September 30, 2016

Day 1078 – One year down under

I arrived in Australia on the 30th of October last year, in the hope of finding some hospitality and/or backpacker job.  Prior to this, I spent five months in Africa, which is not a backpacker continent by any means and thus, I was broke so it was imperative to find a job quickly.  I was only too aware that if I didn’t find a job in the next month or so, that I would be on a plane headed back home.  Whilst I have no experience in hospitality, I was assured that given Christmas was fast approaching, I would manage to get some work even if it was shift work.  I applied for and signed up to all sorts of alerts in the hope to land a job.  My friend back home suggested I apply for roles in my field so social work and more specifically domestic violence support work.  Sure enough, there were plenty of advocacy roles and positions with non-government organisations in general.

I managed to secure a job six weeks of being in Australia, which I was impressed with and so thankful for.  My experience and qualifications from back home, resulted in me being offered a women’s health counsellor position at a women’s charity, up north in Queensland.  Counselling has always been an area of interest and something I wished to pursue so this position was more than a job, it was a opportunity to grow and develop as a counsellor.  This role exposed me to situations I had little experience in and I learnt a great deal about myself. I was fortunate enough to support some amazing women who shared their experiences in sessions.  Furthermore, I was able to work with some amazing women.

Six months went by pretty quickly and as many friends pointed out, yes, it was not a ‘normal’ backpacker job. No, far from it. It was a proper job, I worked Monday to Friday, 9 till 5pm just like I did back at home.  The main difference was I would not be able to get such a position back home, as I don’t have any counselling qualifications and/or experience.  For me, this position was unique in many ways; I learnt about support services and legislation in Queensland, I grew familiar with housing options and more so, I learnt a great deal about Australian history.  Also, this position, enabled me to to continue something I am very passionate about; supporting women and ending violence against women.  I have many things I am passionate about and whilst travelling and  supporting children are high on the list, ending violence against women, remains at the top.

I was fortunate enough to secure another job, six months later, this time, a domestic violence counsellor position with a women’s charity, in the outback.  I had heard a great deal about the outback but hadn’t had the chance to explore it.  When I was offered this position, I had some friends in Australia who were more excited than I was.  Whilst I love and live in a big city back at home, I spent ten months living in Encarnacion, a small town in Paraguay so I was more then happy to venture to the outback.  Smaller towns and/or cities offer a slower pace of life, locals are often friendly and kind, there are fewer people and in general, in my eyes, there is a greater appreciation for what life has to offer.   Larger cities have a buzz and are attractive to many people because there is always something to do or see however, I feel, some people don’t then have the time to take some time out and to enjoy the little things in life.

Both of these positions reinforced not only, that could I be a counsellor but more it is something I am good at and I could pursue further once back at home.  I loved working as a independent domestic violence advocate for three years in London as it was a fast-paced, crisis intervention service where no two days were the same.  As a counsellor, the pace of my work was slower and focused less on crisis and more on the individual’s emotional well-being and her long-term goals.  The term counselling is used far more broadly in Australia compared to England and consequently the expectations are different.  I learnt a great from both positions and developed both professionally and personally in more ways than one. 

In addition to my work, I met some amazing people along the way.  This past year enabled me to catch up with many of the Australian friends whom I had met whilst travelling but I also made more friends through work and through the hostels I stayed at.  Thankfully there is no shortage of amazing people from locals to all the backpackers, to all the one off random, unique, exchanges I had. I walk away knowing and hoping that I will see many of these friends again maybe not next month or next year but in years to come.  Whilst I’m physically leaving Australia, I believe these friendships will last because we invested our time and energy and shared some great moments.  Just because I am leaving doesn’t mean this all comes to an end.  I think when and if a friendship or any relationship ends, it is on us, it is based on something more than one leaving a city or country.

I will remember my time in Australia as something rather unique and special. I was able to venture out into different cities, work with and support some amazing women and make some wonderful memories along the way.  All the brunches, lunches, road trips, matches, nights out and dances, I will take with me.  Australia is a very rich country with much to offer for those willing to invest and immerse themselves.  I leave part of my heart behind, as always and am hopefully that I will come back.  I have many a cities which I didn’t explore and have more friends I wish to see again.  This past year flew by and whilst I could and at times wanted to stay longer, I decided to leave with a heavy heart. I am nothing but grateful for all the amazing and the not so amazing experiences and encounters.  I must have done something right to have landed two great positions and so many wonderful friends.  So long Australia, until next time, good day.