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Dr Tracy Westerman AM

Tracy Westerman

Dr Tracy Westerman AM, Western Australia’s Australian of the Year for 2018

Recognised for spending over two decades working to reduce the burden of mental ill health and suicide in Aboriginal communities


Dr Tracy Westerman AM is a proud Nyamal woman from the Pilbara region of Western Australia and long been considered a critical thought leader in Aboriginal mental health, suicide prevention and cultural competency. In 2003, she became the first Aboriginal person to complete a combined Masters & PhD in Clinical Psychology. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Psychology, a master’s degree in clinical psychology and Doctor of Philosophy (Clinical Psychology). This is despite coming from a background of disadvantage and one in which she had to undertake most of her tertiary entrance subjects by Distance Education.

In 2022 Dr Westerman signed with University Queensland Press (UQP) to publish her memoir in late 2023/early 2024 which will document her significant and groundbreaking work.

Her message is that “there is nothing we can’t achieve as Aboriginal people if we believe in ourselves”

Her PhD resulted in the development of FOUR unique psychometric tests, the cornerstone of which was the Westerman Aboriginal Symptom Checklist-Youth (WASC-Y) which determined a different nature to Aboriginal suicide and mental ill health and has been the focus of unique program, training development and delivery over the past 23 years bringing international and national attention to her work. She has recently submitted the FIRST national data base on Aboriginal youth mental health for publication. This is an Australian first. You can view the abstract here.

Dr Westerman is a widely sought after keynote speaker having delivered to over 100+ invited national conferences and internationally in Canada (2003); the USA (2004), Auckland (2006 & 2007); Wellington (2009) and Auckland (in 2021). In 2005 the Canadian government sent a delegation to Australia to explore Dr Westerman’s innovative approaches to Aboriginal suicide prevention and mental health resulting in recommendations that the same approach be adopted for Canadian Aboriginal people (Nunuvut Taskforce, 2006). Her post-keynote interview in Wellington in 2009 on culture bound syndromes attracted thousands of views on YouTube. You can view it here.

Dr Westerman has trained 50,000+ practitioners across Australia making her one of the most sought after public speakers and trainer in Australia. She regularly commands audiences in the thousands and her workshops are constantly sold out across Australia. Regularly sought out by all forms of media for her opinions on many complex mental health issues, Dr Westerman’s opinion pieces have attracted national attention regularly obtaining hundreds of thousands of engagements. Her recent article on the dynamics of coercive control was in the top three trending national stories for the weekend it was featured. 

Her social media platforms have more than 500,000 engagements each week and often millions each month.

You can find her considerable list of Podcast and radio appearance’s here; her Opinion Pieces and some of her media appearances here

Dr Westerman has managed well over 400 individual contracts, appears in numerous government reports citing her innovative work and been invited as an  expert witness to a number of Enquires & Commissions including the current Royal Commission into Disability, Violence, Abuse in 2021, Neglect and Exploitation of People with a Disability; the 2016 WA Parliamentary Enquiry into Aboriginal Suicide Prevention, the 2011 NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the Bowraville Serial Murders, the 2005 NT Parliamentary Enquiry into Substance Misuse in Aboriginal Communities to name a few.

Her combined body of work places her at the forefront of Aboriginal mental health service delivery. Her most notable awards include:

  • 2022 Australian Psychological Society Altmetrics Award for paper: “Culture-bound syndromes in Aboriginal Australian populations”. This award is given to the paper published in any APS publication with the highest Altmetric Attention Score. Altmetrics measures how widely discussed a journal article is around the globe
  • Order of Australia (AM), 2021, Queens Birthday List
  • Telstra Women’s Business Awards Winner, Small Business Category (WA), 2020
  • Australian of the Year (WA) 2018
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Curtin University, Alumni Awards (2018)
  • Inducted into WA Women’s Hall of Fame 2018
  • 40 under 40 WA Business Awards recognising Adjunct Professor Westerman as one of the best business people in WA under 40 – “Strategic Alliance Award”
  • The Suicide Prevention Australia Award for Emerging Researcher (2006)
  • The National Health & Medical Research Council Post Doctoral Fellowship to investigate ADHD in Aboriginal people
  • The Mark Liveris Award, Curtin University, Health Sciences for best Oral Presentation of PhD
  • The NAIDOC National Scholar of the Year (2002)

DEVELOPING THE NEXT GENERATION OF INDIGENOUS PSYCHOLOGISTS: Dr Westerman is also developing the next generation of Indigenous psychologists by Personally, funding and launching the Dr Tracy Westerman Aboriginal Psychology Scholarship Program and founding the charity, the Westerman Jilya Institute for Indigenous Mental Health.Dr Westerman has personally fundraised and brought in grants and long terms donors and commitments to a total of approximately $8 MILLION to date through her own personal efforts.

This Australia first initiative directly addresses the needs of Indigenous families and communities based upon decades of Inquiries, which cite the lack of access to specialist programs and services in high risk areas. Dr Westerman started the scholarship as a direct response to this critical need in Indigenous communities which have not been responded to by successive governments. Her involvement includes:

    • An initial personal donation of $51,800 to commence the scholarship in her name. Refer to media here.
    • The commencement of the Equity Scholarship – Dr Westerman personally funds a $30,000 a year scholarship from 2021.
    • Dr Westerman works in Jilya for no salary mentoring all students and managing significant aspects of the Jilya daily operations. She also volunteers on the Board of Directors
    • The Jilya Institute is now supporting FORTY ONE Indigenous Psychology students. Read about these incredible group of future psychologists here


For an overview of Dr Westerman’s achievements in Aboriginal Mental Health, Cultural Competency & Suicide Prevention click here Achievements in SP & MH

A short snippet from Dr Westermans 2023 Jilya speech about hope:

In her ‘downtime’ Dr Westerman is also a keen marathon runner, having completed three marathons in Bunbury, Perth and Melbourne marathons as well as many half marathons. As a self confessed fitness fanatic, she is finds physical fitness to be the essential element to her longevity as a training deliverer. Its also a matter of ‘practice what you preach’ with self care being such an important element of her personal wellbeing. 

Bunbury Marathon finish
Perth Marathon finish
Melbourne Marathon finish

Dr Westerman’s Keynote Presentations

  • Westerman, T.G (2023). The scientist practitioner model is build on a foundation of cultural exclusion: A call to action.
  • Westerman, T.G (2022). The Rob Riley Memorial Lecture. Why we are failing to close the gap on Indigenous mental health, incarceration, suicides and child removals.
  • Westerman, T.G (2022). Adopt Change. The escalating rates of Aboriginal child removals. Why the focus is wrong.
  • Westerman, T.G (2019). 100 Women Gala Celebration 2019. 100 Women. Perth, WA
  • Westerman, T.G (2019). VACCA – Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency. Melbourne, VIC
  • Westerman, T.G (2019). Disrupted Festival of Ideas. The Truth About Aboriginal Suicide. Perth State Libary. WA
  • Westerman, T.G (2019). ACHSM WA Leadership Conference. What does Indigenous Mental Health Leadership look like? Perth, WA.
  • Westerman, T.G (2019). Curtin University Occasional Address to 1,300 Social Work, Psychology and Health Sciences Graduates. Perth, Curtin University, WA
  • Westerman, T.G (2019). WACSSO National Confderence. The Self Fulfilling Prophecy contribution to Educational Outcomes for Indigenous People. 
  • Westerman, T.G (2019). National Anglicare Conference. What does Aboriginal Mental Health & Suicide Prevention Best Practice Look Like? Perth, WA
  • Westerman, T.G (2019). Australian Evaluation Society. Without Measurability there is no accountability. We are failing to gather evidence of what works in Aboriginal Mental Health & Suicide Prevention. Sydney, NSW
  • Westerman, T.G (2018). Aboriginal Enterprises in Mining, Energy & Exploration Ltd Conference. Fremantle, WA
  • Westerman, T.G (2018). Cultural Competence In Child Protection. KWY National Summit. Adelaide, SA
  • Westerman, T.G (2018). Cultural Competence in Educational Institutions – Why it is vital to outcomes for Indigenous people. TEMC Conference. Burswood, WA
  • Westerman, T.G (2018). Indigenous Literacy Day Round Table. Catholic Education WA Kaartdijin Week 2018. Leederville, WA
  • Westerman, T.G (2018). Cultural Competent Forensic Mental Health Assessment. District Court of Western Australia Judges’ Conference 2018. Perth, WA
  • Westerman, T.G (2018). WA Australian of the Year Social Inclusion Breakfast Forum: Social Inclusion’s Role in Community Wellbeing. Crawley, WA
  • Westerman, T.G (2017). Cultural Competence in child protection: how can we ensure minimum standards. An introduction to the work of IPS in the Department of Communities, Perth, WA
  • Westerman, T.G (2017). Developing culturally competent workforces – what is the payoff for Aboriginal clients and service delivery, Sydney, YFoundation
  • Westerman, T.G. (2017). Working with dual diagnosis in Aboriginal mental health: where is the evidence base? Tamworth Aboriginal Medical Service, Tamworth
  • Westerman, T.G. (2012).  A culturally competent mental health workforce: the work of IPS in delivering best practice workforce development programs across Australia, Western Regional Alcohol and Drug Dual Diagnosis Conference, Warnambool, Victoria
  • Westerman, T.G. (2012).Cultural Competence in Aboriginal Mental Health: the predictors of best practice and the research of IPS in determining the predictors. Western Australian Drug and Alcohol Conference, Perth, Western Australia
  • Westerman, T.G. (2010).  Aboriginal Parenting Differences and how to recognize the value in terms of effective intervention and prevention. QEC Early Parenting Program 6th Annual Conference.  Melbourne
  • Westerman, T.G. (2009).  Unique Aboriginal mental health service provision – what are the benefits and what has been achieved? Western Australian Country Health Service, Kalgoorlie, WA
  • Westerman, T.G. (2009). Development of sustainable and effective models of mental health service delivery: taking an evidence based approach. Australian Community Support Organisation Conference, Melbourne
  • Westerman, T.G. (2009).  Culturally competent forensic mental health assessment: where are we at? Australian Institute of Criminology, Sydney
  • Westerman, T.G. (2008).  Psychometric Assessment of Aboriginal People: validation of tests and getting it right. The Victorian Transcultural Psychiatry Unit, Melbourne
  • Westerman, T.G. (2007).  Developing and validating services and programs from within the Aboriginal culture – the origins of Indigenous Psychological Services and impacts. Making Waves 33rd International Conference of the ACMHN, Cairns
  • Westerman, T.G. (2007).  The value of unique service provision for Aboriginal Australians – the benefits of starting from scratch. Psychology and Indigenous Australians: Effective Teaching and Practice Conference, Adelaide
  • Westerman, T.G. (2007). Effective Practice in Indigenous Suicide: What impacts can be made by adopting a unique cultural approach,  Suicide Prevention Australia, Sydney, NSW
  • Muuji Forum (2007).  Self- care and Worker Burnout. How to address compassion fatigue in the helping profession, Canberra, ACT
  • Westerman, T.G. (2006).  Mater Community Youth Mental Health Services Conference. The Assessment of Attachment Disorders in Aboriginal People: does culture play a role? Brisbane, QLD
  • Westerman, T.G. (2006).  Association of Independent Schools of WA & Catholic Education Office Child Protection Conference. Aboriginal Family Violence: Demystifying Culture from Abuse. Fremantle, WA
  • Westerman, T.G. (2005).  Aboriginal Child Behaviour Management – how to make the most of cultural strengths in the classroom. Association of Independent Schools. Broome, WA
  • Westerman, T.G. (2005).  The Northern Territory Australian Psychological Society Branch Conference, Darwin. The parameters of culturally derived psychological and mental health assessment of Aboriginal people: where does the differential diagnosis come into play?
  • Westerman, T.G. (2005).  Ethnic Child Care Resource Unit. Aboriginal families and the emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal children, Perth, WA
  • Westerman, T.G. (2004).  Models of Intervention: incorporating traditional with westernized models of service delivery.  Armidale, NSW
  • Westerman, T.G. (2004).  Making a Difference Conference. What is effective with Aboriginal people – ways forward.  Alice Springs
  • Westerman, T.G. (2003).  Why is it important to have specialist mental health services for Aboriginal people?  Pilbara and Kimberley Regional Education Conference – students with special needs. Karratha
  • Westerman, T.G. (2003).  Unchartered Territory Conference, Darwin, Northern Territory.  “A Model of Best Practice for Aboriginal Suicide Prevention.  Preliminary Results from work in Western Australia
  • Westerman, T.G. (2003).  Alcohol and Other Drugs Conference.  Co-occurrence of Disorders in Aboriginal populations:  how does this affect diagnosis, prognosis and treatment.  Darwin
  • Westerman, T.G. (2002).  Women’s Refuge Conference of WA Inc.  Aboriginal Children and Domestic and Family Violence: An analysis of the nature of violence in Aboriginal communities and the psychological impacts on Aboriginal children Mandurah Performing Arts Centre, Mandurah
  • Westerman, T.G. (2002).  Assessment of Aboriginal People: how do we measure the success of intervention programs with Aboriginal people?  Auseinet Forum, Adelaide
  • Westerman, T.G. (2002).  Women’s Refuge Conference of WA, Inc.  Working with Aboriginal Youth and Children:  A community development approach to the prevention of suicide in the Derby region. WA
  • Westerman, T.G. (2002).  Mental Health Promotion and what it means for Aboriginal People.  Mental Health Symposium, Perth



  • Rio Tinto Mining Corporation Research Grant for PhD research into depression, suicide and anxiety disorders within Aboriginal youth, 1999 – 2000 ($40,000)
  • ReCap Grant, Curtin University for PhD research, 2001 ($4,000)
  • Healthway Research Grant for research and developing indigenous conceptualizations of anxiety and depression to inform development of an early intervention program for Aboriginal children. Curtin University Research Team, 2001 – 2004 ($300,000)
  • Healthway Starter Grant to develop an early intervention program for Aboriginal youth at risk of suicide and depression (Westerman, Hay & Vicary, 2002-2003: $50,000)
  • Healthway Research Grant to develop an early intervention program for Aboriginal youth at risk of suicide and depression (Westerman, Hay & Vicary, 2002-2003: $300,000). First Aboriginal person to be awarded this fellowship as a Chief Investigator
  • Telstra Foundation Research Grant for developing project content for working with suicidal and depressed Aboriginal youth (Westerman & Hay: $90,000) 2002-2004.
  • National Health & Medical Research Council, Post-Doctoral Fellowship ($120,000)
  • Lotterywest Grant (2021). The Westerman Jilya Institute for Indigenous Mental Health. ($403,000)