Date: September 2022
University: University of Queensland
Field of Study: Social Work
Making the move: From students to locals
Picture this: You are a social work university student heading to your last placement before you graduate. You give outback Queensland a go, even though you have never stepped foot out west before. You stroll on in to this new town with its wide streets, slower pace and grazing cattle speckling the flat plains. Little do you know that you are about to meet your new work bestie and rural Queensland will soon become the place you call home.
Bec and Emily were two University of Queensland students who undertook rural health placements, supported by SQRH.
Now, they are Child Safety Officers living and working in Roma.
Emily was originally from Maryborough. While completing a Bachelor of Social Work, she undertook her first placement in Brisbane at the Mater Hospital. Looking for something a little bit different, she selected Charleville for her second placement.
With Bec’s Masters of Social Work, she completed her first placement in Brisbane at a community housing provider and wanting to try something new, selected to head rural for her second placement. She was assigned Roma and then typed into the search bar ‘how far away is Roma?’
Emily said there was no hesitation except for a small moment the night before she left.
“I thought ‘it looks a bit small’. But even in small towns, there is still a lot to do. I don’t know what I was worried about,” Emily said.
Both Emily and Bec lived in SQRH’s student accommodation which they said really made their rural placements possible.
About one month in to their four-month placements, they were hooked.
Bec said she loved getting pulled into the community events.
“In my first week, one of the workers dragged me out to Taroom Rodeo. So I went to my first ever rodeo and I slept in a swag in the parking lot,” Bec said.
Both said they really enjoyed making new friendships and connections.
“There are a lot of city people who have moved rural, so it is quite easy to make friends with them because they are in the same boat and don’t have established friendship groups from high school here,” Bec said.
Being two social work students undertaking rural health placements, they connected with each other and became quick friends.
After falling in love with living rurally, they knew they would have the opportunity to stay on after the graduated if they wanted to, since there were vacancies even while they were on placement.
Both say to any students “if you are considering rural, just do it.”
Bec said it’s been an amazing experience.
“Whether you stay or don’t stay, it is a really different area of practice that you don’t get to experience in the city. You have to be more creative. It really expands your practice in ways that you don’t always get the opportunity to do.
“There aren’t as many services and we are travelling big distances.
“The opportunities are really here and I would recommend all students try it.”
Emily and Bec were both drawn to social work because of a social justice streak within them. They wanted to be able to make a difference and working in child safety in Roma gives them the opportunity to do just that.
“I know it’s cliché but no two days look the same. We have office days and travel days. Office days are often spent doing paperwork, doing case plans, planning for your work with the families. And then travel days are where you get to work with the families and the children. And then some days, it is a bit more serious interviewing those families within an investigation space,” Emily said.
“We are responding to things as they come up. We come in and see what is happening that day and we are able to go with it,” Bec said.
Bec said her favourite thing about the job is the team.
“Working with the team here made me want to stay,” Bec said.
“There is really good practice here. Particularly during my placement, because you get the opportunity to travel with different people and move across the different teams, you get exposed to everyone’s practice and everyone’s practice is very different. But there was nothing I saw that I didn’t want to adopt in my own practice. That was a really positive experience. It is a really good team in the sense that everyone is really connected and friendly, but also really passionate workers who are doing the best they can in their space.”
Bec and Emily see themselves staying in Roma for the next few years at least.
“There are a lot of opportunities being rural that are so beneficial like housing and financial aspects. There a lot of good opportunities to establish yourself as a new social worker,” Bec said.
Both Child Safety Officers are very big on giving back to students on placement now.
“We like to give them that support we received, especially if they are out here by themselves,” Bec said.
When asked what their advice would be for social work students heading on rural placement, Bec said to just get involved.
“Lean into the team you are working with. The small community is such a nice experience. They will take you out, they will do things with you. You will get to see things you usually wouldn’t get to see,” Bec said.
Emily said say yes to as many opportunities as possible.
“The opportunities are big out here. There are more vacancies, quicker career progression, diverse work and different groups of people in the communities. I’ve had fun in nearly all the things I have agreed to do but they are also great for career development,” Emily said.
Bec said it all happened very quickly but it has been the best experience.
“I never would have pictured myself moving out here. That wasn’t anything I considered going into the rural placement. But I think that shows how rewarding it can be doing something like that, getting out of your comfort zone,” Bec said.
“Students should definitely give it a go.”
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!