Dr Lyn O’Grady
National Co-ordinator for KidsMatter Primary at the Australian Psychological Society.
Country of birth: Australia
Languages spoken: English
What initially attracted you to community psychology?
I was studying undergraduate psychology at Victoria University and became familiar with Community Psychology. It felt comfortable with my values and approach to life so was an automatic decision to specialise in it. When I began to study psychology (as a mature age student) I recall wondering which area I would end up specialising in as they all sounded really interesting. By the end of my undergraduate degree it was apparent that much of psychology didn't speak to me but Community Psychology did. Looking back now, it seemed like community psychology found me rather than the other way around!
Please describe your current position.
National Co-ordinator for KidsMatter Primary at the Australian Psychological Society. KidsMatter is a mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention initiative in Australian primary schools. I work with a national team to develop mental health resources and form partnerships with the health sector to support schools in improving children's mental health outcomes.
The initiative is based on a socio-ecological model, recognising that children develop within a context of family, school and community, affected by broader societal factors. It also draws on a risk and protective factor framework and aims to enhance children's mental health and wellbeing by recognising family and school as significant places for reducing risk factors and increasing protective factors. The approach within a school involves the whole school community, valuing the role of families and partnerships with health and community sectors.
What other work have you been involved in as a community psychologist?
I have worked as a school psychologist in the Western Metropolitan region of Melbourne. Although this is not typically a role taken on by community psychologists my knowledge and understanding of systems and the socioecological model was extremely valuable. Similarly the values and underlying principles of community psychology were helpful to me personally when working in schools.
I volunteer as an independent person with young people who do not have an adult to support them during police interviews. The notion of community and people from outside the immediate family supporting young people is what draws me to this work – as I believe that it does take a village to raise a child.
What tertiary training (if any) do you have in community psychology?
Graduate Diploma and Doctorate from Victoria University.
What are the most valuable things you learnt in your community psychology training?
Individuals exist within the context of systems and accordingly behaviour needs to be understood in that way.
Values of absolute respect for people, who they are and what they believe in and putting away any judgements I may have about how I live my life – and that you can only do this through taking the time to be present (in all senses) and develop an understanding.
Please list your academic qualifications.
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.
Attending community psychology conferences was really helpful – they have a very different feel to other conferences – incredibly collegiate and inclusive. As a student I felt very encouraged to participate fully.
What are the most important things you learnt in the field (or in an academic setting) about community psychology?
Many people (including psychologists) focus on the individual in isolation and community psychology gives voice to challenge this idea.
Being a psychologist who names values and appreciates the value laden nature of psychology work is important. Sometimes things can go wrong when values and principles are not named upfront, but remain hidden or implicit. Community psychologists really go out of their way to learn about and incorporate respectful practices in their day to day work with people who are marginalised – this becomes a way of being over time which doesn't get turned on and off depending on whether you are working or not. Community psychology is a niche area of psychology at the moment – but when you talk with other psychologists or health practitioners about it, it seems to resonate and people are really interested in finding out more.
In what other ways do you use your community psychology training and skills?
As stated above, principles and values of community psychology become embedded in who I am. My community psychology training and skills have equipped to work with a wide range of people – including visits I have made to remote aboriginal communities, as well as within the western suburbs of Melbourne. I am able as a community psychologist to walk the line between scientist and practitioner – so getting the benefits and respect of psychology – but with much more!
What advice would you offer to someone contemplating a career in community psychology?
Be prepared to sit outside of the mainstream when you become a community psychologist – but ready to reap the benefits of a stream of psychology that you will help you find who you are.
What are your research interests?
Young people, sense of community, parenting, schools.
Please list any professional memberships.
Australian Psychological Society.
Community Psychology College
SCRA (past member)