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Seven Questions for Kellie Marshall

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Kellie Marshall, 42, is a Senior Clinical Psychologist and the newest member of the IRT Group Board. A Wollongong local, Dr Marshall attended Figtree High School and studied psychology at the University of Wollongong. She completed her doctorate in clinical psychology at UOW in 2007 and is the former CEO and Deputy CEO of the Illawarra Division of General Practice. She is married with two daughters, aged 6 and 10. Dr Marshall joined the IRT Group Board in October 2019. The Good Life recently caught up with Kellie and asked her about her career highlights, achieving success as a woman in business, and improving mental health among older Australians.

1. What do you find most satisfying about being a clinical psychologist?

I’ve had two careers – one in management, one in clinical practice. In a clinical capacity, what I enjoy most is being able to work collaboratively with people to achieve their health goals and improved mental wellbeing. Working one-on-one with people, you get to hear people’s stories. It helps you understand what people are experiencing in life and what their core needs are. In management, it’s about being able to implement change at a systemic level, and understanding what needs to change to improve outcomes for the broader population. I like strategic work as well as what impacts people day-to-day.

2. Can you share with us one of your career highlights?

Becoming a clinical psychologist and being selected to undertake a doctorate in clinical psychology at UOW. More recently, becoming a clinical supervisor. In practice, seeing clients achieve their outcomes over a period of time. From a management point of view, working as part of a team to set up innovative services. For example, being part of the team that set up a number of clinical services in the region, one of which was local headspace services.

3. What progress do you think Australians have made in terms of prioritising their mental health?

There has been some significant progress and investment in mental health over the last 15 years which has improved peoples’ accessibly to mental health services. However, the stigma around mental health is still very apparent and we still have some way to go. We service our cars every 6 or 12 months but we don’t service our mental wellbeing. We need to be doing more preventative, early intervention work. The bushfires has raised a question around mental health in our community: how psychologically prepared are we as a community for what lies ahead?

4. How important is good mental health for older Australians?

It’s paramount. What we know is that 10 percent of older Australians experience some mental illness. As they get less independent and their mobility decreases, we see mental health skyrocket. In residential aged care we have 50% of people with a mental health issue. Add the complexity of dementia, isolation and loneliness, and we’re seeing really poor mental health outcomes in older Australians. There is recognition that mental health needs to be one of many priorities in aged care which can be challenging given the complexity of dementia care and physical health care alongside mental illness. Managing mental health in aged care is complex and there are some great initiatives happening but we still have a long way to go.

5. What motivated you to join IRT’s Board?

Before I came onto the Board, I spoke to other directors, the executive and some of the senior staff. What inspired me was the shift to a client-centred strategic direction. That approach opens opportunity to explore further mental health needs of residents. A priority for me is supporting the board in matters of the clinical governance. The direction the organisation is taking in a very challenging environment is encouraging. I’m impressed with the focus on residents, on staff and on running a financially viable organisation. I like a challenge and I like the honesty that IRT has around the challenges it faces. It was immediately apparent to me that the directors and the executive were leading with openness and transparency, and that’s where it has to start.

6. What do you believe are some of the biggest challenges facing the aged care sector?

The aging population and the systemic change required to meet the changing needs of older Australians. Also workforce shortages…how do we maintain a skilled workforce to meet these needs? There is a lot to be done, and managing a financially viable organisation in an environment with funding challenges is a crucial part of that.

7. What advice do you have to women working their way up the career ladder?

The most important thing for women is trusting yourself, ignoring your inner critic, ignoring the detractors who give voice to that inner critic and finding people who will mentor you and who will delight in your success. That’s critical.

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