Kesh Keerthi graduated from UniSC with a Master of Social Work in 2021. Now, he's based in Alice Springs, working to bring people together and 'make cricket thrive' for Northern Territory Cricket with the increased participation of children, youth, women and Indigenous people.
Kesh’s passion for social work began in his hometown of Chennai, in Southern India, where he used to travel nearly two hours by train every day to get quality coaching and experience playing cricket.
“A few of my mates and I started a local cricketing club to encourage cricketers from lower-class backgrounds to come forward and play cricket in better facilities,” he said.
“I got a lot of young talent from the slums, just by developing these kids’ interest in the game."
"I didn't know I was doing social work, I just wanted to form a team by developing connection with kids from this marginalised population, who were not given chances in the state team, or in the big club teams… so we formed our own club and started participating in local tournaments and began winning. That's where it all started.”
Kesh moved to Australia’s Gold Coast in 2015, to pursue his love of sports by studying a Masters in Sports Management and Marketing. He’d already completed a Bachelor of Commerce in India, and was ready to take on the sporting world. Arriving in Australia as a migrant, however, presented new challenges.
“I did the kinds of jobs many migrants do, working in hard labour jobs, factories and driving Uber... but, those were the times when I started to really have the time to think and discover myself.”
He started to read Bhagavad Gita, Hinduism's sacred scriptures from ancient India.
“I’m not very religious, I’m more spiritual, so that was the time when I started to explore myself, and my surroundings, spiritually,” Kesh said.
While transitioning spiritually, Kesh also made a physical transition to the Sunshine Coast, where he found immense inspiration exploring in nature, and a lot of time thinking about his values, which led him to the University of the Sunshine Coast to study a Master of Social Work.
"I was already working as an after-school educator, using sporting activities to engage with kids and to develop positive relationships," he said.
"I knew this was my strength… so I thought studying social work could give me a deeper insight into a lot of problems in the world today, and where my skills could be used to help in some way."
Kesh has now lived and worked in eight remote Indigenous communities in Central Australia.
A young Kesh playing cricket in India, where conditions were rough and rugged due to the lower quality of sports infrastructure in Chennai at the time.
Kesh helped form the Griffith University Gold Coast Cricket Club in 2016, encouraging multicultural students and members of the community to play cricket.
Studying his degree at UniSC allowed Kesh to combine his desire to make a difference in the world – specifically working with Indigenous People, with his love of nature… passions which ultimately led him to Alice Springs.
“There is a lot of similarity in the culture between the Tamil people and Indigenous Australians, in our relationships and families, the Elders, stories, our connection to spirituality and looking after the land, as everything is connected to each other. I'm able to relate culturally, and this helps me to build relationships.”
“Dr Tina Lathouras, UniSC Senior Lecturer in Social Work, used to talk about ‘heurisms,' which means really listening to what people are saying, listening to key words, and diving deeper into those key words."
“That gave me a strong basis to connect with Indigenous people here, because English is not their first language, or mine… and I have an accent. So, I really look for keywords, and make sure I have the Elders present when I'm talking to one of my clients.
“In many of the remote communities I work in, there is an awfully high crime rate, and people don't understand why these crimes are being committed. There are a lot of emotions behind it, and it's important to slow down and really listen. You can't just impose things on people, because their culture is still intact.”
Kesh says with youth crime a major concern in Alice Springs, his goal as a social worker is to use cricket as a tool.
“Getting kids interested in playing cricket not only prevents them from getting into trouble, it also gives them a connection, a sense of belonging and maybe a sense of pride... it’s not just about sports development, but community development and getting people to come together to support the game. This allows people to build connections socially and cross culturally which makes our community stronger, and that's where the social work aspect kicks in."
Kesh credits his quality educators at UniSC for giving him the space to communicate creatively throughout his studies, and the ability to combine social work with his love of storytelling, photography and videography as well as opportunities to learn hands-on through placements.
As a social worker, Kesh said the most valuable skill he's learned is how to look at problems in a balanced way, rather than judging it.
“Look for positivity, even in a place where there's a lot of negative stuff happening… slow down and look at the details, with patience, really listening to the ‘hearisms.’ In a way, all that noise then becomes enjoyable, it's a rhythm of life.”
Bachelor of Social Work
This program is underpinned by principles of human rights, social justice and integrity as the foundation for professional social work practice. This program is underpinned by principles of human rights, social justice and integrity as the foundation for professional social work practice.
Master of Social Work (Qualifying)
Advance your skills and knowledge to create a more just world. This professionally accredited, post-qualifying degree builds on your prior knowledge and experience, and gives you the advanced knowledge and skills you need to work with people – both individually and collectively – to effect social change.
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