Quote Of The Day 29/03/2020

SUNDAY, 29/03/2020:

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‘Only through action do words take meaning.’

– Freechild Institute

University: Don’t Rush.

A bit of sound advice for those waiting on University Acceptance Letters.

There is a certain narrative that young people are sold these days: University is the only path to success.

We’re told that if we want to make a difference, we need to pack our bags and join the never-ending queue of people rushing to University straight after High School.

But I’m here to tell you that attending University is not the only way to succeed, and it certainly isn’t the only way to make a difference.

Opened Notebook With Three Assorted-color Pens

Please don’t get me wrong here – I am a firm believer in education. Without an educated society, we give in to ignorance.

But what I am saying is:

If you don’t know exactly what you want to do when you finish High School – University won’t magically enlighten you.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of rushing off to university with everyone else.

We’ve all heard the same old lines, over and over again:

‘University is the only way to make good money.’

‘No one will hire you without a degree these days.’

‘You’ll be stuck in this town forever if you don’t go to University.’

The trouble is, entering a degree straight from High-School is oftentimes not what we should be doing. We risk being put in a box, becoming disillusioned and regret going to University at all.

I’m not saying everyone will have this issue – some people know exactly what they want to do for a career and enter University with confidence that they know where their future is headed – and that’s absolutely fine!

Question Mark Illustration

But when I was in High-School, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

I was told by my teachers to fill out a University Application like everyone else, and put some preferences down.

I chose Nutrition, Art, Law and Psychology as my preferences.

My choices were based on what I thought everyone else would want me to do, because I was young, impressionable and everyone expected me to go to University. I really had no concept of how big of a decision a degree was.

I was a bright student, and got accepted into Law School a couple of months later.

But I had never studied anything to do with Law before, and had chosen the topic because I thought it would be ‘cool’ and that my Dad would be ‘proud’.

I didn’t choose Law because I had a career in mind.

I struggled my way through three years of Law School, because I didn’t want to let my friends and family down. I felt guilty for going off to University and not liking what I was studying.

I had poor grades, I hated my degree and had realized my passion lay elsewhere – I wanted to help vulnerable children and young people.

It wasn’t until 3rd year that I had realised I hated Law School and had never wanted to be a lawyer – I was just caught up in the hype of going to University.

It was this sudden realization that made me switch into Psychology instead.

I enjoyed my Psychology studies, but I was already three years into University, and was becoming more and more depressed and regretful – I had wasted 3 years of my life studying something I never truly cared about.

I kept thinking: ‘If I had done Psychology to begin with, I would have graduated by now…’

This mindset led to me becoming miserable and resentful of going to University at all – plus by this stage in my life, I was in my 20’s, had bills, a job and plenty of personal issues that distracted me from studying.

Boy in Brown Hoodie Carrying Red Backpack While Walking on Dirt Road Near Tall Trees

I ended up dropping my studies.

I contacted my University a year later and asked if there was anything I could do, or any qualification that I could attain from the University, considering how long I had studied for.

The University offered me an Associate Degree for the amount of topics I studied – basically the equivalent of an Advanced Diploma (which would have only taken me 2 years at TAFE).

I graduated in 2017 with an Associate Degree (I began University study in 2011). I didn’t attend graduation because I was ashamed and felt I had failed myself and my family. I then spent 5 years in different industries, gaining valuable life experience, before I ever even used my Associate’s Degree for anything. To me, it was just a bit of paper that reminded me I could have been much more successful than I currently was.

Luckily, an opportunity arose, and the Associate Degree was enough for me to obtain work in the field I have now realized I have a passion for: Youth Support Work.

Flat Lay Photography of Notebook, Pen, and Drafting Compass

I have now been working as a Youth Support Worker for over 6 months, and enjoy every moment of it.

I work with vulnerable young people who are wards of the State and have a relationship with a range of people from different organisations and the Department of Child Protection.

It is only now, 9 years later, that I have finally decided that if I go back to University, it will be to do Social Work – something I am passionate about.

For a long time, I felt I had achieved nothing but accumulate a large student-loan debt and a waste a lot of years studying something I didn’t even care about.

And although my journey was long, twisted and had lots of bumps, I finally found something I would be willing to go back to study for, and for that I am grateful. I have long-since let go of my resentment.

But more importantly, what I wish for everyone getting their High-School grades soon and receiving their University offers is this:

Don’t rush. Take time to know who you are and what you want to do before you jump straight into a degree.

And don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for doing it.

Working With Young People: 5 Lessons I’ve Learned.

It’s been about 5 months since I started my journey as a Support Worker, but I really wanted to write about some of the things I’ve learned along the way, and how it has helped me become better at my job.

Mid-way through this year, I decided to change the trajectory of my life by switching into a career supporting young people who are under the Guardianship of the Minister (in State care). This is something I have always wanted to do, and I had the qualifications to do it – but never took the leap into the field – preferring stable, (boring) but reliable full-time employment instead.

Working with young people has always appealed to me, given my own background and experiences, which involved drugs, neglect, homelessness, transience and custody disputes between parents. But even though I have had those experiences in the past, each day is entirely different, and nothing can fully prepare you for the wide range of things you hear, experience and see while on shift.*

Assorted-color Alphabet

It’s been about 5 months since I started my journey as a Support Worker, but I really wanted to write about some of the things I’ve learned along the way, and how it has helped me become better at my job.

* Obviously, client confidentiality is of utmost importance when it comes to working with young people, so there will be no mention of names or specific locations etc. in this post.

Keep An Open Mind.


Top View Of Assorted Colored Stones in Wooden Containers

Sometimes people forget that young people in care are just like everyone else their age.

They have dreams, fears, failures and successes, just like you and me – all of which should be nurtured and celebrated.

One of the most valuable things I learned in my training was this:

Change the word attention to connection.

If a young person is exhibiting ‘attention seeking’ behaviours, try seeing those behaviours as ‘connection seeking’ instead.

Young people don’t always know how to express their feelings and fears, or ask for help and encouragement when they desperately need it – and sometimes this can seem like they’re being ‘attention seeking’ or being ‘naughty’ or ‘disruptive’.

Next time you notice a young person exhibiting some interesting behaviours, ask yourself: ‘is this young person seeking connection?’ rather than writing them off as being annoying or naughty, and chances are, you’ll get a better response.

Educate Your Friends & Family.


One of the saddest and most frustrating things I’ve encountered since becoming a Support Worker is the negative reaction of my peers when I tell them I work with young people in care.

There is an automatic stigma associated with these children, which sticks to them like glue, no matter how hard they try to get it off, and society’s attitude doesn’t help.

It is something worth highlighting, because these children are just that – children. People automatically stick their noses up, have an opinion or see these children as criminals before they consider giving them a chance to prove them wrong.

Young people end up in care for a variety of reasons, and it is never their fault. Some of them have parents who are unfit to care for them due to addiction, neglect or physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

Neon Signage

Some are orphaned and have no other family. Some end up in foster care, but are given back when their behaviour deteriorates due to their trauma. Some have intellectual disabilities that their parents don’t want to deal with. Some are refugees. There are hundreds of reasons children end up in care.

Oftentimes, people look at children in care as lesser than other children. But for me, I look to these children for inspiration. Their resilience is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. These young people have suffered adversity and still try their very best, each day – whatever that may look like. And it’s worth remembering and acknowledging.

Expect The Unexpected.


Photography of Green and Red Fire Works Display

If you think you’ve seen everything, you haven’t.

Each shift I work is entirely different. One day I’ll be looking after a toddler, the next day I might be looking after a teenager, or a house full of siblings. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s to never go into a shift with any expectation about how it’s going to go.

I’ve had to clean walls covered in drawings. I’ve wiped poop from walls and hands. I’ve had to follow a kid around in a mini-van trying to convince them to get back in the car after they ran off. I’ve had to call the police, clean wet bed-sheets and listen to music that has so many swear words my brain ends up hurting.

But even more importantly, there are bright, shining, heart-warming moments that I never expected.

I got to be the person to take a child to their first day of school. I’ve had open and honest conversations with young people that have helped me grow as a person. I got taught how to make cold rolls (I always wanted to learn!), I’ve danced around the room with children and teenagers and high-fived toddlers when they realise they haven’t wet the bed.

I’ve seen milestones, birthdays, sad days and happy days, and I’ve seen firsthand just how wonderful, bright and resilient these young people can be.

Never assume you know it all. We truly know nothing. All we can do is expect the unexpected.

Don’t Underestimate Young People.


Silhouette Photo of Man Throw Paper Plane

Many people underestimate young people – even those not in care. But young people aren’t stupid. They’ll know if you’re talking about them – because it happens every day of their life.

They know when you’re being genuine – because they’ve had so many different carers before you.

Young people are in care for a variety of different reasons, but you can bet your bottom dollar that they can tell who has their best interests at heart and who doesn’t.

The young people that I work with also know all of the things they’re allowed and not allowed to do – and sometimes they use this to their advantage – especially if you’re new.

This isn’t something to worry about, generally – most of the things the young people try to get away with, we’ve all tried as a kid. They’ll try and push their bed-times, get extra dessert or negotiate their curfews – all normal kid-type things to do.

The bottom line is that children and young people, no matter who they are or where they live, will test limits and push boundaries. It’s completely normal and to be expected. This is all part of growing up and seeing who sticks around – even when we make mistake or play up.

Put Yourself In Their Shoes.


Putting yourself in the shoes of a vulnerable young person can sometimes be hard, especially if you were lucky enough to have had a relatively ‘normal’ or ‘safe’ upbringing.

I find that the best way for me to truly empathise with the young people I work with is to ask myself:

‘Given the circumstances, what would I have done at their age?’

Now this might be difficult if you don’t know the full story. In which case, ask yourself:

‘Do I know enough about this young person to be judging their behaviour?’

Either way, it is helpful to remember these questions when dealing with behaviour that might seem risky, aggressive or otherwise upsetting behaviour.

For example:

Person in Blue Jeans And White Sneakers Standing On Metal Railings

If you had been forced to live off of scraps for most of your life and didn’t know when your next meal would be, wouldn’t you, as a young person, hoard food or steal it where you could, so you felt safe and knew you wouldn’t starve?

If you had grown up in a house where drugs and alcohol were normalized, wouldn’t you, as a young person in a new living environment, have trouble understanding what is safe and what isn’t?

If you, as a young person, had been physically beaten or emotionally abused when you had arguments with your family, want to run away every time you have an argument with someone, so you don’t get hurt?

These may be confronting scenarios, but they are incredibly real.

There is almost always a reason behind why someone does something – even as we mature into adults. We need to be able to see some situations from the perspective of the young people in order to connect with them and find ways to help them.

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