Nathan Canuto – Journey into Psychology

Nathan Canuto is a 30 year old Torres Strait Islander man from Cairns in Far North Queensland.  His family hails from Badu Island in the Torres Strait where he lived in his late teens and early twenties. Nathan is studying his final year of a Bachelor of Behavioural Science (Psychology) degree at Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory.

Nathan was recently awarded the ‘Top End NAIDOC Scholar of the Year’ award with a current course grade point average of 6.75 out of a possible 7. In addition to his studies and other commitments, Nathan is a student member of Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA), the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander allied health peak body, and is an active member of the IAHA Student Representative Committee.

This is his story…

I decided to study psychology when I was working in Cape York on a program called Kids Living Safer Lives. The program was based on youth development, positive life decision-making and leadership promotion within remote communities.  While I thoroughly enjoyed working with the program, I found my knowledge and capabilities limited the influence I could have on the youths we were engaging.  As a result I decided to further develop my abilities through studying psychology.

Nathan’s journey into psychology has been far from direct. He went to university for 6 months straight out of high school, but it wasn’t right for him so he left.

“I never knew specifically what I wanted to be growing up,” said Nathan. “I’ve tried a number of different career paths, including commercial fishing, diving, automotive spray painting, real estate, and had more casual roles than I can remember.  It wasn’t until I travelled overseas in my mid twenties on a bit of a ‘soul searching’ mission that my current career path was inspired.”

“During my travels I was inspired to pursue a career where I could become a role model for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” said Nathan. “My inspiration came while on a tour of the NAZI concentration camp, Auschwitz in Poland.  It was through my Jewish tour guide, who spoke with such a sense of power and passion for the travesties against his people that I was instantly inspired to want to make a difference to the future of my own people.  Since returning home, I have actively pursued roles where I am in a position to inspire the future of youths.  Studying psychology has been a progression of these roles.”

“For me, the most challenging aspect of university is time.  I am always running between study, work, sports, volunteering, committee duties, ambassador roles, etc” said Nathan. “A way in which I have been able to gain more time has been through my scholarship and NT Health cadetship which has allowed me to more intently focus on my study.  This extra time is invaluable to me, particularly during times of heavy assessment.”

“I would highly recommend a psychology degree to anyone interested in understanding human behaviour,” said Nathan. “Although I’m not yet working as a psychologist, I’ve found working in human service roles and helping others very satisfying and rewarding.  While many people think psychology is purely clinical and counselling based, there are various areas of psychology you can specialise in.  These include, working in education, health, sports, research, organisations and community.  Although the course is very textbook heavy, I have found the course materials very interesting, making the pages go by in no time.”

“In terms of my future, I’m looking forward to where my profession might take me; psychology is so diverse,” said Nathan. “Ideally I would like to be working with Indigenous youth, in regional or remote communities and in education or health.”

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