Helen Berry
“UC shaped my career. It gave me chances. Simple as that.”


It was at UC that Dr Helen Berry discovered what she wants to spend her professional life doing. A graduate of a Bachelor of Applied Psychology (Honours) from UC in 1999, preceded and followed by multiple qualifications from prestigious institutions around the world, Helen now works as a Professorial Research Fellow in psychiatric epidemiology and is the Associate Dean of Research at the Faculty of Health at the University of Canberra.

"I am driven by a desire to fight poverty, degradation and hopeless misery, especially where it thrives on our own doorstep," she says. "I can't do it on my own, and maybe can't do much at all, but every day that I try is a day well spent."

In her nine-year academic career, Helen has won over $6M in research funding, published over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles, books and chapters, and led key policy-applied research initiatives, for example, into marginalisation in Australia. She leads UC's research program in 'healthy and sustainable communities'.

In 1999, she collected and analysed her own data for the first time at UC. Her Honours thesis was on social capital and mental health and, by the end of the year, she knew research was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. "I always found UC supportive, friendly and intimate, a surprising (in a good way) thing to find as a student. My happiest memory of all is of having my very first database and the joy of finding what I wanted to spend my professional life doing. That will always be associated with UC in my mind."

The list of Helen's accomplishments doesn't end there. She is the world's leading expert on climate change and mental health and an acknowledged international expert on personal social capital and mental health. Helen also leads the health stream of UC's $13M Collaborative Research Network, Murray-Darling Basin Futures, with personal projects of around $1.5m.

In 2009, Helen was recognised with 2nd place in the prestigious Eureka Prize for 'outstanding research into the health impacts of climate change' and she is a named contributing author on the forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report of the International Panel on Climate Change and the forthcoming World Health Organization guidelines on housing.

What can her success be attributed to? Perhaps her approach towards her profession and her infectious and inspiring passion for achieving her goals. To new graduates embarking on their careers she says, "Don't listen to those who say your goals are too ambitious. Do what you love doing, give it everything you've got and take some chances. The rest will follow."