When I signed up to study social work back in 2008, it was for the soul purpose of becoming a social worker. It finally dawned on, upon completing my undergrad, that I wanted to help people and what better way to do this then to be a social worker. Prior to starting the course, I had volunteered with several different, non-government organisations and most of my previous employment reflected my desire to help and support others. I learnt a great deal over the course of two years not only about frontline social work in England but also about myself. Upon completing my final placement, I realised that I had no desire to work as a social worker, it simply wasn’t for me. Instead, it became clear that I wanted to work for a non-government organisation and in particular I wanted to empower women and work towards ending violence against women. Thus, once I graduated, I sought employment with an women’s organisation which, supported women who had experienced domestic violence. I was fortunate enough to find a position within one month and I continued working with this organisation for three years.
I was oblivious and a little naive as I didn’t realise how my social work degree could help me overseas. I wasn’t aware for instance, that having a social work degree from the UK would help me land a job as a counsellor. Understandably, my experience in the field helped and put me in a good position when applying for jobs in Australia. Most of the counsellors I worked with in Australia had a degree and/or background in social work as opposed to counselling. Unlike the UK, where one must be academically qualified and experienced to practise as a counsellor. Teachers qualified from the UK struggle to find work in Australia as they have a different qualification and/or criteria in order to gain employment. Social work, on the other hand, is viewed just as favourably perhaps because of the high turnover. Either way, it benefitted me a great deal and thankfully, like the UK, there is no shortage of jobs in the field.
Upon applying for several different positions across Australia, I was fortunate enough to have two interviews, one for a position in Sydney and the other for a position in North Queensland which I later accepted. Both offered good pay and benefits and were in positions supporting women more importantly. Whilst I love children and I have done various voluntary work supporting children, I steer clear of front line child protection as this is not my cup of tea. Again, in Australia, similar to the UK, there were plenty of positions for front line social work but this is not something I wish to pursue. I was a little apprehensive about applying for social work positions as I was on a working holiday visa and I was adamant that non-government organisations would not be keen to employ and invest in someone like me. I was, essentially, a backpacker, applying for ‘normal’, jobs, one which I would apply for back at home. I felt given I could only work with one employer for six months, I would not be offered the opportunity to work in the field I am so passionate about. But, thankfully, I was wrong.
I was offered a six month position in North Queensland after which I had five interviews with different organisations. From these five interviews, I was successful and offered a position from three of the organisations. Each one of these organisations were informed about my working holiday visa and more so about my circumstances. I feel I would have gained a few more interviews had I not been on this visa. In the end, I had to chose between a position in Canberra and that in Alice Springs and I went with the later. Both positions sounded great on paper and I was aware that regardless of which I accepted, I would learn a great deal. I was offered the position despite having only three months left on my visa. Ideally, I was hoping to stay longer but I could commit to no more than three months due to my visa.
I had a total of seven interviews in the span of seven months and would have had more if I wasn’t on a visa or if I could have stayed longer. I had more interviews in Australia then I had had back at home. These interviews along with the opportunities available in Australia highlighted the endless possibilities in the country. It made me appreciate and value both my social work masters degree and my experience gained working as an domestic violence advocate. I had no idea eight years ago, upon deciding to study social work, how much it would shape my life and just how many doors it would open. Thus, while I advocate and urge people to travel, I also encourage people to get an education. If it hadn’t had been for my degree and experience, I would not have had the opportunity to work as a counsellor. I like to believe that I would have landed so kind of employment without my degree and background but presumably not as a counsellor.
Australia is a rich and beautiful country with many opportunities for backpackers. Many of the cities are buzzing and attract a large number of backpackers, seeking to gain some kind of employment. With some patience and perseverance it is possible to get a great job. Given how large the country is compared to the population and the fact that some locals are not keen to travel to remote parts of the country, backpackers are viewed favourably. Sure there is competition but it is not the same as London, in my eyes and if anything, the possibilities are far greater in Australia. So, for those of you who are committed and dedicated, finding employment should not be difficult. For those willing to invest their time and energy, there is a lot to be gained.