From a steppingstone to a vocation

In the spirit of NAIDOC Week, we’re shining the spotlight on First Nations employees from across Monash Health to celebrate their integral contribution to our health service. 

Ashleigh Rowe is a Jerrinjan woman of Dharawal country and a Clinical Psychologist with our Forensic Mental Health team.  

“In my community NAIDOC has represented a celebration of culture, community and country, where our people would come from far and wide to join with family and friends in celebration. It also allows us to stand in solidarity in remembrance of our ancestors struggles and the ongoing challenges we face as First Nations peoples.” 

When Ashleigh finished her undergraduate studies, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do as a career. 

“I found myself studying psychology as a bit of a steppingstone,” says Ashleigh Rowe, a Clinical Psychologist with our Forensic Mental Health team. “I mean, psychology applies to yourself. It applies to everyone around you. And I walked away from my undergraduate degree, not really sure what I was going to do with that or if I was even going to pursue it.” 

A family member working in the Aboriginal Medical Service in Nowra offered Ashleigh an internship to work with kids in out-of-home care.  

“I took that up and that made me realize that psychology was what I wanted to do with my life.  I went back to uni and did my masters, and that’s how I found my way.” 

Ashleigh joined the Forensic Mental Health Community team last year. 

“I moved here from Wollongong for the job in May,” says Ashleigh. “We work with people on a referral basis from corrections. That’s anyone who’s on parole or a corrections order with or without a mental health condition on their order, they can still access our service to get support for their mental health.” 

There are some challenges to the job. 

“When it’s a mandated situation, not everyone’s overly keen on working on their mental health because they’re being told to do so. The biggest struggle is trying to engage people and get them motivated for change.” 

The pandemic has also posed a challenge for Ashleigh’s work. 

“We’ve been one of the only services that were able to keep our doors open through all the lockdowns. That’s due to the potential that our clients might experience acute issues in that type of situation, so we were able to support them throughout.” 

But Ashleigh says there’s never a dull day. “Our guys will often bring in some pretty interesting stories. I see the full spectrum of issues that someone can have in terms of their mental health.” 


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people play an integral role at Monash Health. This profile is part of a series during NAIDOC Week to showcase and celebrate some of our First Nations colleagues.