"There were lots of social work courses to choose from, but University of Melbourne was my number one choice for several reasons... I grew in so many ways and this really was the start of my journey to find out who I was."
There were lots of social work courses to choose from, but University of Melbourne was my number one choice for several reasons. Firstly, I loved being at the University of Melbourne for my undergraduate degrees – it was the most amazing and holistic experience. I grew in so many ways and this really was the start of my journey to find out who I was. Secondly, the University has an excellent international reputation which was important to me. The Master of Social Work at Melbourne is accredited by the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) which was another important deciding factor. There are excellent pathways and opportunities to do a PhD after the Master of Social Work, which is a real possibility for me and something I wanted to have as an option. The University is also well renowned for research and there is a lot of very exciting things going on within the university and I was keen to be a part of that.
The course offers lots of ‘general’ subjects and learnings but also specific subjects (like electives). I really wanted a course that was going to turn me into a ‘360 degrees’ social worker and Melbourne certainly fit the bill in that respect. Inclusion and diversity are key values for me, so when choosing a course, I was also looking to see how this was catered for. To my great delight, one of the very first subjects I would study at Melbourne was Social Work Practice: Indigenous Peoples, and the staff for this subject are First Nation peoples. The University also has a very good student placement program and I had that the staff had great contacts with lots of different agencies and organisations across the sector.
I thought that I would enjoy the course, but I had no idea I would enjoy it as much as I am! It has been very full-on, but there has been tremendous variety in our subjects, and they all interweave and sit side by side, sometimes overlapping. The assignments have been plentiful, but incredibly rewarding and they have really utilised the skills and knowledge learned through the lectures and tutorials.
The lecturers and tutors have been very supportive and understanding at all times, and so have the rest of the students. It is a very diverse cohort in terms of age and experience, but very respectful, easy to work with and get to know, which has been excellent.
I have developed so many skills throughout the Master of Social Work, and I know so much more than I did six months ago. It is incredible. The course is really satisfying my thirst for learning!
There is excellent flexibility in terms of the large range of times available for tutorials. They catered for people based overseas like me, as well as people who work full-time or part-time.
My first student placement has been truly excellent, and I have had a top notch supervisor and tutor. It has been such a professional and enriching experience. I have gained hands-on practical skills as a result, but also developed my knowledge and awareness of coproduction and the importance of power dynamics in everything that you do. I have also developed my counselling and interviewing skills through roleplay and terrific guidance.
I always thought of myself as a highly reflective person, but this placement has enabled me to delve deeper into these reflections and really question and challenge my own worldview, my own biases and assumptions. It has led me even more to observe, to listen deeply, and to really take on all that is happening, verbal and non-verbal. I have also strengthened my research skills and am now quite a scoping review guru! The placement has provided me with excellent insights into the mental health sector in Australia, and particularly Victoria.
My future career goals are a work in progress. The trouble is that I am interested in everything, which doesn’t really narrow things down. Part of me wants to launch straight into a PhD after the Master of Social Work, and perhaps a larger part of me wants to go out into the sector and work as a social worker for several years first. I think without doubt I will head to the community sector as I feel this aligns with my personal and professional values, which is very important to me. I would not be able to work somewhere in which these values are at odds!
I am very interested to work in the mental health sector but am very drawn to working in the LGBTQIA+ space. I know that with the Royal Commission report into mental health there is going to be a huge shake-up of the sector with lots of exciting initiatives happening, so by the time I graduate it could be an amazing time to step into some great roles. After this first semester and my student placement, I know that when I finish the course I will be so well equipped to begin my future as a social worker.
My advice to future Master of Social Work students is attend every lecture, or watch the recordings, and every tutorial. You always get so much out of the tutorials – you learn from the tutors and your peers and it helps immensely and helps build your skills as a social worker. Also, put your heart into the assignments – it is worth it and will really deepen your knowledge and skills. They are hard work and require a lot of time and dedication, but it really is worth it.
Seek guidance with the assignments from your lecturers and tutors – don’t struggle by yourself. They are only too happy to help and will provide you with great advice and tips. If you don’t do so well on an assignment, or even if you do, but want to do better, ask them how you could improve and what would have helped. I have found them all very receptive to giving feedback.
Also, join the AASW as a student member and get involved in their forums, events, read their newsletters and start networking through LinkedIn or any other avenue. Read as much as you can about organisations that employ social workers, especially in areas you would be keen to work in.
I am inspired by passion and enthusiasm. People who believe wholeheartedly in their values and stand up for them time and time again, no matter how difficult or challenging it may be. I have been massively inspired by many of the places I have lived and by the people who have next to nothing, but still smile and derive pleasure and happiness from life. I am inspired by the idea that the word can be a better place and that there are so many changemakers out there and people who support the changemakers. I am also inspired by kindness, generosity, and compassion.