Leaving school in your early teens, getting married and having four children before you turn 25, then raising those same children on your own while you study a Masters Degree and work part time? Hardly the typical pathway to academic or career success! To most of us would seem too much, almost impossible. For Melbourne Psychologist, Bev Eramo, it was sheer determination that got her to where she is today.
After deciding at the ripe old age of 13 that school was not for her, Bev left and began working at the Myer department store. Even back then she was determined to get ahead and once she realised the job at Myer wasn’t going to do that she quit. “I bought myself a pair of gloves and a hat and took off for a job in Collins Street with a solicitor! I was 14 years of age and [became] an office girl”.
Bev developed an early interest in social events and activities and was introduced to “all sorts of political activities” in her late teens by her then boyfriend.
A few other jobs later, Bev met and married her first husband and before long she was a mother of four.
Then in her thirties and finding herself now a single mother, Bev began volunteering at a crisis line. It was something she took to very well. Soon they were asking her to train everyone else who was volunteering. “One day I realised ‘they’re sending a number of professionals to me to train [and] I have no qualifications at all’. So I went and did an adult HSC at Uni High”.
After doing exceptionally well in her HSC she was offered a place at Melbourne University in the Psychology program. She carried on through to Masters Level, also taking out a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Deakin University as well as a Bachelor of Educational Counselling from La Trobe University at the same time. “It was stupidity, there was too much work and it was totally me being bloody minded. You know, if I can do it why not let me?”.
Life as a Clinical Psychologist
After graduating Bev continued her work in crisis intervention. She spent time working at Willsmere, “which was the old lunatic asylum”. She also worked in the prison system for a while. “I have always been attracted to people who don’t fit in because I was one of those who don’t fit into the traditional model at all”.
Bev then began working in private practice, something she has done for the last 20 or so years.
Along with working in her private practice, Bev still spends a lot of time working out in the community and doing pro-bono work. “Basically it comes from a philosophy that you put back if you can. I was able to ultimately take out four degrees. I think the community has invested a lot of money in me and I always felt that you put back. I still do some pro-bono work for people who sometimes are probably not quite the deserving case. But who’s deserving and who isn’t?”
Having seen Bev engaged in a women’s group that she helped to establish in a local drop in centre, I can attest to the respect and trust these women have for Bev. “I probably don’t just focus on the psychological but also on the sociological with people. I think that some environments can drive people mad”.
When the group initially formed there were woman from many cultures and backgrounds. Bev’s first priority was to ask ‘what brings them together as a group’. “The only thing they had in common was that they were all women”. Working out what they had in common as women, such as children, relationships and families, was what Bev used as a starting point. “It was only over the years the the group evolved that they could be different too”. Never judgemental of anyone, Bev’s motto is “What’s the worst you’ve got to tell me and then we can drop it and get on with life”.
For Bev community means belonging and being accepted. It also means being able to see alternatives in life direction, regardless of economic status. “In my work I speak to people who live in a leafy suburb, I speak to people who are very wealthy and who have similar issues [to those from not so wealthy areas]. Really a choice is a choice and you can choose to stay, but some people don’t feel they have a choice. I think being exposed to different lives, to the possibilities of very, very different lives is a good thing. One thing is having backing and support and people to talk about it. The other is actually acknowledging just because I was brought up this way it does not have to be”.
“My notion of an ideal society, there’s room for everybody. There’s support for those who need it and an expectation that you give if you can”.
~ Bev Eramo ~