Some of the best friendships are forged through education and continue into professional life. Australia Awards Alumni Serah Tabike can attest to this, after completing her Master’s in Counselling at Curtin University of Technology back in 2012.

Serah made a range of connections through her studies in Australia, including professors, staff at the university and the Australia Awards program staff. According to Serah, many were “remarkable people who made her stay in Australia fulfilling and memorable”.

One person who she has maintained contact with since returning to PNG is Dr Genevieve Armson, a former classmate. Dr Armson is a Director, Coach, Facilitator, Counsellor and Clinical Supervisor at Realisations Consultancy in Perth.

“It was always rejuvenating to hear from Gen,” Serah said as she reminisced about her early conversations with Gen, “she pushed me to take a leap of faith and advance professional counselling in PNG”.

“I registered a counselling and coaching social enterprise so that I could be free to tap into areas that need counselling and mental health support. Gen’s messages continue to remind me of my initial passion for establishing and practising real professional counselling in my country.”

She launched the Serah Tabike Kino (STK) Vital Conversations to provide counselling services, coaching and personal development trainings for individuals and groups within various communities, companies and institutions across Papua New Guinea. The goal was to strengthen and empower individuals and groups to make informed decisions towards achieving a purposeful living.

OK Tedi Mining Limited initially engaged STK Vital Conversations to provide relief counselling support. Serah’s excellent work with the mining company confirmed the need for a female counsellor and she has now been engaged as a full-time employee.

With advice from Genevieve, Serah registered as an international member with the Australian Counselling Association in 2019. Genevieve has since invited her to become a member of the regional chapter in Western Australia, which Serah feels will contribute immensely to mental health in PNG. Serah’s exposure to other health professionals in both PNG and in Australia will provide her with the opportunities to continue advocating for effective mental health practices.

Serah also hopes her connections will help her to establish mental health governing bodies in PNG, akin to the Australian Counselling Association and Psychotherapy & Counselling Federation in Australia.