Interview and feature image by Emma Horner
Everyone has a story. Humans of UniSA is a deep dive into the lives of our fellow students to unravel the threads of their personal history, quiet ambitions, and their hopes, worries, and joys. Take a fleeting glance into the vivid lives we pass by each day in the hallways and classrooms of UniSA.
Bachelor of Social Work
I had been working in hospitality for a long time when I remembered that once upon a time, I had been wanting to work in conservation and land management. So, in 2011 I went to the TAFE open day to look at courses at Urrbrae, and it was really up my alley. I was excited that there was something out there like that because I didn’t know that there was something so practical out there, like fieldwork. I studied for two years at TAFE and completed a Diploma of Conservation and Land Management. I went on to start a degree in Biodiversity and Conservation at Flinders Uni, but it was less practical than I wanted it to be. I worked in the field for a few years, but it was um… well the field could be rewarding, but it was pretty heavy manual labour and a lot of the work was a hybrid of landscaping and conservation work, which is not what I had wanted to do. I thought about going back to uni to study conservation again, but you know, given government funding cutbacks in fields like that, I thought it probably wasn’t a very sustainable career. Part of my hospitality background included some very specific experience making raw desserts, so I started and ran a small raw dessert business for a few years, but that wasn’t something that I found very fulfilling either, so I decided to go back to uni and study social work.
What drew me to Social Work? Probably the same thing that drew me to conservation—wanting to have a career that’s fulfilling but also practical, in a sense of ‘taking action.’ When I thought about what other things I was passionate about aside from conservation, social justice was one of them. I was hoping to be able to use some of my other qualifications as well, including my background in yoga teacher training, roll and release therapy and also meditation. It’s an area which has a large focus on mental health and personal wellbeing, and I realised that this was one of the reasons why people came to use these services. It made me think that I wanted a career in a service that allowed me to work with people meaningfully, but at the same time, I didn’t like the direction that the yoga movement had taken. It’s something that has been appropriated and co-opted in a way which has caused it to become rather elitist and inaccessible to many people, for various reasons. Classes can be financially inaccessible for some, labels are telling people that you need to buy certain clothes or have a certain figure or level of fitness before you can even start yoga, it’s often inaccessible for people with different physical abilities and other special populations. It’s often very ego driven too, and I realised that it wasn’t an industry that I wanted to be a part of, so yeah I decided to study social work instead. I think that the therapeutic benefits of yoga and meditation are significant, so I am hoping that there will be an opportunity for me to incorporate this skillset into a social work practice too.
Aspects of my course which interest me change all of the time because with every topic, you find a new point of view and gain a new insight into things, but something that I have realised is that I have a particular interest in working with youth to limit their engagement with the youth justice system. I would be really interested in working on programmes such as justice reinvestment for youth, and I would like to do more work with overrepresented groups in the system, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth. I’m interested in the challenges which are unique to LGBTQIA+ communities too, including overrepresentation in rates of suicide, poor mental health, homelessness, lack of support networks and engagement with community, isolation and so on…
I identify as a queer Armenian woman. Although I identify as Armenian, I’m not in contact with my father, who represents the Armenian side of my heritage. I have a few memories from when I was younger, but I don’t feel like I have a solid base to go into a community and feel like I belong. That’s something that I’d like to work on, probably when I finish my degree. What would that look like? Probably engaging with the local community, maybe a trip over eventually, but I think it’s more sustainable to engage with people here to gain an understanding of my heritage and culture. I think that there will potentially be aspects of the culture that I already connect with that I don’t know that I was unaware of, or that I will find to be reflected in my personality. Yeah, being very outwardly emotional is my experience of my father and my grandmother. Apart from that, we’re very… well my father and my grandmother were very hypervigilant and anxious. I think for Armenians, that comes from a history of persecution. My grandmother and my father came over as refugees, and my grandmother lived through the Armenian Genocide, so I think that they both carried a lot of that trauma with them. It impacted their lives and their relationships and how they moved through the world and interacted with people on a daily basis.
When I finish my degree, I would like to be working in advocacy. I’d like to be working rurally, within communities. I would like to be working on projects with a view towards decolonisation, and promoting connection to language and country for the Indigenous population… it’s a hard thing for me to talk about because at the end of the day I’m still just another white person, you know what I mean? There are a lot of areas I’d like to work in… it’s hard. It’s really just advocacy that’s important to me, and there are lots of things I would like to do within that.
I guess in terms of sex and sexual politics, I really think that we still need to make more moves towards the destigmatising female sexuality, and at the same time, stop over sexualising women’s bodies. I mean, that sentence sounded contradictory, but you know… when I was growing up, anyone who was sexually active was considered a slut—well women that is. Not men, men were commended. Any girls who had multiple sexual partners were stigmatised, so I think that probably, the intervention needs to happen early, like in schools, teaching that sex is natural and normal and that there is no different measure for men and women, or for boys and girls.
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