ANGELA MITTEN - COUNSELLOR
I started life in Bundoora and when I was about 6 we moved to Eltham North, which was a bit like living in the country back then. There were horse paddocks across the dirt road and no footpaths. We used to jump the back fence and walk to school through the bush. I was the middle child of 3 girls. We had holidays at Goughs Bay on Lake Eildon and we learnt to water ski because my Dad was into boats. We went to calisthenics and my Mum made all of our costumes and a lot of our clothes. I remember winning a bike on the Early Bird Show when I was in Grade 5. I had to go into the studio and receive it on TV. It was a Malvern Star dragster, but the girls version (with a flowery basket). I really wanted the boys version with the cool seat. When I was 12 my little brother was born. I had lots of adventures with my sisters, especially at Goughs Bay, looking wild horses, going fishing and mushrooming. We watched Prisoner, had code clubs with my cousins and found blue tongue lizards in the back yard.
I was inspired by my Grade 2 teacher who played guitar and sang songs with us. I was also influenced by my Grade 3 teacher who organised a regular exchange with the local special school. On reflection I think I developed a heart for children with special needs through this program. When I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I always wanted to be a teacher.
We moved to Beechworth when I was halfway through Year 8 because my parents were buying a caravan park up there. I loved living in Beechworth. I made new friends and settled into my new high school, had a part time job at the original Beechworth Bakery and loved horse riding. We lived there for a year and a half and then moved back to Melbourne because the deal fell through. It was an incredibly stressful time for my parents both financially and emotionally. I had to move away from my friends and school (again) and started Year 10 (at my third high school) in Watsonia. Really, that whole saga changed the trajectory of my life and had a huge impact on the entire family.
I didn't really settle into my new high school and was desperate to leave. Mum said I couldn't leave unless I got a job, so I quickly got a job as a pharmacy assistant at La Trobe University. It was here that I was inspired to do further study but didn't actually start uni until much later. I lasted 10 months at the chemist then went and did a secretarial course in Melbourne. It was a fabulous time doing that course in the city, I made some new friends and we enjoyed being 'city girls'.
I moved back to North East Victoria area in my early 20s because my sister was living up there. Becoming a single parent at the age of 25 really was a turning point for me to get my act together. I started a family day care business at home so I could be at home with my daughter. I did a child care course and one of my lecturers was very encouraging of me continuing my study. I completed a bridging program which helps early school leavers prepare for uni. I realised I had an interest in the social sciences. I began singing with a community choir in Wangaratta and the choir leader was teaching at TAFE in a course called Advanced Certificate in Music Performance (Jazz and Pop) which I enrolled in and I learnt a lot about music theory. Circumstances led me to move to Melbourne where I did a Bachelor of Arts and majored in Sociology and Women's Studies, which really developed my critical thinking and academic writing skills. Then I completed a Graduate Diploma in Education.
Prior to moving to Castlemaine I lived in...you guessed it...Northcote! I was thinking of moving to Daylesford and a friend mentioned Castlemaine. I'd never even been here! Coincidentally, while I was looking around Daylesford I ran into someone I knew who had bought a house here. She offered to show me around and sold me on the benefits of Castlemaine. She had bought back in the day when you could get a house for under $100,000. There are aspects of Castlemaine that reminded me of Beechworth, the gold mining history and the architecture. I was drawn to the arts and music culture. It ticked a lot of boxes for me.
First impressions: OMG!! What have I done??
In my first year up here I taught at Winters Flat Primary School and then got a job at Guildford Primary School. I loved teaching there. I had a Prep-3 class and felt I was living the dream. I have also taught at Campbells Creek Primary School for many years teaching generalist classroom teaching, reading recovery, performing arts and visual arts. I took leave without pay and fulfilled a dream of working in a remote NT school where I became the Teaching Principal of Barunga School. It was both challenging and rewarding working in a remote Aboriginal community and an experience that I will never forget. While I was there I decided that what I really wanted to do was counselling and completed a Masters in Counselling.
The most challenging part of counselling is feeling like I have to have all the answers all of the time but counselling is not really like that. I have to remind myself, often, that I am not there to give answers or advice. It is more about being empathetic, allowing the person to tell their story and feel heard. Sometimes it's knowing when to ask a question, and when to be silent.
The most rewarding aspect is helping someone who is struggling to feel better, or find some clarity or identify their strengths. In some ways it is like teaching; you never really knno how much impact you have had. People can continue to develop insights into themselves long after a counselling session and I won't necessarily be aware of that. Counselling always reminds me of the complexity and diversity of the human experience and that, if you scratch the surface, there is no typical family.
I'm quite new to counselling but I do think attitudes towards anxiety are changing. People are more willing to talk about anxiety and their experience of it. Despite all the apps, organisations and public health awareness weeks there is still a stigma associated with mental health. Many people think that you should be able to get over it and if you can’t, you just haven't tried hard enough. The fault still seems to be laid on the individual without a critique of the broader, societal structures that may be contributing to high levels of anxiety and depression. The research into the impact of trauma, particularly developmental trauma and inter-generational trauma interests me and hopefully trickles down so that we will continue to see a greater shift in understanding within the general population.
I'm continually changing and developing as a counsellor. I'm constantly learning new techniques for working with people. Every client brings something new, so my approach is very individual.
About 12 years ago I started a choir in Castlemaine called Mainly Gospel. I have had many people ask me over the years if I would do something like that again. I recently led a Newstead Nosh and had such a great time doing that. A woman from Maldon came and asked me if I would consider running something there, she must have caught me at the right time. I think the people who come just want to sing in a group and feel supported. I try and create a safe space where people don't feel too confronted, but at the same time provide opportunities for people to do a bit of improvising, if they wish. The songs are all taught by ear. As the facilitator I get a lot of satisfaction in supporting a group of people in singing harmony. People leave with a smile on their face and turn up the next week which tells me I'm doing something right. After teaching music to children for many years it is such a pleasure teaching adults.
My mum always tells the story of me, as a 3 year old, copying my sister's calisthenics class at the back of the class. The teacher ended up putting me on stage for the concert singing 'Let the sun shine in'. I can still remember wearing a red dress with a yellow sun on it. It is probably very cliche, but I loved The Sound of Music with Maria teaching all the children to sing.
Plans for the future: I'll keep evolving my private practice to respond to the needs of clients in the area. I'm particularly interested in working with children, adolescents and families. I'm thinking of offering some other workshops, blending my background in art and music teaching with my counselling skills.
Favourite things to do in the area: I love the Botanical Gardens, I go there often. I love the cafes and having breakfast with friends. I do yoga and pilates. I love the music and the arts options available, the theatre, the State festival and Arts Open.
Tips for people moving out here: Don't get involved in ‘us and them' conversations and stay off Castlemania!