The Social Work Experience

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The Social Work Experience

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Friday 28 October 2016

Studying a Masters of Social Work means I spend a lot of time ‘in the field’ on placements, so I want to get as much value out of them as I can. So when it came time for my latest Work Integrated Learning (WILS) experience at USC I proactively researched organisations that were in my area of interest, which is Aboriginal advocacy and rights. The stand-out organisation was ANTaR – Australians For Native Title and Reconciliation. Established in 1997 they are Australia’s only non-Indigenous advocacy organisation that focuses solely on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues. I was thrilled when the president of ANTaR Queensland, Ross Daniels, agreed to supervise me. Ross had been the International Chairperson for Amnesty International (amongst other roles) so I felt he would be awesome to work with.

Prior to starting, Ross outlined my placement brief. ANTaR Qld was looking to develop its advocacy platform around the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home-care in Queensland. It was my job to look at the data and confirm the concerns that Indigenous children were being removed at an alarming rate; review the legislation, policy and processes in relation to child protection and meet with stakeholders and community to get their perspectives. The end result was that I would be able to provide a sound direction for ANTaR Qld’s campaign on the “removal of children”.

What an opportunity.... I was a ball of excitement and nervous energy. I am now about half way through my placement and the nerves have settled a fair bit but the excitement continues. To date I have researched and produced a data report, set up and held meetings with key stakeholders including PeakCare Qld, Foster Care Qld, Caxton Legal Inc, Kummara Association, Create Foundation and IFACSS and attended key events including the QCOSS conference, child removal forums and Child Protection Week functions as ANTaR Qld’s representative. I have also spent a considerable amount of time in the community, yarning with the Aunties from Sovereign Women United and protesting against the treatment of Aboriginal children in Don Dale. This has been such a valuable cultural experience and I have forged some genuine and deep relationships within the community.

Recently I handed my recommendations report to ANTaR Qld to be taken to the next committee meeting for review and now I am preparing a talk on child removal to present together with the Sovereign Women United (SWU) at the upcoming West End Festival. Whilst there have been numerous learnings and opportunities that this placement has provided, there have been some key outstanding moments. These include being filmed with Aunty Karen from SWU for an upcoming documentary by Professor Larissa Behrendt called “After the Apology” and being invited to become a member of the management committee for ANTaR Qld. I have enthusiastically accepted ANTaR Qld’s offer and look forward to helping drive the “removal of children” campaign over the next twelve months.

So for anyone thinking about their first or next placement - just remember, this is your chance to shine!! Check out USC’s Work Integrated Learning page, look for an area that you are passionate about and go for it.

I am already planning my final placement opportunity....destination Alice Springs???

By Sammi Lillie

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