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Raelene Farrell – Senior Psychologist


Tell us about your role as a Senior Psychologist.

The role of a Senior Psychologist is varied. Senior Psychologists supervise a number of School Psychologists within a geographical network of schools and consult with schools to support students with complex needs. We work with the School Psychologist, school staff and families within each school in relation to learning assessments, counselling approaches, mental health and disability education programs. We also respond to critical incidents that impact school communities and provide professional learning to school staff and allied health professionals.

School-aged children can experience a range of issues (social, emotional, behavioural, learning and mental health) this can impact on their ability to engage in learning. Senior Psychologists play an important role in the early identification, intervention and prevention of some of these issues to ensure that children and young people learn and thrive.

What’s the best part of your job?

It is really inspiring to work with such passionate school staff and School Psychologists who really care about making a difference. My favourite part of the role is the regular professional conversations I have with the talented and enthusiastic team of School Psychologists, it is a real privilege.

What drew you to working as a School Psychologist initially? What inspired you to become a Senior Psychologist?

Both my Mum and Dad are teachers, so I was always at BBQ’s surrounded by teachers and school talk. I studied Psychology and Mathematics when I left school and I started out as a secondary Mathematics teacher in NSW and the U.K. In fact, I have never left school!

I was always drawn to student welfare roles in schools; building relationships with families and students to help understand the experience of students who were struggling in the school environment. My Principal recognised my passion and interest and recommended that I do further study to become a school psychologist.

I have now worked in Canberra schools for 17 years; 10 of them as a Senior Psychologist. I enjoy the diversity of the work and value the strong working relationships within the psychology team and schools.

What motivates you in your career?

Ultimately, I hope I am contributing to the lives of children and young people. To help them develop resilience and become independent and content human beings. I am passionate about supporting the wellbeing, learning and professional decision making of school psychologists and school staff who are often working in situations that can be very challenging.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I remember feeling uncertain when I started as a school psychologist and put pressure on myself to answer every question that teachers, principals and parents might ask.  My very first supervisor was incredibly supportive and shared with me a simple piece of advice - listen to understand, not to respond. To actively listen to people and to let them know that they have been heard.  This really took the pressure off me in those early years and it still really resonates with me now, 25 years later.

What makes working/teaching in Canberra public schools great?

Canberra is such a wonderful place to live and work and I love the sense of community within schools here. Canberra public schools have hard-working and dedicated staff who create an environment for children/young people and parents that fosters learning and growth. I have worked in Canberra public schools for the last 17 years, and I love the diversity of schools and the ability of school psychologists to move between schools over their career and develop their skills across different age groups and school settings. The opportunity for linking with community services that also support families and young people are plentiful in Canberra and this is a real strength.