Connected Conversations | Amelia Winter

Inspired by her own experiences parenting two young children while undertaking her undergraduate studies, PhD student, Amelia Winter, hopes to find the link between health service provision and wellbeing in refugee families' ‘First 1000 Days’.

Image of Amelia sitting at a bench in the University of Adelaide Hub.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Amelia and I’m a first-year PhD/Master of Psychology (Health) candidate. I’m researching the link between health service provision and wellbeing for families with a refugee background in the ‘First 1000 Days’, the time between conception and a child’s second birthday. I also work as an academic mentor with Wirltu Yarlu, and third-year psychology students might recognise me as a tutor/marker in their Health and Lifespan Development class. 

I’m really passionate about health equity in its many forms–whether that’s ensuring families from culturally and linguistically diverse families have better access to health services and information or mentoring some of our incredible Indigenous psych students on the path to becoming registered psychologists. 

I have two sons, aged three and five, and have a (vague) recollection of attending undergraduate psychology classes with a two-week-old baby—fun times! But that experience really opened my eyes to some of the barriers people face to tertiary education, including pursuing careers in health sciences. I hope, with my research and my work, I can help break down some of those barriers.

What did you do for your undergraduate studies? 

Way back in the day I actually studied geology here at Adelaide, which I loved, but I struggled to juggle it with work, paying my rent and all the other things that come up in life. I left uni for what I thought would be a ‘gap year’ and worked in the travel industry, which ended up becoming a career.

After I had my first son, I thought: “It’s now or never”. I used my maternity leave to get back into studying and enrolled in a Bachelor of Psychological Science. I was quite clear then that I wanted to be a perinatal psychologist, and that hasn’t changed. I completed my honours in psychology last year, again, here at Adelaide.

What do you love most about studying now at Adelaide?

It’s definitely changed a lot since the first time I studied here, but in many ways it’s still the same. I love the energy on campus in the summer—barbeques on the lawns, end-of-day catch ups at the UniBar, and a sense of humour and camaraderie among students. Coming back as a mature-aged student, I was really worried about how I’d go socially. But I’ve found my people and made so many lifelong friends.

What would you say to your 18-year-old self, commencing their time at university?

I wish I understood at 18 that I didn’t have to have all the answers; that I didn’t have to have ‘The Big Plan’. I put so much pressure on myself and burnt out so quickly. If I was talking to 18-year-old me, I’d tell her to just enjoy university, enjoy learning, and do what I can. I remember overloading because I was afraid of taking extra time, but one extra year in the scheme of things would not have made any difference. I totally understand that now!

Why would you encourage some to pursue a career in health?

To me, health has it all. The ability to work face-to-face with people is super important to me personally. But it’s also a challenging and diverse pathway where every day is different. I needed something where I could use my problem-solving skills but also be around people and be involved in the community, so health is perfect!

If you are a researcher, what are you working on now?

I started the PhD portion of my program this year, so I’m working on my first paper now – a systematic review on the wellbeing outcomes of migrant families from the Middle East in the First 1000 Days. I can’t wait to get it published because I think it really highlights why the research I’m doing is so important; there are lots of issues to address with the way we provide health services, and there are lots of factors that haven’t been explored adequately. My next step is to use this data to inform the interviews I’m conducting with families and service providers. It’s crucial that we get input from families as to how they experience perinatal and early childhood services, as well as information from service providers about the barriers and facilitators to providing the best care, so we can develop an improved model of care for the future. 

What do you do in your spare time?

What spare time?! My little family keeps me really busy, but we try to have adventures as often as we can. In our pre-COVID life, we travelled quite a lot and I ran a travel blog on the side. Now that restrictions have eased, we’re trying to explore as much of South Australia as we can. A highlight was camping in the Flinders Ranges recently. 

My husband and I are both the type to bite off more than we can chew then just deal with it, so we’re currently renovating parts of our house and landscaping our front yard as well. Hopefully once it’s finished, I can spend many zen hours in my new fruit orchard!

How do you relax or switch off? 

I’m really working on this. I’ve started some mindfulness and meditation practices, and I’ve started listening to really positive podcasts. I love to read but, after reading so many journal articles each day, this has become a bit hard mentally so my current book list is filled with easy-to-read chick lit.-

I’ve also started to make a point of moving from room to room without my phone and trying to feel less guilty for not being constantly available. It was a challenge at first but now it’s really freeing. When I work in the garden, write in my journal, or play with my kids without my phone on me, it feels so nice.

What are your hopes for 2021?

Personally, I hope to get my data collected, and manuscripts written up and submitted. I’m so excited to see what my data will reveal and I hope to get it out there as quickly as possible, so it can start to make a difference. 

On a broader scale, while 2020 had been awful in many ways, there had been some lovely things too. We’ve learned to be more flexible with our work, more conscious of our mental and physical wellbeing, and more thoughtful about how we engage with our environment. I hope 2021 continues these themes and brings more mindfulness about the way we treat the planet, the way we look after each other (especially the more vulnerable in our community), and how conscious we are of the future we’re creating for the next generation.

Name three things you won’t forget about the past year…

  • ‘Zoom fatigue’. It’s a real thing.
  • Stepping on LEGO every time I go to make myself a coffee when working from home.
  • And how exciting it was to go back to campus and see colleagues. It really made me realise how much I love coming on campus each day, and how grateful I am to be here.
Tagged in connected conversations