard as ‘good’ for the community may not be accepted in the same way by people in the community. It was great to dedicate to and feel passionate about your work and wish to be a part of the community. However, it was important not to be blind-sided, that it is their community and land. I learned that instead of imposing my ideas of how to work and how to resolve the problems on local people, it is important to seek alternative ways of doing things with consultation and creativity, and let the local people take the lead. Going out bush certainly set personal challenges too. Working in remote communities was physically and mentally challenging. Moreover, the environment that I have been familiar with was vastly different from where I stayed during the placement. I was born and raised in one of the largest and busiest cities in the world, where there is convenience, efficiency and accessibility at hand. However, respecting the pace of people working in the community and accepting that I am just a tiny bit of the vastness of nature in the bush allowed me to be more humble, resilient and open-minded towards learning. Furthermore, my professional and personal relationship with the Indigenous ladies at the safe house taught me great lessons about being proud of my own culture and identity as well as about the significance of being ‘different but equal’. In retrospect, as a result of leaping, there were many mistakes or could-have-done-better experiences throughout the placement. I learned that it is important to pick up the lessons learned and try again with an attitude of curiosity and fun, and to try again if that also won’t work out. Ask questions and offer advice from people and learn again. In essence, facing the wilderness in the bush, I noticed that it is vital to be content with miniscule achievements of change. My journey as a social worker has just begun. Looking at a broader perspective, social issues including housing shortages, over-crowded housing, unemployment, lack of education and welfare dependency are imminent and overwhelming, which has to be worked on together with all children’s well-being and safety. Past history of colonization and policy implementations are still ongoing issues, impacting on current situations and practices. From community development perspective, implementing community-led approach requires more involvement and initiative of the people in the communities. Despite these challenges, after having great experiences during the placement, I am keener than ever to go back to the Northern Territory and to dedicate myself as a social work practitioner to work alongside the first Australians and their communities, and to contribute to social change albeit incrementally. outback roadNothing the above happened in a vacuum – I was extremely fortunate to receive financial support from the ACEN Scholarship. Financial support from the ACEN Scholarship helped me reduce the pressure of undertaking a placement in a remote area. It was also great that ACEN is one of the few organizations that offers remote placement scholarships to a wide range of degrees for both domestic and international students. As an international student, this was very helpful as financial capacity has been the biggest challenge to applying for remote placement. With great support provided from ACEN Scholarship, I could complete my placement without worrying about my budget. Needless to say, I had been well-supported by people around me. I thank my supervisor who mentored, guided and encouraged me throughout the placement, and gave me a lot of opportunities to travel to remote communities for a ‘bush work’. As a placement student, I feel grateful to have such a rare opportunity which broadened my capacity and potential as a practitioner. I had experiences that I probably could not easily have anywhere in Australia, and I feel this even stronger after returning back to my life in Melbourne. I am equally thankful to my Indigenous colleagues at the safe house, who showed me their love and pride towards their community and gave me a warm welcome. I will forever embrace a skin name that was given to me. I was also lucky to have five wonderful peer students who worked and lived together and know most of the twists and turns during my placement. Finally, I would also thank for my family who always give me smiles and positivity regardless of the distance between us, and have given me support and love.

Medical placement in Katherine NT

Being able to experience Aboriginal culture as an Australian is a special thing. During my time in Katherine I have not only spent time on the paediatric ward with Aboriginal children and their families, but also explored Katherine’s surrounds with the assistance of the ACEN scholarship.

In the ward setting I saw diagnoses that I had only learnt about in text books, but never seen in reality.

More on Medical placement in Katherine

Weaving at KatherineBeing able to experience Aboriginal culture as an Australian is a special thing. During my time in Katherine I have not only spent time on the paediatric ward with Aboriginal children and their families, but also explored Katherine’s surrounds with the assistance of the ACEN scholarship.

In the ward setting I saw diagnoses that I had only learnt about in text books, but never seen in reality. They are often considered diagnoses of developing countries rather than that of Australia. Many of these diseases could be prevented by simple sanitation, health literacy and appropriate housing. Education was key on discharge with these families to improve overall health knowledge and prevent simple infections in the future. I certainly improved my communication skills aiming to get the message across often significant language barriers. Obviously housing was not a problem that I could solve independently, but it was great to see the doctors focus on advocating for patients to avoid the same situations from recurring. I was able to sit in multi-disciplinary team meetings with social work, Aboriginal liaison officers, nurses and other allied health staff where housing was at the forefront of discussions.

I certainly improved my communication skills aiming to get the message across often significant language barriers.

I was taught about the belief systems in Aboriginal culture regarding the origins of sickness and why many people don’t attend hospital because they believe they should be cured through spiritual healers. Whilst western medicine hasn’t quite got the mix right, it was beneficial to see doctors respecting the spiritual beliefs of the local patients without being dismissive.

Outside of the hospital I spent every weekend in National Parks exploring the beauty of the land and learning about Jawoyn stories. I was fortunate to be taught how pick the pandanus leaves and strip them for basket weaving. I was taught to fish from a hand real (unsuccessfully) and make damper over the campfire. I saw 5000 year old Aboriginal rock art, swam in waterfalls and hiked extensively through the gorge.

This placement has taught me more than how to diagnose unusual diseases, it has given me a further appreciation of how to treat Aboriginal patients with great respect. I still have a lot to learn about remote medicine and Aboriginal culture, but this placement has provided me with a better sense of how to approach it and has certainly got me looking forward to coming back in the future.

Dentistry Ingham Qld

Dental health displayFinal year placement in my Bachelor of Dental Surgery course saw me get the opportunity in Ingham Queensland, a small sugar town north of Townsville. During my studies to be a dentist, clinical experience and patient factors are two key, evidence based practice, factors which cannot be overlooked.

More on dentistry placement in Ingham

Final year placement in my Bachelor of Dental Surgery course saw me get the opportunity in Ingham Queensland, a small sugar town north of Townsville. During my studies to be a dentist, clinical experience and patient factors are two key, evidence based practice, factors which cannot be overlooked. Dental health displayPlacement in Ingham has very much allowed the development of these areas. By being placed within a rural community, it quickly became apparent that this area was underserved. Currently there is only one public dentist in the town and the waiting list for dental service unfortunately can be greater than twelve months. As a student dentist, this results in two distinct benefits, the ability to practice dentistry and the ability improve the quality of life of citizens within the community. During my time in Ingham, I have seen an improvement in attendance rates at the dental clinic, as well as instigated multi-disciplinary discussions regarding the health of people within the community.

Currently there is only one public dentist in the town and the waiting list for dental service unfortunately can be greater than twelve months.

The ACEN scholarship helped provide placement support during my placement at the Ingham Hospital Dental Clinic, with my integration into the hospital well received by the community. As a result, I have been involved with community based projects such as the School Immunization Program and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men’s Health Mini Expo. The focus of these projects was to provide practical and holistic health information in a low-stress setting. The events were a resounding success and resulted in the provision of health supplies and education material. The programs were directed by the Townsville Hospital Health Service, with the ATSI Men’s Health Mini Expo being directed by ATSI Clinical Nurse, Diana Friday. The mini expo involved a multidisciplinary approach to health, including general medical practitioners, dentists, clinical psychologists, physiotherapists, optometrists and occupational therapists. These projects provided the student clinician the opportunity to integrate and coordinate the delivery of health information with allied health professionals, as well as created an opportunity to explore the oral-systemic link of health with health professionals. This I believe provides an experience unlike that seen by WIL placements in metropolitan placements and readies the student for employment.

I am genuinely thankful for the ACEN scholarship as it helped alleviate the economic burden associated with my relocation to the area and allowed me to immerse myself in extracurricular activities. This placement has more than prepared me for graduation and given me an advantage when practicing dentistry in the future.

Dentistry in Devonport

Sunrise in DevonportGrowing up in a rural and remote town in country NSW has formed a large part of who I am as a person. I owe a lot to rural Australia and have witnessed first-hand the hardships and discrepancies in the field of health care.

More about Dentistry in Devonport

Growing up in a rural and remote town in country NSW has formed a large part of who I am as a person. I owe a lot to rural Australia and have witnessed first-hand the hardships and discrepancies in the field of health care. Health has always been an interest of mine and during the past 5 years I have been completing a Bachelor of Dental Surgery at the University of Adelaide. Having already completed a month placement in the Riverlands of South Australia I was excited to start my second placement providing dental health services to the rural and remote region of North-West Tasmania. During my 2 month placement I was centred in the dockland city of Devonport.

Through this clinical placement, I received hands on experience in aspects of dentistry I would not have otherwise received. From surgical extraction, trauma cases or providing treatment for patients under General Anaesthesia in the local hospital it was an invaluable experience that has developed me as a clinician and has readied me for the work force. In my opinion one of the most rewarding aspects of working with rural and remote regions is the genuine appreciation and thankfulness of the patients after providing treatment for them and breaking the predisposed bias and mind-set that because of their rural residence that they deserve a lesser quality of health.

The beauty of rural Tasmania also has its perks. During the weekends I had the opportunity to check out some local waterfalls, a skiing trip, and enjoy some of Tasmania’s breath taking views (despite the freezing cold weather).

Waterfall and skiing

Me saturated and freezing under Liffey Falls and Ski trip with some of the staff of the Devonport Dental Clinic

Living away from Adelaide for two months and being away from my part time job put significant financial pressure and worry in preparation for my placement. Being awarded the ACEN scholarship alleviated this financial stress and allowed me to focus on my placement and enjoy some of Tasmania’s spectacular scenery. Simply put the ACEN scholarship made my placement financially possible and because of this I feel one step closer to pursuing my goals and careers aspirations in my chosen degree.

Mt Wellingtoona d the Aroroa

Minus 4 degrees and windy at the top of Mount Wellington, Hobart) and The breath-taking Aurora Australis/Southern lights

 

Occupational Therapy, Primary School, Broome

Occupational Therapy, Primary School, BroomeThis experience to me is summed up in the picture. I felt like I was taking a huge leap by travelling interstate to a very remote area of Australia. However, I landed on my feet and was able to grow personally and professionally along the way with other students by my side.

More about Occupational Therapy in Broome

  • Identify the personal growth and skill development as a result of the WIL placement

This experience to me is summed up in the picture. I felt like I was taking a huge leap by travelling interstate to a very remote area of Australia. However, I landed on my feet and was able to grow personally and professionally along the way with other students by my side. I have learnt a lot through education from locals and navigating challenges along the way, all of which has resulted in me becoming a stronger person and a more skilled Occupational Therapist to be.

I have grown up in a rural town, but it was nothing like the cultural difference you can experience in Broome. I learnt about the aboriginal countries, languages, what occupations were meaningful to them, and most importantly how to ensure my therapy was client-centred in their culture where different values held meaning. This was not an experience I could have gotten with a metro placement and I am ever-changed and grateful that I was lucky enough to get the chance.

  • How the ACEN Scholarship supported the recipient’s career aspirations

Without completing this placement I would not have such a wealth of skills that will assist me in any job I end up in. I feel much stronger and confident in my ability to adapt to an entirely new living and working environment. I now know I can apply for graduate jobs that are in rural or remote areas and be able to move my entire life there and settle in comfortably within a matter of weeks. I also feel I could work within a role where I receive limited supervision and still succeed and take control of my own learning journey.

This type of Occupational Therapy placement was referred to as long-arm supervision. This is where you see your supervisor about once a week to debrief and ask any questions, however most of the time you are known as the professional in the workplace and responsible for making decisions.

As I was required to work very independently within the school setting which was a great trial run for the independence I will be expected to display as a new graduate. Not only did I work more independently than other placements, I worked with children of an aboriginal culture. This provided me with the opportunity to grow my skills to be culturally appropriate within a paediatric setting.

I have always been passionate and been striving to become a Paediatric Occupational Therapist. I am currently applying for paediatric Occupational therapy jobs and being able to list a rural paediatric placement is helping me when I am providing examples of my passion to work. Further, this placement has allowed me to network and leave Broome with many professional contacts in this area. I am even considering moving back their to live and work one day.

  • Evidence of the ability to think critically and question biases and assumptions

This type of Occupational Therapy placement was referred to as long-arm supervision. This is where you see your supervisor about once a week to debrief and ask any questions, however most of the time you are known as the professional in the workplace and responsible for making decisions. I was responsible for negotiating staff’s lack of knowledge and assumptions of what an Occupational Therapist should do within a school setting. I developed the skills to communicate professionally and provide a session educating school staff on what the Occupational Therapy role could look like within the school.

This type of placement required me to critically think about what would work best within an aboriginal culture within the school setting. Additionally, what would be feasible to make a long-lasting impact after my placement period was up. My confidence has increased in my ability to trust my own instincts, research and implement best practice and communicate professionally.

 

 

 

Occupational Therapy, Broome

Occupational Therapy in BroomeThe idea of a rural occupational therapy (OT) placement initially made me feel uncomfortable, and it was easy to make excuses to opt-out. Going from Sydney to Broome, WA for my final placement was a big commitment.

More about Occupational Therapy in Broome

The idea of a rural occupational therapy (OT) placement initially made me feel uncomfortable, and it was easy to make excuses to opt-out. Going from Sydney to Broome, WA for my final placement was a big commitment. It meant being far from the comforts of home and receiving long-arm supervision. At the time I thought it would be too challenging, but my intuition was telling me to go. In hindsight, I’m glad I took the opportunity because through these 8 weeks I grew in my professional and clinical skills, as well as in my personal character. I also gradually discovered the kind of occupational therapist I aspire to be upon graduation.

As anticipated, this placement had its unique challenges. With each setback, I gained valuable insight into working in rural settings and working collaboratively with care staff and health professionals and liaise with external organisations.

I learned to advocate for OT because this placement previously had minimal intervention from allied health.

Because this was a student-led service, the autonomy in practice built my confidence in facilitating clients’ therapeutic process: including rapport building, setting client-centred goals, planning and delivering programs and interventions, program evaluation and handover.

Occupational Therapy broome sunsetOver the placement, I gained cultural competency skills and knowledge working with Aboriginal clients, families, and communities. Substantial cultural orientation and training took place in the first week of placement. The placement had Aboriginal Health Workers onsite, which also guided my cultural journey and worked together with Aboriginal clients. Professional development opportunities further guided my cultural competency with clinical yarning – a rapport building approach appropriate to Aboriginal culture. Further, this experience prompted critical reflections of my own biases and assumptions having lived in metropolitan cities my whole life.

Overall, this placement has offered a glimpse of working in rural health and piqued my interest to serve in this area in the future. I have developed a breadth of OT skills and knowledge and a depth to working with Aboriginal populations which sets me apart from other graduates occupational therapists. Undoubtedly, this rural placement experience has shaped me into a better practitioner – more resourceful, adaptable, open-minded, collaborative, and holistic. I am grateful for the ACEN Scholarship for making this exponential learning experience possible.

Thank you to ACEN for their support in my rural placement. There could not have been a better placement than this one to finish my degree!

Psychology placement in Central Australia

Mt GillenMy advanced three month clinical placement as part of the Doctor of Psychology (clinical and forensic) lead me to the Central Australian Aborginal Congress (CAAC), which is the largest Aboriginal community-controlled organisation in Northern Territory, and also one of Australia’s largest. CAAC provides a comprehensive, holistic and culturally-appropriate primary health care service to Aboriginal people living in and nearby Alice Springs, including five remote communities; Amoonguna, Ntaria (and Wallace Rockhole), Santa Teresa, Utju (Areyonga) and Mutitjulu.

More about psychology placement in Central Australia

My advanced three month clinical placement as part of the Doctor of Psychology (clinical and forensic) lead me to the Central Australian Aborginal Congress (CAAC), which is the largest Aboriginal community-controlled organisation in Northern Territory, and also one of Australia’s largest. CAAC provides a comprehensive, holistic and culturally-appropriate primary health care service to Aboriginal people living in and nearby Alice Springs, including five remote communities; Amoonguna, Ntaria (and Wallace Rockhole), Santa Teresa, Utju (Areyonga) and Mutitjulu. I was with the Social and Emotional Wellbeing (SEWB) service, which is incorporated within the Health Service Division of the organisational structure.

SEWB provides Aboriginal people and their families, including children and adolescents with support related to social and cultural wellbeing, mental health, and community connectedness – referrals are accepted from both community health and service providers and self-referrals: an adept fit working as a provisional psychologist. Given the breadth of services provided by SEWB, there was opportunity to be exposed to various working environments (e.g., Headspace, bush trips, remote community work) and focus my time with a select few. As such, my primary workplaces were the Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Programs Unit and the Alice Springs Correctional Centre (ASCC).

My involvement with ASCC was opportunistic. ASCC is a facility with capacity for around 600 people – mostly Aboriginal. This is one of many observations throughout my time in Alice Springs which reflected the stark reality of Aboriginal people living under the constraints (i.e., duress) of white fella law. Given my limited time it was decided to provide psychological services to some of the young men currently incarcerated – many who have transitioned from the youth justice system. It had been previously identified the young Aboriginal men were disengaged from the other groups, primarily due to the age gaps between them and the other men incarcerated. To this end, we developed, organised and facilitated two Young Men’s groups aimed at introducing them to the purpose and benefit of group engagement while incarcerated. The success of these groups led to a number of booster sessions for the young men to bolster their engagement with the group process.

The Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Programs Unit is a residential alcohol unit providing care for people wanting to change their level of alcohol consumption. CAAAPU is a voluntary service, however, is often used as part of the transition from prison to community (i.e., included in the sentence). Individuals reside at CAAAPU for two months – those who abscond do so within the first week, typically. The model of CAAAPU has changed recently to provide additional psychological support for the residents– this includes both individual and group. As part of my time at CAAAPU I had my own case load of men I worked with 1:1 and also facilitated a 4 week program with weekly sessions. The 1:1 engagement allowed me to practice and develop my motivational interviewing skills – primarily the first steps of engaging and focusing: identifying desire to change, identifying the positives and negatives of alcohol consumption and its impact to self and others. While evoking and planning were discussed briefly, more time is required than 6 sessions. The 4-week group was based on psycho-education as related to alcohol use and mental health. The session were mindfulness, the effects of alcohol on the body and brain, coping strategies and relapse prevention.

There were a number of key learning outcomes I developed prior to beginning the placement. These goals applied to working with Aboriginal people, as prior to this placement I had not undertaken any clinical work with Aboriginal people. The goals are listed below:

  • To gain an greater understanding of mental health characterisation among Aboriginal populations
  • To gain an understanding of the history and culture of Central Australian Aboriginal population.
  • To understand and apply ethical matters appropriate to Aboriginal population
  • To understand the limits of confidentiality as related to NT
  • To become competent in appropriate socio-cultural assessment
  • To become aware of the research as it applies to Aboriginal populations and the provision of psychological services.

By the end of the placement, I feel like I achieved these goals. Many of these goals were achieved by fact of working in a community health setting with Aboriginal people, attending the culture awareness trainings, facilitated by both CAAC and the Centre for Remote Health, active engagement in the services provided by CAAC, and asking questions, particularly to my supervisor and the Aboriginal Liaison Officer. Of note is the difference in approach used for assessment within the Aboriginal populations. While this is ground in assessment as taught from the Western perspective, the assessment enquiries beyond DSM-based symptoms and includes broader function as related to country, family systems, and resilience. It’s an assessment tool that can be adjusted for use among all populations: not exclusively Aboriginal populations. Moreover, the working environment in Northern Territory augments questions of self that at times can be confronting, difficult and uncomfortable, but it’s through reflexivity that we can shape, adjust and shift with the clients we work with and the knowledge we have.

Working with Aboriginal people involves widening the lens of perception to include all layers of the social and emotional framework of wellbeing: connection to body, connection to mind and emotions, connection to family and kinship, connection to community, connection to culture, connection to country, connection to spirit, spirituality, and ancestors. This model of understanding is housed within the social and historical determinants of health. Throughout my time with clients, I had many conversations as related to being on country, hunting, and practices that connected an individual to themselves, their family, and their culture. This experience was initially odd to me (i.e., I had no point of reference or knowledge), and I felt fraudulent at times – or voyeuristic. However, a change in lens, that is, flipping it from using the client as the expert in their own wellbeing and applying their knowledge to a particular set of information that I have learnt to establish and augment a shared understanding of knowledge toward better health and social and emotional wellbeing.

One of the most challenging aspects was the ongoing ethical dilemma of working with individuals from another cultural background. How I understand, conceptualise, and navigate this world has been determined by my experiences in my culture over time. In particular, my exposure to language and how it’s used as a conduit of understanding for everything I experience. Individuals from other cultures (e.g., Aboriginal people) may use the same vehicle (i.e., language) but the direction of travel (i.e., conceptualisation) may be different from my own – this is not an either or situation: both are relevant and share equality. For example, I can have a discussion with my brother on what he feels like and the corresponding emotions. I know that my reference point is very similar to his world reference points. As such, when he answers, his understanding of the key concepts (i.e., feelings and emotions), I can interpret his answers from my frame of reference. The margin of error in interpretation is small. While this is possible when working with people from other cultures, it was particularly highlighted when working with Aboriginal people. While a client likely uses the words of ‘feelings’ and ‘emotions’, the derived understanding may be a departure from my own. This is because the understanding of the world and how it interacts with the self is different from my own – for Aboriginal people, it inherently includes the connection to country, self, and the wider family. These are experiences that I cannot share, or have an access point from my worldview. As such, the margin of error in interpretation is far greater. While this was not problematic on a surface level, devising an implementing therapeutic work must address with possible disjuncture. As a solution, it was the explicit recognition of my own biases that was useful to prevent misunderstanding. Moreover, I was acutely aware of the possibility of neo-colonisation – it was through the empowerment of the client that was to instill better outcomes. I am not a clinician arriving with a predetermined destination (i.e., treatment outcome) for the client. This was particularly noticeable at CAAAPU: while it would be useful to reduce the large consumption of alcohol it was not my role to prescribe any predetermined level of consumption.

The ACEN scholarship allowed me to pursue a goal of a remote placement working with Aboriginal people. Through this scholarship I was able to explore the region of Alice Springs, but primarily I didn’t have to worry about day to day living expenses, which was covered by the ACEN scholarship. Although, as related to food purchases, I remain confused on how the pricing system works in remote Australia!

I can say my attitude, approach, and perspective of clinical psychological practice has been reshaped. The importance of working from a holistic, client-centred approach focusing on connection to mind, country, spirit, family and kinship, community, and culture has been acutely highlighted in this setting. This can undoubtedly be applied to various settings in the future, for which I am truly grateful. This is paired with the importance of recognising the historical, political, and social determinants of health – no longer can you merely address the underlying factors of poor psychological well-being in a silo. I would like to thank ACEN for allowing me the opportunity to pursue this placement, my clinical supervisor, and university for coordination and organisation. This placement has ignited a fire for remote work, and I anticipate a return to this environment.

Teaching in Borroloola NT

Students at lagoonReceiving the scholarship for my GEP placement has also significantly enhanced my career opportunities as well as allowing me to experience, first hand, what it would be like to teach in the NT.

I felt a great privilege in being able to participate in such an amazing, challenging and eye-opening program, and appreciate the support that the scholarship provided. Thank you so much!!

More about teaching in Borroloola

Being given the opportunity to participate in the WIL placement has had significant positive effects on my personal growth both as a pre-service teacher and as a person. It was such an amazing experience that provided me with never ending opportunities to develop my classroom skills and teaching pedagogy. Prior to attending my School, which was located in the remote town of Borroloola in the Northern Territory, I had highlighted explicit instruction and the use of visual aids for student engagement as areas I identified as ‘in need of further development’. Due to the environment of the classroom and the learning styles of the students, these two teaching approaches were applied extensively within each lesson, giving me ample opportunity to observe and introduce into my own lessons. In terms of personal growth, the placement opened my eyes to the importance of creating a classroom that allows for, and engages in, positiveness, adaptability and empathy. This placement was undoubtedly the most enriching, informative and challenging placement to date, constantly reminding me the reasons why I have chosen to become a teacher.

Receiving the scholarship for my GEP placement has also significantly enhanced my career opportunities as well as allowing me to experience, first hand, what it would be like to teach in the NT. In recent years, I have found a passion within Indigenous and Non-Indigenous matters, particularly the vast difference in educational outcomes. Furthermore, teaching is a career, that I believe, should involve adventures and experiences outside a person’s comfort zone. Teaching in the NT would no doubt provide me with endless experiences, both positive and negative, as well as numerous adventures that would develop my teaching style and personal pedagogy to become the teacher that I one day hope to be. I am passionate about the positive influences that education can have on an individual’s overall educational outcome and their health and well-being, particularly for those who may receive less support, resources and opportunities than others may receive.

Allowing me the opportunities that this scholarship has provided, I was able to experience real life examples where I could critically analyze and question my own assumptions of Aboriginal people, their traditions, their culture, their beliefs and values. As an outsider looking in, we continuously take the ‘comfortable’ and, in many cases, deep-rooted understanding of Aboriginal people and the situation many find themselves in. It is no secret that many believe the issues to be somewhat self-inflicted, assuming there is little intent to assimilate with the so called ‘successful’ so that they too can live a successful, happy life. It is assumptions such as these (thinking everyone wants, needs, believes and values what the majority do) that create the overwhelming biases and significantly reduce ‘opportunity’ for many Indigenous Australians. After experiencing only, a small example of Indigenous Australia, it has left me with more questions than when I arrived, why is such a beautiful, complex culture not celebrated, understood and respected in the ways that it should be, how and why have we, as a country, allowed for and accepted such biased formulas for success, and most importantly, how do we, as a country, discuss, enforce and accept change.

I felt a great privilege in being able to participate in such an amazing, challenging and eye-opening program, and appreciate the support that the scholarship provided. Thank you so much!!