Story by GO supporter and Stories for Simon author Lisa Sarzin.

Adam, Natalie and Michael at the 2019 GO Graduation Ceremony
Adam, Natalie and Michael at the 2019 GO Graduation Ceremony

The heartbeat of Natalie’s journey so far is her strong desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others. And she does so in countless ways.

Natalie is a proud Wadi Wadi and Wiradjuri young woman in her second year of a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) and Commerce at Macquarie University.  Her goal is to qualify as a clinical psychologist and her passion is to help people improve their mental health, especially within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.  Natalie works in the Human Resources Department of Export Finance Australia; and will also shortly commence work as a tutor providing online mentoring and study support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in remote areas.  ‘I’ve been fortunate enough to have help at school and had tutors, so I know how much impact that has’ Natalie explains.

Natalie is also in the process of publishing a magnificent children’s picture book focussing on Indigenous mental health which she wrote and illustrated as part of her major work for her HSC in 2019. ‘I wanted to create a difference after having my own struggle with mental health and I’m very passionate about educating children, particularly Indigenous children about mental health and the importance of reaching out and seeking help.’

Natalie with her mentor and GO supporter, Lisa Sarzin
Natalie with her mentor and GO supporter, Lisa Sarzin

Natalie’s eldest sister, Brittany, was one of the first GO scholars and Natalie saw first-hand the valuable impact that the GO Foundation had on her sister. Natalie herself was awarded a GO Scholarship in 2018 and 2019 which supported her studies at Loreto Normanhurst.

‘For me GO has provided support and opportunities that I never would have had.  I have been able to network and meet people. GO has always been there for me and my whole family during tough times. They’ve always pushed for us to have the best opportunities and to be the best we can be.’

Natalie is appreciative of the extent to which Adam Goodes, Michael O’Loughlin and former CEO Shirley Chowdhary cared about all GO Scholars individually. She says, ‘Whenever I spoke to them, they remembered everything we discussed the last time.’

Caring role models have always played a significant role in Natalie’s life. ‘I had a lot of personal challenges and circumstances that impacted my schooling, but I was lucky to have a strong network around me.  My teachers in Year 12 were really supportive, especially Head of House Emma Hughes and Kelly Cahalane, who were like mothers to me. I probably wouldn’t have got through Year 12 without them.’  Outside of school, Natalie has forged a strong bond with her mentor, Lisa Sarzin.

Natalie and her nan Jeanette
Natalie and her nan Jeanette

Natalie has also been nurtured and shaped by her close-knit family. ‘I am very close to my family, both immediate and extended. I have always been around cousins and Aunties and Uncles. A lot of my strength comes from my family, my Nan, my great-grandmother, my father and my mother.  Just seeing how far they’ve come in their lives just for me to be where I am today is pretty empowering.’ Natalie’s grandfather was a source of inspiration and guidance to her, ‘Pop was a very determined man and I’ve always looked up to him.’

Natalie is filled with gratitude for the people who have supported her and is also aware that there are many who face challenges without networks to uplift them.  While still at school, Natalie researched, wrote and illustrated a children’s picture book dealing with the challenging and sensitive topic of mental health.  ‘I’ve always been very passionate about that as I myself have struggled with mental health and my family has struggled with mental health and I have learnt about the impact of intergenerational trauma as well and how that impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The purpose of the book has always been to spread awareness and hopefully reduce the youth suicide statistics and improve mental health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is also a way to de-stigmatise everyone’s perspective of mental health.’

Natalie has been humbled by the positive impact her book has had on the people she has shared it with.  Natalie’s primary aim was to create a culturally safe and appropriate book for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth, but in sharing her book, she has discovered that it is equally meaningful for children and adults from all cultures and backgrounds.

Natalie has been invited to schools as well as large corporate events to speak about her book, which she has found exceptionally rewarding. ‘They were all engaged and asking questions and then after I got a lot of responses from them about how they loved it and how they think it’s such an important message.’

While Natalie looks to the future and contributes to the community that is so important to her, she also looks back with appreciation to the GO Scholarship that provided a strong foundation for her to achieve, excel and give back.