Crawley: West Australian of Year Tracy Westerman shares her powerful story

Tracy Westerman.
Tracy Westerman.

TRACY Westerman lives by a “powerful message” her mother shared with her as a child that led her to achieve a world-first in Aboriginal health.

“Bub, you can be born into disadvantage but disadvantage doesn’t have to define you,” the 2018 WA Australian of the Year remembered being told.

Dr Westerman relayed that message this week at UWA during the Auspire Social Inclusion forum, paying homage to the Naidoc Week theme ‘Because of her we can’.

“As an Aboriginal woman in Australia in 1964, my mum had to go to court and get citizenship in her own country,” she said.

“Both my parents didn’t go to school past Year 3, they came from significant disadvantage but they modelled work ethic to us and in one generation my mum raised a daughter who is a West Australian of the Year and has a PhD.

“I am living proof you can close the gap in one generation and that’s incredible.”

As the founder of Indigenous Psychological Services, Dr Westerman developed world-first culturally-appropriate training for professionals and community members around mental health and suicide prevention.

Fittingly, that training started because of two teenage girls who questioned Dr Westerman’s strategy on helping indigenous communities with issues around mental health.

“The power of what those kids actually achieved was quite incredible, they rightly said ‘what do you keep training service providers for’,” she recalled.

“They said ‘when that fella tries to kill himself, he doesn’t try to kill himself 9-5 Monday to Friday so why don’t you come to Derby and train us up?”

That was when Dr Westerman created three “incredibly unique” free training packages with service providers, community mob, and youth.

“It’s the first time it has ever been done globally so what we’re doing is skilling up entire communities,” she said.

“People learn by group, change the environment, change the outcome.”

After Dr Westerman’s keynote speech, a panel discussion was held with social justice advocate Fadzi Whande, Befriend relationships and inclusion consultant Katie Curo, UWA Associate Professor Lisa Wood, and WA Local Hero 2018 Peter Lyndon-James.