School of Indigenous Studies

Melissa Puertollano


UWA Social Work Graduate 

I first found myself at the University of Western Australia, fresh out of high school to complete the Aboriginal Orientation Course.

In high school, I really had no real career plans, and this gave me a great way to learn more about career pathways. I had done my TEE in school but had not achieved the marks needed for tertiary entry, so my confidence was low. I also found myself becoming a mother that year as well.

I chose to do Social Work for a few different reasons. The degree itself offered a variety of different areas to focus in. I completed subjects such as human biology, medical and biological anthropology, Aboriginal and Australian history. I also studied core social work units such as counselling, group work, Indigenous People and Social Work, social policy and community development. This gave me the opportunity to build 'a specialist degree', comprised of all the things that I was interested in and passionate about. Another reason was the support from the School of Indigenous Studies. The staff and students at Shenton House were amazing supporters who were just as motivated and keen to see me reach my goals as my family were. The facilities at the School meant that I was able to focus and study during the day, so all I had to do when I got home was to simply be a mum to my two young children. All in all, it took me six years from my Orientation year in 1998 to graduation finally in 2004.

Since completing my social work studies in 2004, I have worked in a variety of employment positions, mostly in the West Kimberley. I have caught the ‘study bug’ again and am now completing a Graduate Certificate in Aboriginal studies at Notre Dame University in Broome.