Social work students are working with remote Aboriginal communities as part of an innovative placement program with Northern Territory service providers.
Students have gained invaluable work-integrated learning experience with the Katherine Regional Aboriginal Health and Related Services (KRAHS), the Banatjarl Strongbala Wumin’s Grup, Katherine NAIDOC Committee, Mission Australia and Tangentyere Council in Alice Springs.
Daniel Jones, a Master of Social Work student, accepted a 70-day placement at Tangentyere Council to focus on youth work and early intervention.
“Through this placement I have been able to personalise the experience of Aboriginal Australians of which I had previously read plenty about but really understood little.
“I have enjoyed the opportunity to facilitate young men’s groups, talking about family violence and masculinity.
“It has been interesting working out ways to make these potentially uninviting topics interactive and engaging,” Jones said.
Hana Hall-Emms, also a final-year Master of Social Work student placed with Tangentyere, said the personal and financial sacrifices were worth it.
“My accommodation is humble but the diversity and richness of the work more than compensates for this.
“I’ve been working with inspiring Aboriginal leaders on the Women’s Safety Project, which addresses family and domestic violence.
“What makes the project effective is that it is designed and delivered by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people in the communities.
“I’m also proud that I was invited to help produce an intimate documentary on the lives of some wonderful Aboriginal women, whom I consider friends, as well as colleagues.
“Both Dan and I are beneficiaries of some pretty incredible RMIT networks and behind-the-scenes work by RMIT’s Ronnie Egan,” Hall-Emms said.
Associate Professor of Field Education Ronnie Egan, from RMIT’s School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, said the approach to field education in remote Aboriginal communities was based on authentic relationships and reciprocity.
“It is critical that the design and delivery of field work placements in remote communities values the expertise that host communities and organisations provide.
“Social work practice needs to be contextualised and embedded within the local community.
“The Aboriginal community members are part of the student recruitment process through Skype interviews and students’ expressions of interest.”
A day in the life of a student at Tangentyere Council can include working with town camp community members, participating in women’s, men’s or youth groups, facilitating community members to access services, undertaking literature reviews, evaluating programs, recording stories, archival work and lots more.
“If you (students) are interested in life-changing learning experiences, have a commitment to Aboriginal communities, are flexible and resilient, then the NT/RMIT Social Work placement program is for you,” Egan said.
Graduates have stayed in Alice and continue to make an impact.
Finn Nugent, a Master of Social Work graduate, undertook her placement at Tangentyere Women’s Safety Committee and is now employed by the NPY Women’s Council.
Nugent works with remote communities in Western Australia within the Domestic and Family Violence program.
The NT Social Work Placement information night is on 24 November. Email for more information.
Story: Paul Noonan