Justyce wins scholarship to study toward her Masters of Psychology

PAYING IT FORWARD - Scholarship recipient, Justyce Pengilly, is inspired to help others (Bond University article)

Justyce with her proud mum and Grandma.

Justyce with her proud mum and Grandma.

“Growing up, I saw a lot of people struggling with mental health issues. I found myself wanting to understand it and to be able to do something about it.

“I thought the best way to do that would be to make a career out of it.”

Justyce Pengilly recently graduated from a Bachelor of Psychological Science and is on the cusp of completing her Honours year in Psychology at Bond.

“One of the biggest problems is that there aren’t many Aboriginal psychologists – trained therapists who really understand our culture and the way we live … our relationships … our deep connection with family.

“As with anyone who reaches out for help from a psychologist or counsellor, you’re looking for someone who understands what you’re saying and where you’re coming from.

“It can be really hard for Aboriginal people to find that right fit.”

It’s hard to believe that Justyce is just 20 years of age and not yet three years out of high school. She is quietly spoken but she speaks with a deep understanding of cultural dynamics.

One of the highlights of her Bond experience, she says, is seeing those dynamics at work during an internship with Marumali Consultations – one of the very few Aboriginal owned and run psychology services, based on the Gold Coast at Tallebudgera.

“It really changed the game for me,” says Justyce. “At the end of last year, I was questioning whether I’d chosen the right career path and this opportunity came along out of the blue to work with two Indigenous psychologists, right here in the local area.

“Once a week, I tagged along with them as they conducted workshops, cultural competence training with large companies, and other projects, and I came to see how they maintained their integrity in their culture within their psychology practice.

“It answered all my questions and showed me that this is the career I want.”

Another highlight of Justyce’s Bond experience has been expanding her circle of Indigenous friends at the Nyombil Centre.

“At my high school in Brisbane, I was one of only two Indigenous girls in Year 12. Here at Bond, there is a big group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, so it means that I have a much larger circle of Indigenous friends from all over Australia.

“It’s nice not to feel out of place and it’s great to be part of this whole generation of Aboriginal Australians who are getting tertiary qualifications and planning big careers.

“It’s something that didn’t happen two generations ago.”

With the end of her Honours year in sight, Justyce is planning to take six months off before returning to study her Masters of Psychology at Bond in May.

“It’s all part of a six-year plan I set out in Year 12,” she says.

“It’s surreal to think that I’m so close to achieving the goal I dreamt of when I was 17. I know I won’t have any trouble finding work in my chosen field and it will be exciting to see what happens next.”