Date: June 2023
University: Griffith University
Field of Study: Social Work
Brooke, a Griffith University social work graduate from the Gold Coast, embarked on a rewarding placement experience which led to her making the permanent tree change to the rural town of Kingaroy.
Her willingness to step out of her comfort zone and explore rural areas brought her to Kingaroy for her placement, where she discovered the rewards and challenges of working in a close-knit community. We sat down with Brooke to delve into her placement experience, the valuable lessons she learned, and the growth she experienced along the way.
Brooke said she had always been drawn to the idea of rural living.
“I always viewed placements as an opportunity to do something I might not do otherwise,” Brooke said.
With a passion for working with First Nations communities, she expressed her interest in experiencing this demographic while remaining mindful of cultural respect. It was during her conversation with her convenor that the opportunity to go to Kingaroy emerged, offering her the chance to work with CTC, a not-for-profit organisation, addressing the needs of disadvantaged people.
Brooke's placement in Kingaroy lasted four months, during which she completed a total of 500 hours while simultaneously continuing her studies. Balancing financial constraints and the demanding workload was a challenge, but Brooke was determined to make the most of the opportunity. She was grateful to secure student-supported accommodation through SQRH, which alleviated financial stress and allowed her to fully immerse herself in the experience.
Living in the SQRH accommodation provided Brooke with fond memories and friendships. Surrounded by students from different disciplines, such as speech pathology and nursing, she found herself bonding over common challenges and discoveries. From exploring local supermarkets to embarking on outings to wineries, Mirrambami Springs, and Bunya Mountains, Brooke said there was plenty to do.
“I think Kingaroy is a good spot because it is rural but it is busy enough that you don’t feel like you’re super isolated. It’s a really nice balance of things happening and a quieter lifestyle, which I personally really like,” Brooke said.
Brooke appreciated the camaraderie in the household and the chance to learn about other professions. This cross-disciplinary exposure proved valuable for future referrals and broadened her understanding of holistic healthcare.
While completing her placement, Brooke witnessed the impact social work can have on individuals in smaller communities, reinforcing her passion for helping others.
Brooke said her love for social work emerged after an overseas trip 14 years ago.
“I had gone overseas in 2009 and lived in Uganda for six months and from that experience, I realised some realities of the world,” Brooke said.
“I went with the best of intentions but I realised that can actually be quite harmful and not beneficial.
“I didn’t have a skillset to be of any use and I questioned how could I possibly support someone when I had no understanding of the context.
“So I think that really changed my world perspective and I wanted some practical skills.
“For me, employment has not been financially driven. It is more about passion and purpose, and to have a fulfilling job.
“I did a few odd jobs like hospitality and I was a house painter. I would travel then come back and do a different job. It was great travelling but I wanted to feel like I could be fulfilled at home too.
“I needed to study externally to work around my schedule and it was the first year that Griffith offered social work as an external program so I thought I would give it a go. And I just fell in love with it. It was a moment of ‘oh, this is how I work’ and ‘this is me’.”
Brooke's social work placement experience in Kingaroy enabled her to grow both personally and professionally. By embracing the unknown and venturing into a rural community, she expanded her skills, knowledge, and cultural understanding.
During her placement, Brooke had the opportunity to work with the domestic violence team in Cherbourg, shadowing and learning from experienced professionals. She then joined the family and child connect team in Kingaroy, gaining invaluable hands-on experience.
The stars aligned when she graduated, as a staff member from CTC left the team, leaving a position open for her to take. Brooke said it was an easy decision to make.
“It’s been such a supportive environment. I’ve had so many opportunities to learn and I have been invested in with training and exposure to different areas. The people individually and this community has been so open and welcoming. I think I felt like I was already part of it,” Brooke said.
“I think it started to feel like home and a bit more natural, so that transition was really smooth. And there is a worker’s house as well, so the day I finished at the student accommodation, I moved two streets away around the corner into the employee’s house.”
As a social worker in Kingaroy, Brooke's average day is far from predictable. She engages with families, offering advice, information, and facilitating referrals for ongoing support. With a focus on addressing issues such as housing, mental health, substance use, domestic violence, and isolation, Brooke and her team provide critical assistance to individuals and families across the South Burnett and Cherbourg regions. Networking with other services, building relationships, and exploring available programs are also part of her daily responsibilities.
Brooke's desire to stay rural is driven by the incredible opportunities for growth and the supportive environment provided by her organization. The scarcity of tertiary-educated professionals in the area makes her skill set highly valuable, and she has found great fulfillment in serving the local community.
Reflecting on her journey, Brooke encourages other students to seize the opportunity to work in a rural setting. She believes that the quality of learning and the diverse experiences encountered in such environments are invaluable. Brooke's passion for her field and her desire to see more social workers in Kingaroy highlight the significance of embracing rural placements and the positive impact they can have on both individuals and communities.
Brooke's story serves as an inspiration for students considering a rural placement. By stepping out of their comfort zones, they can acquire a unique skill set, develop cultural competence, and make a meaningful difference in the lives of those they serve.
From Toowoomba to Charleville, Kingaroy to Goondiwindi, our students’ complete rural placements all over regional, rural, and remote Southern Queensland (across more than 400,000 square kilometres).
Learn first-hand from students, just like yourself, about their experience going on a rural placement, and why it’s an experience like no other!