Brenda profile

Brenda McKinty

Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology)
RMIT University

How did you feel when you were awarded a George Alexander Foundation scholarship?

When I found out I had been awarded a George Alexander Foundation Scholarship, I felt so excited! It was such a relief to have financial support so I could continue studying. Afterwards, I felt very humbled to have been chosen as a scholarship recipient; the award meant the benefactors believed in what I was trying to achieve, and this meant a lot to me. I became determined to do my absolute best in my studies as the opportunity the scholarship presented does not happen every day, and I had to capitalise on it while I could.

What has it meant to you? What has it made possible?

Without the scholarship I would not have been able to continue studying. I returned to study to develop a career as a psychologist. Balancing work, study and single-parenting is difficult, and I found myself financially stretched after completing the first year of my degree. This hardship made the decision to continue studying difficult. The quandary was this: I could not afford to continue studying full-time, as part-time work and Austudy did not generate enough income to support my family. Reducing my study load reduced the amount of Austudy I received, meaning I would need to work more to offset the loss. More work meant even less time for study and a further reduction in Austudy... the cycle is nefarious and frustrating. Receiving the scholarship broke this cycle, enabling me to focus on my studies, work part-time, and support my family.

Where are you hoping your course will take you?

I returned to study to become a Clinical Psychologist with the ability to counsel members of the Deaf community in Auslan (Australian sign language). Through working as an Auslan interpreter, the limited access to services for the Deaf community became very apparent. It occurred to me that consulting a psychologist and divulging very personal information in the presence of a third party (the interpreter) may prevent some people from engaging with the services; people needing support for depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues may not be accessing the services they need to assist with recovery. This informed my decision to return to study. Although the field is highly competitive, I am determined to go as far as I am able towards my goal. So far, so good…

Do you do any community/volunteer work? Why is this important to you?

I volunteer with the Deafblind community when I can: guiding, interpreting, and generally supporting where needed. The Deafblind community is small and members can be quite isolated as their communication needs are more intensive (e.g. tactile Auslan, visual frame). It is important to me to volunteer with this community as their opportunities for socialisation and participation are greatly hampered by their communication difficulties. Assisting with outings helps facilitate socialisation and enjoyment of various activities, and I like to help make people happy.

What, if any, connections have you made with other GAF scholars? Is this something you think should be encouraged?

I connected with another GAF scholar at the presentations in 2016; unfortunately my time is very limited and I have not been able to maintain contact, or to attend the functions GAF has made available to us. Encouraging connection between GAF scholars can assist with building networks between people across a wide range of fields, something that may be needed throughout our professional lives. So – absolutely, connection between GAF scholars should be encouraged.

If you could say anything (except ‘thank you’) to George Alexander, what would it be?

The Foundation provides the opportunity for people to not only complete their studies, but to change their lives and their circumstances. The importance of the impact of the scholarships on individuals cannot be underestimated. Without the generosity of philanthropists like George Alexander, people like myself would have less access and fewer opportunities to effect positive change.

Gaze into the crystal ball… what do you see for yourself 10 years from now?

In 10 years I hope to be working as a Clinical Psychologist with both Deaf and hearing adolescents, helping them to improve and manage their mental health. I foresee myself working in schools, hospitals and in private practice, utilising Auslan where needed with Deaf adolescents who communicate in this language. I anticipate working hard, but enjoying a good work/life balance. Oh – and I’ll probably have a cat, too!

Interviewed 2017

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