I grew up in the northern suburbs (Koondoola, Girrawheen and Balga) and to this day I still live here as most of my family live around the area. I completed my secondary education at Balga SHS and I had family who also attended there. In 1996 I was dragged along to UWA by my cousin-sister and with myself being a quiet and passive young Yamaji bloke back then, she talked me into enrolling with her in the School of Indigenous Studies’ Aboriginal Orientation Course.
When I got to UWA I had no idea about career goals so the Orientation Course was ideal for me to experience some of the major degree courses. Between 1997 to 1999 I studied units in the Bachelor of Arts as I still wasn’t sure about my career. Between 1997 to 2002 I found studying at uni really difficult as I had to juggle my family responsibility of caring for my brother whilst at the same time dealing with losing four significant family members.
In growing up in a 'blended' family and dealing with my own cultural identity issues during my teenage years, it's these life experiences which guided me into studying a Bachelor of Social Work. Whilst the Bachelor of Social Work degree covered a variety of units (ie, community development, group work, social policy, ethics, child protection, counselling, mental health, etc) it was the counselling and mental health units that I became really interested in and where I could develop a meaningful career. Whilst studying I was successful in being awarded a cadetship with Marymead Child and Family Centre in Canberra. The cadetship was a sponsorship agreement which meant that I had a 'study wage' and I worked at Marymead in Canberra over 2 summers (2001-2002 & 2002-2003). I also had a part-time job with the Edmund Rice Centre in Mirrabooka as a Aboriginal Youth Worker on their Multicultural Youth Leisure Sports Program (1999-2003).
In September 2003, I graduated from UWA with a Bachelor of Social Work and between June 2003 to June 2004 I felt I needed a break from the mind-set of being a social work student and I completed a 12 month Graduate Program with the Department of Indigenous Affairs (DIA). Working with DIA was interesting experience and I valued my time of working in the Family History and Heritage/Culture areas. In July 2004 I felt ready to begin working in a social work capacity and I secured contract work with YouthLink (specialist youth mental health service located in Northbridge) and it wasn't long after that I became a permanent employee. To date I am still employed at YouthLink (7 years on) and I am one of two Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health Practitioners. Recently YouthLink secured a permanent full-time female Aboriginal mental health clinician and we now have a 'gender balance' to our ATSI sub-program. The role of the ATSI clinicians is to provide case management and culturally appropriate counselling and support to our young Indigenous people who are transient/at-risk of homelessness and experiencing serious mental health or complex psychosocial issues and provide cultural consultation and liaison to our non-Indigenous colleagues.
Apart from having full-time employment, I am also a single father, raising twin girls who will be 5 yrs old in December. Although I have enjoyment and fulfilment from my work, I very much consider myself first and foremost a family oriented person. Looking to the future I hope to further specialise in my chosen field and encourage other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to study social work and specialise in the area of youth mental health.