My first years were spent living on the island of Kunhanhaa (Mornington Island) in the Gulf of Carpentaria, where the Kunhanaamendaa are the predominant nation and traditional owners of the land and sea. My parents met and lived for many years on the island. My Dad (who immigrated from Scotland at age 19) and Mum (a nurse from Gippsland, Victoria) were informally adopted by a warm, generous, and loving Kunhanhaa couple who became my surrogate grandparents. My Kunhanhaa grandparents gave my siblings Kunhanhaa/Lardil names when we were born, mine being 'Jawarki' (pronounced ja-war-gee) which means 'baby she-oak". We lived on Kunhanhaa until I was 4 years old and my Dad still calls me Jawarki today. I had a severe hearing impairment as a child, and spoke only in vowels until around age 4.
My introduction to 'mental illness' came as a primary school aged child accompanying my Dad, who was a mental health support worker, to Larundel Psychiatric Hospital in Bundoora on school curriculum and sick days, where my siblings and I would dutifully follow him around, often being set to work cleaning up discarded cigarette butts in the courtyard. Friends with schizophrenia would be regular visitors at our family lunches, family outings, and at Christmas. One of these friends gave gave me a purple Teddy Bear which I treasured for years. I learned that some people hear voices that aren't there, and have unusual beliefs. And I learned that these people were kind, and gentle, and that their unusual behaviour made sense in the context of their voices and beliefs. Some of them liked their voices, who were like friends or advisors. Others suffered from relentless abuse by the voices. The immense pain and suffering psychosis can cause became evident to me as a child through the sad loss of a family friend to suicide during an acute episode of psychosis.
While completing a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, I started working in public sector mental health services and private General Practices in Melbourne and was employed as a clinical psychology registrar on the “Clinical Psychology in General Practice Rooms Project” in 2006, an Australian Psychological Society (APS) and Monash University Initiative, which paved the way for Medicare reforms in psychology. My postgraduate research involved the design and implementation of a 10 week course for carers of individuals who hear voices - Carers Upskilling in Positive Symptoms (CUPS) - aimed at assisting a carer to understand and support their relative's coping. The CUPS program was manualised and it's content went on to be used in further research at Kings College in London.
I undertook my Doctoral Internship at St. Vincent's Mental Health Acute Inpatient Service in Melbourne and have worked in a number of public mental health settings including Prevention and Recovery Care (PARC), Continuing Care, and Community Mental Health.
In 2009 I moved to the UK and had the amazing opportunity to work as a research associate and research therapist at The University of Manchester and the National Health Service (NHS) on a trial of a new therapy aimed at preventing suicide in psychosis. Presenting a skills workshop with Professor Nicholas Tarrier at the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) conference in Manchester was a career highlight, alongside co-authoring a book on the Prevention of Suicide in Psychosis.
On returning to Melbourne, I worked alongside GPs in their practices, providing psychological care to clients with a wide range of conditions, and liaising closely with GPs to ensure continuity of care. I worked as a Senior Psychologist at Donvale Rehabilitation Hospital in 2018, developing content for a range of group programs (Parkinson's Disease, Chronic Pain and Falls Prevention) and providing therapy to inpatients and day rehabilitation patients.
For the past 10 years, I have enjoyed working in private practice in Eltham, providing assessment and psychological therapy for a broad range of challenges and mental health conditions. Though trained as a clinical psychologist to diagnose and treat mental health conditions, I am mindful of the limitations and problems that arise in the context of a medical model. My approach focuses on understanding psychological distress within the unique context of a client’s social, family, and cultural history and on providing evidence-based therapy. I maintain an interest in the area of suicide prevention, most recently through participation in a Suicide Prevention Research Group with colleagues from Edith Cowan University, The University of Manchester, and Lancaster University.
Doctorate in Clinical Psychology
La Trobe University (2008)
Bachelor of Behavioural Science (with Honours)
La Trobe University (2004)
Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA)
with Clinical Psychology Endorsement
Member of the Australian Psychological Society (APS)
Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society College of Clinical Psychologists
Member of the Australian Association of Psychologists Inc.(AAPi)
Medicare Clinical Psychology Provider