Dr Harriet Radermacher
Research Fellow. Monash University, Mebourne, Victoria
Country of birth: England
Languages spoken: English
What initially attracted you to community psychology?
In my first job after completing my undergraduate degree, I was becoming increasingly aware and frustrated by the limited, individualised and oppressive nature of traditional psychological approaches. Community Psychology was able to offer an alternative (and a more just) perspective to the mainstream view; particularly about the location and cause of problems (such as depression, disability etc). Community Psychology acknowledged societal and structural influences, in addition to the individual, and that was quite refreshing.
Please describe your current position.
I'm a research fellow at Monash University – and work both within the Healthy Ageing Research Unit and the Problem Gambling Research and Treatment Centre. This is a research-only position, which I'm fortunate to have, but it does mean that at times I feel quite removed from reality and the community. I think they call it the ivory tower.
What other work have you been involved in as a community psychologist?
I consider my voluntary involvement with my sports club and sitting on the committee as the grants/sponsorship manager as a form of community psychology. I'm applying my skills and training in grant writing to assist a member-driven, financially stretched, female sports club. Having a community psychology background enables me to think about what the existence of the club offers individual members (beyond physical activity alone – such as increased sense of belonging, greater self-esteem, a broader support network, and an opportunity to explore one's identity) and the community more broadly, which is definitely a bonus when it comes to writing grant applications.
What tertiary training (if any) do you have in community psychology?
I completed a DPsych at Victoria University in 2006.
What are the most valuable things you learnt in your community psychology training?
I suppose the most valuable thing was not so much what I learnt, but who I learnt with – my fellow students who were on a similar journey of discovery, as well as the generosity of the staff team at Victoria University who shared so much of their time and insight.
Please list your academic qualifications.
BSc Hons in Psychology; DPsych (Community Psychology).
Please describe any other experiences (for example, mentors, professional development activities or further training) that helped you to prepare for a career in community psychology.
I don't consider myself to be a community psychologist or as having a career in community psychology – but rather that I have had training in community psychology. Possibly this is because in my current position I feel slightly at odds with what I perceive a community psychologist to be. Despite this, I deeply value the training I have had, and feel committed to continuing to live by and be guided by community psychology principles. For this reason, I have found ways to maintain my connections to community psychology. Being in an academic research setting, in a university that doesn't provide courses in community psychology, I feel quite isolated from the discipline; especially because I sit in a medical faculty. Therefore having ongoing contact with other people who have an interest in community psychology has been important. I have managed this mainly through maintaining contact with people from my course, and also by being involved in the College of Community Psychologists (Vic Section). It keeps me abreast of what is happening. Another extremely valuable experience has been the opportunity to host community psychology masters students on placements, when suitable projects arise – it forces me to think about what aspects of my work align with community psychology principles and assists me to share these experiences with a student.
What are the most important things you learnt in the field (or in an academic setting) about community psychology?
I've learnt that staying true to community psychology values is hard. Even after so many years, I still find myself reverting to individualised and oppressive ways of thinking, namely victim-blaming, and have to pull myself up. Thoughts and attitudes are so engrained. And it's always so much easier to say than do. I'm still learning, by the way, and often feel like I still don't get it.
In what other ways do you use your community psychology training and skills?
It's difficult to detach the personal from the professional so I could argue that I use my training and skills in everything that I do. I suppose what I am most aware of is that everyone has a story. Everyone wants to be heard and have a voice. So, as much as I am able, I try to facilitate this in every walk of life.
What advice would you offer to someone contemplating a career in community psychology?
Have thousands of pre-printed information leaflets to distribute, or a pre-recorded spiel, in response to the inevitable question about 'What is a community psychologist?'! I also think that while having training in community psychology provides a great springboard for pursuing careers in many different and diverse fields, it can also be problematic. The remit of a community psychologist is huge and it is easy to get lost. Therefore I think it is wise to have a clear idea of your strengths, interests and parameters.
What are your research interests?
My research interests are underpinned by my commitment and desire to give voice to the lived experiences of those people who are often excluded and marginalised in current society; and to contribute to knowledge about how to better access and include their voices in research. I'm fascinated in the process of research and how it can effectively engage people along the way – which builds on my doctoral research.
To maximise the effectiveness and usefulness of the research I do, I try to engage communities and organisations in the process and development of my research. In this way the research is likely to be more relevant to communities' needs, and they are more likely to be able to use the research for their own purposes. For example, I have worked on two projects with the Ethnic Communities' Council of Victoria (ECCV). We conceptualised both projects in collaboration with ECCV, and both projects have informed their future advocacy and policy work, not to mention its dissemination via public launches of the full report, published articles in local media, organisation newsletters, and peer reviewed journals, and community forums.
Currently my research focuses on healthy ageing and improving quality of life for older people. In particular, I am interested in cultural diversity and ageing, and how ethnicity and the experience of migration impacts on ageing well. I'm beginning to apply my interest in cultural diversity to the gambling field as well, to explore how the experience of migration impacts on people's gambling beliefs, attitudes and participation. In both ageing and gambling, I'm interested in people's attitudes and access to services and support.
Please add any other comments or information relevant to your work as a community psychologist.
"Everything starts with an idea" (Earl Nightengale). Please feel free to get in touch with me ( firstname.lastname@example.org) about any research or project ideas. Who knows where our discussion might lead.
Please list any professional memberships.
• Australian Psychological Society (Full member) - Member of the College of Community Psychologists, and Psychology and Ageing Interest Group
• Australian Association of Ageing (AAG)
• National Association of Gambling Studies (NAGS)