Completing a social work placement during lockdown…again!
In a case of 2020 déjà vu, RMIT social work and law students once again found themselves completing remote placements during Victoria's COVID restrictions. Our partners Youthlaw and LACW continued to provide career defining (or could be life-changing) opportunities for these students.
Ly-Ann de Jesus, Master of Social Work student
Completing placement remotely during the COVID19 pandemic taught me how optimistic and resilient I can be! After deferring my Masters course for three years, I thought it was a good time to return to complete my second placement. Little did I know that the COVID19 pandemic would involve two years of restrictions and lock down. Therefore coming back to complete second placement became a whole new challenge as I didn’t know what to expect. What I can say is that there have been great challenges however, with great rewards during this time.
Having the opportunity to undertake placement with the CIJ has really helped me expand my knowledge and experience of Victoria’s Justice System. My research project was based on developing a practice guide for integrative practices, particularly for practitioners in Community Legal Centres (CLCs). As previous students commenced this project, I continued this research and focused on exploring an ethical decision-making model that may be able to be implemented within CLCs.
Coming to the CIJ I was aware that I was going to conduct a research project, which I had almost little experience over! However these worries wore out as soon as I started as I was supported by a great group of student peers and team members within the CIJ, particularly with my field supervisor. I was able to gain so much confidence through this experience as even though I had little experience in research, this was developed through guidance from my field supervisor and the encouraged autonomy to coordinate the project that suited my learning needs. Once I sent through the final draft, I was surprised and proud of how well I managed the research project.
I would be misinterpreting my experience if I didn’t highlight some of the barriers, which mostly surrounded working remotely. Although I had a chance to come into the office on one day, it was difficult once the Stage 4 restrictions hit again the following week. At times, it felt that the days were repeating themselves and I was stuck in a cycle.
What I found helpful during this time was to stay connected with people and prioritise self-care. I am grateful to have such a supportive student peer group and a field supervisor throughout this time as it helped me maintain focus and motivation to finish placement. I also continued reminding myself of the benefits of working from home which was using break time to walk my pup and secretly wearing trackpants during meetings.
Overall, my time with CIJ has been an experience that I will not forget, and I am grateful for all of the support I have been provided throughout this time, particularly from student peers and team members at the CIJ.
Brittney Hogan, Master of Social Work/Juris Doctor student
I first heard about the CIJ during an Intro to Law class where the Director Rob Hulls was a guest speaker. That first morning of class I was questioning whether I made the right decision to undertake the Master of Social Work and Juris Doctor concurrently. I remember feeling relieved when I heard about the kind of work that the lawyers and social workers at the CIJ do to improve our justice system. I knew instantly that this was the type of innovative workplace I wanted to be a part of and that both my degrees would help me to get there.
When it came time for my first field placement, I was overjoyed to have been matched with the CIJ. It was the perfect placement for me as someone who has an interest in both social work and law. I was assigned to the ‘Just Voices’ project. The project’s purpose was to conduct co-design workshops for people with a disability and lived experience of the justice system. During the workshops participants would provide feedback regarding their experiences of the justice system. This feedback would assist in developing a new training resource to help people working in corrections better support people with a disability.
Actively participating in the co-design process was an invaluable experience. I gained skills in project support, research and direct practice. Most importantly though this project highlighted for me the importance of listening to those who have a lived experience of the justice system when trying to make improvements or changes to it.
The week before the first day of placement the snap lockdown was announced, and we were advised that we would be starting our placement from home. I was a little worried that this would mean that I would not get enough out of placement. Thankfully though, I was met with an abundance of support and encouragement from the entire CIJ team. I took part in numerous meetings with industry experts and was constantly in contact with supervisors and placement peers. This placement was the best professional experience of my life! I walk away from it inspired and ready to take on the final year of my MSW.