Take your rightful place.

Graham's story

Current employment
Graham works as a counselor for the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service.

What was your undergraduate degree?
I have a Graduate Diploma in Psychology (completed in 2006) and Postgraduate Diploma in Psychology (2007), both from the University of Melbourne.

What graduate study are you currently doing at the University of Melbourne?
I commenced a Masters of Psychology (Clinical) in 2008 and transferred to the combined Masters/PhD of Psychology (Clinical) in 2009.

What made you decide to undertake your graduate study at the University of Melbourne?
I was always very interested in the area of social and emotional wellbeing, mental health and psychology in general, especially with regards to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, families and communities. I decided to do mainstream academic training so that I could work in settings where some of the more vulnerable people in community could access my services and skills without having to pay.

What do you most enjoy about your graduate study with the University of Melbourne?
The clinical psychology training in various hospitals around Melbourne, as well as other psychology and primary mental health clinics was very interesting. I learnt a lot. I’ve also really enjoyed the opportunity to develop relationships with leaders such as Ian Anderson and Marcia Langton, as they’ve been quite inspirational. Meeting regularly with other Indigenous graduate students through the Indigenous Graduate Student Association has also been important – a great way to stay connected with like-minded people and feel supported.

What extracurricular activity are you involved in?
I’ve been involved with the Indigenous Graduate Student Association and am the current chair. We hold regular meetings and have organised an annual Indigenous research symposium for the last two years. I was also heavily involved in setting up the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation over a three year period, which was immensely rewarding.

What does being a graduate of University of Melbourne mean for you?
Well, I’m pretty proud to have gotten through the undergraduate and postgraduate training in psychology, and to be heading closer to completing my combined Masters and PhD. I think I’m the first in my family to be enrolled in a PhD. It means a lot to me because I genuinely love the one-on-one counseling work and I’m thankful to the university for providing me with training.

Do you plan to study overseas as part of your graduate study at the University of Melbourne?
No. I work with our local Aboriginal health service and I’m happy to be working here where it matters most. At some stage it would be nice to visit some international trauma recovery centres and see if there are things happening overseas that we could utilise.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Completing my PhD will mean that I can research in my field well into my old age. I feel very fortunate to have that opportunity. At the moment I’m leaning towards being a clinician/researcher. I see myself working as a counselor/clinical psychologist and continuing my research into trauma recovery.

Coming from interstate, how did you find living in Melbourne, studying at the University of Melbourne and the support services made available to you?
I’m from the N.T. However, at the time I wanted to study, no local universities offered the full training to become a psychologist. Also, my wife wanted to study nursing, and she got accepted at a university in Melbourne, so I applied also.

It took quite a few years to get used to Melbourne, as I’m not a city boy at heart. The turning point for me was around the four-year mark of studying and having worked at the local Aboriginal health service for three years. The Koori people and community here really got into my heart, and I started to feel a sense of belonging. It’s a home-away-from-home now.

My experiences at Melbourne University have been great. I’ve had very supportive supervisors. The Indigenous student centre, now called Murrup Barrak, has also been very supportive. I’ve always felt it was important to the Centre that I succeed in my studies, and that level of support really helps.

Are you receiving any scholarships?
Currently I don’t receive any scholarships, but I’ve received an enormous amount of support through bursaries from the Indigenous Centre (now Murrup Barak) in the past, as well as from the Faculty of Medicine, and also an Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship which I studied hard for. As a mature-aged student with two young daughters and a partner to support, these scholarships are the only reason I was able to transfer into a PhD degree. Without the financial support it would have been very difficult and certainly a much slower, drawn-out process to becoming a psychologist.