Students championed social inclusion and empowered the lives of disadvantaged communities on 70-day placements in the Northern Territory.
Master of Social Work students had the chance to learn how to adapt their practice to an unfamiliar and remote area while working in social work organisations across the territory.
The students’ journeys were supported by a coveted RMIT scholarship.
Final-year student Rowyn Williams joined the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, an independent statutory body protecting and promoting the needs and interests of vulnerable children in the NT.
Williams was engaged in roles such as community engagement with youth and service providers, monitoring youth detention centres, youth justice court and residential care facilities, and assisting in complaint and investigation processes.
She said the placement offered her a “range of opportunities to observe, attend, participate and lead.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to be placed in a different contextual environment and I felt like I was truly accepted into the office as a resource and participator.
“My previous practice experience in Victoria has played an important role in contrasting the two different service sectors and towards the end of my placement, I am still learning critical knowledge and skills each day.”
Fellow second-year Simon Verity worked alongside the Tangentyere Council, case managing young people experiencing domestic violence and engaging them in activities that encouraged safe and respectful relationships.
During his 70 days, Verity supported boxing sessions with youth to teach them self-defence skills and remind them that “boxing is never to be used as a way of violence towards others”.
He also assisted with an Aboriginal women’s march that brought light to Aboriginal women impacted by domestic violence.
Verity said there was no doubt the placement had already made an everlasting impression on him, personally and professionally.
“I will take so much of what I have learnt here with me for a very long time and hold close the special moments I have shared with the people of Alice Springs.
“I am so privileged to connect to an Australia that I thought I knew well, but did not. There is still so much change needed and systemic racism is one the biggest hindrances in reaching reconciliation with Indigenous people."
Williams said a placement in the NT was an important opportunity for any social worker who wanted to push their personal and professional limits and get a taste of what a social work career in the territory has to offer.
“The Northern Territory context is so different to Victoria: the demographic is different, the geography is different, the issues are different and as a result, the responses need to be different,” she said.
“Social workers need the broader perspective to understand where their work fits in the bigger picture.”
Students also honed their understanding of the importance of cultural safety in practice, and Verity said this was one of the highlights on his placement.
“Working in Alice Springs has allowed me the opportunity to see firsthand not only the issues and struggles faced by Aboriginal people, but the incredible resilience, achievements and power that exists in these communities,” he said.
“I gained culturally appropriate knowledge and skills from this placement—the cultural context training with the Centre of Remote Health was fantastic.”
Both students agreed that the experience could not have been possible without the help of RMIT’s scholarship, which supported them with the financial strain of relocating to another state.
“This financial help is so essential to keeping yourself afloat and paying rent or bills once you have found a new temporary home,” Verity said.
Williams said studying at RMIT has set her up for a successful career in social work.
“I’ve always had a number of different available opportunities to engage with key issues or developments in the social work sector.
“It’s a unique student experience I would recommend to anyone”
Story: Jennifer Park