Change to Rules for Accreditation Find out more

Celebrating women who are shaping psychology

4 minutes read • 7 March 2023

To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, APAC is highlighting the contribution of women to the profession of psychology.

We asked our Directors to nominate just a few of the female psychologists making a difference in Australia today. Here are their choices.

Professor Pat Dudgeon AM

Pat Dudgeon is from the Bardi people in Western Australia. She is a psychologist and professor at the School of Indigenous Studies at UWA. Her research includes Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention.

She is the director of the UWA Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention and chief investigator of a national NHMRC research project, Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing, that aims to develop approaches to Indigenous mental health services that promote cultural values and strengths as well as empowering users.

As Australia’s first identified Indigenous psychologist she has been influential in the profession and was the founding chair of the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association.

APAC Director Professor Romola Bucks said: “Pat is a role model to us all. I have learned so much from working with her on the APAC working group on developing cultural responsiveness, a senior Elder to whom we all turned for insights, opinion and approval.

“She has a 40-plus year career in Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention, as well as advocating for culturally aware and safe psychologist practice.”

Emeritus Professor Mary Sheehan AO

Mary Sheehan has received international recognition for her work in alcohol, drugs and traffic safety through ministerial and executive appointments such as the International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety (ICADTS) and the United States Academy of Science Transportation Research Board (TRB).

She is a foundation member of the Australian College of Road Safety (ACRS) and was awarded a Fellowship in 2000 for her contribution and commitment to road safety.

Emeritus Professor Mary Sheehan retired from the directorship of the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q) at QUT in 2008 but continues her research and postgraduate mentoring and activities at the Centre.

Her research is focused on the application of social psychological theory to educational and rehabilitation initiatives to enhance community road safety, particularly the safety of young people, and in reducing the incidence of drink driving.

APAC Director Professor Robert Schweitzer said: “Mary is one of those quiet achievers. Her work has been responsible for programs such as the Under the Limit (UTL) drink driving rehabilitation program and a trial of alcohol ignition interlocks with high-risk Queensland drink drivers.

“She has supervised postgraduate students from around the world, often focused on low-income countries with significant human-traffic safety needs, with a view to addressing road safety. Her influence has been immense.”

Professor Nancy Pachana

Nancy Pachana is a clinical geropsychologist, neuropsychologist and professor in the School of Psychology at The University of Queensland, and is co-director of the UQ Ageing Mind Initiative, providing a focal point for clinical, translational ageing-related research at UQ.

She has an international reputation in the area of geriatric mental health, particularly with her research on late-life anxiety disorders, and is co-developer of the Geriatric Anxiety Inventory, which has been translated into more than two dozen languages.

Her major areas of research include assessment and treatment of late-life anxiety and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease; driving and dementia; the human-animal bond in later life; and mental health policy and ageing.

Professor Pachana was an APAC Director from 2014 to 2018 and chaired the Accreditation Standards Working Party.

APAC Director Adjunct Professor John Dunn said: “Nancy was an energetic and influential Director who played a very significant role in the drafting of the current APAC Standards.”

Professor Suzanne Chambers AO

Suzanne Chambers has a distinguished 25-year career in health psychology and is the Executive Dean of Health Sciences at the Australian Catholic University, based in Brisbane.

Her research has focused on developing models to predict help-seeking and adjustment after cancer: designing remote access and low-intensity psychological interventions for people affected by cancer; integrating peer support into controlled design methodologies; and integrating distress screening into interventions to target high-distress cancer patient groups.

She is the author of Facing the Tiger: A Survivorship Guide for Men with Prostate cancer and their Partners and The Health Professionals Guide to Delivering Psychological Care for Men with Prostate Cancer.

She is recognised internationally for her work in helping people in their yearnings to cope with illness, manage stress and anxiety, improve health and well-being, and navigate life changes.

APAC Director Professor John Gleeson said: “Suzanne has pioneered important lines of research in psycho-oncology driven by a career-long commitment to translating research into real-world benefits for the community.”

Photo above: clockwise from left – Mary Sheehan, Nancy Pachana, Suzanne Chambers and Pat Dudgeon.

Continue reading

  • Video transcript