Leading Aboriginal researcher named joint winner of national mental health prize

06 Nov 2020 | 4 mins

Pioneering Aboriginal psychiatrist, researcher and mental health champion Professor Helen Milroy has been named joint winner of the 2020 Australian Mental Health Prize.

Professor Milroy, recognised as the first Indigenous Australian to become a medical doctor, shares the prestigious prize with leading psychiatrist and founder of the Black Dog Institute, Professor Gordon Parker.

The national prize, presented by the Governor General, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), recognises Australians who have made outstanding contributions to either the promotion of mental health or prevention/treatment of mental health issues.

“I am hoping that through this award, we can shine a light on children’s mental health and provide whatever it takes to bring about their wellbeing and that of their families and communities.”

Professor Helen Milroy

Professor Milroy, a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region, studied medicine at The University of Western Australia, then worked as a GP and completed specialist training in child and adolescent psychiatry.

She lectures in psychiatry at The University Western Australia and holds multiple prestigious roles nationally and in WA. In addition to being co-director of the Embrace project and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Telethon Kids Institute, she is Stan Perron Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Perth Children’s Hospital and UWA.

She is also a Commissioner with the National Mental Health Commission, a Commissioner with the Australian Football League, and from 2013-2017 was a Commissioner for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Passionate about combining Aboriginal and western knowledge systems to improve outcomes, Professor Milroy focuses her work and research on child mental health, recovery from trauma and grief, Aboriginal mental health, and cultural models of care.

Professor Milroy said it was humbling and an honour to share the prize with her esteemed colleague, Professor Parker.

“I would like to thank the Advisory Board and UNSW for making this award possible and for shining a light on some of the excellent work taking place across our nation to improve the mental health and wellbeing of all Australians,” Professor Milroy said.

“Children are no more immune to mental health challenges than the rest of society, yet they are easily overlooked or thought to be resilient. 

“I am hoping that through this award, we can shine a light on children’s mental health and provide whatever it takes to bring about their wellbeing and that of their families and communities.”

UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Amit Chakma said the University was delighted that Professor Milroy had received national recognition for her ground-breaking contributions to mental health research.

“It highlights the great importance of the role she has played and will continue to play in improving Aboriginal health and mental health outcomes across Australia,” Professor Chakma said.

The Australian Mental Health Prize was established in 2016 by UNSW through its School of Psychiatry. It recognises Australians who have made outstanding contributions to either the promotion of mental health, or the prevention/treatment of mental illness.

Media references

Jess Reid, UWA Media & PR Adviser, 08 6488 6876

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