Children’s Mental Health and Child Welfare in Australia

During the month of May, I was able to study abroad in Melbourne, Australia. The program I completed was a three-week social work program that centered on children’s mental health and welfare systems in the country. Throughout our three weeks, we visited many different agencies that worked with youth.

Australia challenged my views on many topics. Being there and learning about their welfare systems. Before my trip, I was unaware of many of the issues facing Australian youth – such as the overwhelming problem with youth homelessness. While learning about these issues, I started to really question how I feel about the amount of government involvement in our everyday lives. Although I am back in the States, I continue to question my stance.

The first agency we visited was the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA). Another issue that I became aware of while in Australia was that of the struggles faced by the Aboriginal population. Until 2008, the government of Australia never apologized for the wrongdoings of the Stolen Generation. The Stolen Generation is the name given to the Aboriginal Children who were taken from their families in attempt to “rid” of the Aboriginal population. This agency visit made the issue of diversity in health care and life so much more real.

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A traditional opossum cloak made by Aboriginal children at VACCA

Another impactful agency visit came from VicSeg. VicSeg is dedicated to helping refugee families transition into Australian culture. This is one of the agencies that made me question my opinions on government involvement. I do not believe there is any clear-cut answer to how the government should act or vote in certain situations. And, once again, the issues of diversity in treatment were brought to mind.

All of the agencies we visited really opened up my eyes to the many issues a psychologist must consider in the treatment of children. When dealing with the youth population, you really have to consider all the factors at play in their lives. The entire trip gave me a new perspective that I can incorporate into my education and future career.

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My friend, Taja (right), and I at our last agency visit and BeyondBlue

So far I have hinted at the fact that I plan to become a psychologist. More specifically, I hope to practice clinical child psychology within my own private practice. Through this trip, I was able to see the importance of holistic treatment, multidisciplinary treatment teams, and family involvement. I feel like I now have many more tools to provide cost-effective and long lasting treatment outcomes in the future. I am thankful for the time I spent in Australia and the lessons I learned.

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