By Yukta Chand and Villiame Tawanakoro
Students came in numbers with anticipation on October 6th as the 2023 Social Work and Community Careers Expo connected students to organisations for transformative career opportunities.
Preet Karan Phawa, an international student from India and a Master’s candidate in Social Work at WSU, shares his experience of the day,
“Attending the Social Work and Community Careers Expo at Western Sydney University Parramatta South Campus was a transformative experience. The opportunity to connect with esteemed speakers and representatives from top-notch organisations like Settlement Services International (SSI) and Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) truly enlightened me.”
He said, “These organisations are on the lookout for passionate social workers, and they are opening doors for students.”
Karan mentioned that these organisations are also offering opportunities for international students.
He shares his interest in some particular fields, “My heart is set on working with prisoners, addressing their mental health needs, and also venturing into child and youth welfare. Every day, the thought of the change we can instigate in these areas fuels my motivation.”
“On a personal note, today, SSI caught my attention. I have applied through their general applications at the booth, and I am on pins and needles awaiting their response,” he said.
The expo featured a panel discussion with alumni from WSU’s Social Work Programme, who have now embarked on their careers with the organizations present at the expo.
During the panel discussions, Alumni, Alex Winata who is now working with SSI eagerly shared her work journeys insights that resonate with many of the students.
Ms Winata mentioned, “I graduated with a Master’s in Social Work in 2019. Interestingly, the universe had its plans, and due to the sudden outbreak of COVID in 2020, I missed out on my graduation ceremony.”
“When started my job I first encountered the title ‘Community Engagement Officer’, I admit, I was puzzled. Different organizations had their unique interpretations of what it meant but at my heart, it is about creating bridges with the community.”
“I am dedicated to the Home Care Workforce Support Programme, a government initiative over these two years, reaching out to societies across NSW,” she said.
Similar testament was shared by Liv Bueno, Casework Manager at DCJ, “In my role as a manager, every caseworker under my supervision becomes an extension of my own commitment. I guide six individuals, each with their unique approach, ensuring that their every decision is informed, compassionate, and in the best interest of the families we serve.”
“Engaging with families, talking to children at their schools, these are not mere tasks. They are profound moments, opportunities to make genuine connections, and to build trust in worlds often marred by mistrust.”
“Understanding is our tool. Whether it is the shadow of domestic violence, the silent struggle of mental health, or the chains of addiction, we strive to comprehend and then to act. Because for us, bringing about safety is not just duty, it is a moral imperative,” she said.
She further elaborated during the discussions that, “Every time we step into a home or engage with a child, our hearts are committed to a singular promise: safety. In our work, every piece of documentation and every referral is not just paperwork, it is a lifeline, a tangible testament to our dedication in weaving a tapestry of security, hope, and unwavering support.”
Alumni, Emily Bradley from NSW Health added to the discussions, she said, “Within the walls of a hospital, social work transforms. It is not just about guiding or counseling; it is about resonating with every heartbeat, understanding the silent stories each patient carries, and navigating the intricate maze of human adversities.”
“Our role goes beyond mere interaction. It is an exploration of every individual’s struggles, from the tangible hurdles that prevent them from returning to work, to the intangible battles they fight within. We’re there, right beside them, asking: ‘What do you need to get back on your feet?'”
“In this journey, we do not stand as solitary sentinels. We reach out, hands extended, inviting those lost in their challenges to join us. And together, we tread the path, finding solutions, breaking barriers, and building bridges,” she said.
The 2023 Social Work and Community Careers Expo left attendees inspired, exposed to new connections and a renewed sense of purpose in their chosen career path.
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