Nearing 60 years of age, Emma is studying online to become a psychologist – the first Aboriginal woman in her local area to do so.
As a child, Emma was saved from the welfare system by her uncle and his wife – who she calls Dad and Mum. Emma speaks warmly of her Dad, who taught her the importance of education. Emma recalls him saying “My girl, if you ever want to get anywhere in this world, you gotta have that white man’s piece of paper – that’s the only thing that will get you in the door, and put you in a position where you’re able to help other people.”
Not only was Emma motivated by her Dad’s words, but she gained a greater sense of purpose after surviving a heart attack in 2002. It became very important to her to become a psychologist, particularly within her local area, where so far, aboriginal women have only reached the level of counsellor. “I will be a psychologist out here. It’ll happen, I just know, because I believe I’m here for a purpose”
Today, Emma is busy working toward a Bachelor of Psychological Sciences from Swinburne, through OUA. She already holds a diploma in indigenous counselling, which has led her to her current role – a case worker and counsellor, helping people of the aboriginal community to work through sexual abuse issues. Her day consists of home visits, organising referrals, and talking with agencies, social workers and lawyers. Emma is also involved with a number of organisations and support groups, that allow her to travel around the country, connecting with aboriginal people.
“I will be a psychologist out here. It’ll happen, I just know, because I believe I’m here for a purpose”
When she goes home, she plays the role of parent to her three granddaughters, and is passing onto them her passion for education. “[My granddaughter] said to me this morning, Nanna, Nanna, I didn’t do my homework last night! I said, never mind, we’ll do double tonight!” laughs Emma. The stories of suffering that Emma is exposed to everyday can take an emotional toll, so Emma takes some time every night to practice rituals, which help her unburden herself. She’s a strong believer in the power of traditional healing, and often speaks to her ancestors at night, asking for guidance, and thanking them when they help her through the tough times.
Being both a full-time employee and guardian, Emma sees OUA as her only realistic option. Since starting her psychology bachelor, she has truly surprised herself with what she’s capable of. Despite the challenges of Emma’s past, and the fast-pace of her life today, she encourages people like herself to keep pushing for what they want. “I’ve got to be able to be there for my grandchildren.” Emma admits, “Study comes second- but I do it for me. That’s my stuff”. Emma estimates that she’ll be finished her degree in 2019, and at the age of 60, she’ll finally be able to fulfil her purpose.
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