NEW SOUTH WALES: The new head of a unique program at Charles Sturt University (CSU) to increase the size of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health workforce has ticked more than a few boxes in 2011.
Faye McMillan, a Wiradjuri woman from central west NSW, joined CSU in April as Director of the Djirruwang mental health program.
She took up the position 11 years after graduating from the University as its first Indigenous pharmacy graduate.
Ms McMillan will next month oversee the largest number of Bachelor of Health Science (Mental Health) graduates to complete the Djirruwang program at CSU.
Among the group of 21 graduates will be Ms McMillan’s mother, Robyn McMillan.
“My mother is an inspiration as she has dealt with serious health problems, the deaths of two siblings, and the challenges of studying later in life to get to this point,” she says.
At her mother’s graduation ceremony in December at CSU in Wagga Wagga, the new Director of the Djirruwang program will be joined by her two brothers – one a senior law lecturer at the University of Melbourne and the other is the highest ranking Indigenous officer in the Australian Defence Force.
“Ever since this program began at Charles Sturt University in 1984, its role in increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health workers has been crucial, said Ms McMillan.
Our graduates are capable of working in any Indigenous or non-Indigenous environment.
They are mental health professionals but their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage gives them empathy and understanding of cultural issues within their own communities.
“This is a unique educational program in that it is only open to Indigenous students to address the shortage of mental health workers.
“We currently have over 100 students enrolled over the three years of the program.”
Also joining the Djirruwang program in 2011 is the new clinical co-ordinator Cheryl Davis, a Noongar woman from Perth.
She will oversee a critical part of the program, the 20-week clinical placement students are required to undertake as part of the course.
Djirruwang means ‘light’ in the NSW south coast Tharawal language.