Through complexity to understanding – Genevieve’s reflection as a Social Work Student on placement at JRS

Social work student doing case work with refugees and asylum seekers

It’s safe to say my greatest learning has been from the people we serve. They have taught me what it means to support strong, resilient and driven people in their journey towards seeking safety in our country.

When I think back to my first couple weeks of placement at Jesuit Refugee Service as a Social Work student, I remember this overwhelming feeling of, “will I ever understand all of this?”

The work that the caseworkers did seemed so complex, the clients’ experiences so deeply personal, and the process of applying for protection was overwhelming and confusing to me.

As with all good things however, it took time, experience and most importantly connection with people seeking asylum that helped me comprehend the magnitude and complexities of the work at JRS.

I found that as I got to know people, hear their stories, and work with them directly, all the policies and procedures started to make sense. It was because it was their real lived experience, not something I was just reading in a textbook anymore.

“To be a good caseworker you need to be sincere”, a person receiving casework support once explained to me, “you need to really care for the people you support, it [the work] has to come from somewhere.”

It’s safe to say my greatest learning has been from the people we serve. They have taught me what it means to support strong, resilient and driven people in their journey towards seeking safety in our country.

Months after beginning my placement, I still feel a tremendous sense of honour and privilege to be able to work in such an important field. I’m still in awe of the team here. The way they meet each individual where they’re at, make them feel safe, welcome and respected, is a far greater achievement than most would realise.

Sometimes even in the most difficult and painful of experiences, having someone listen to your story and show genuine care for your wellbeing can have immeasurable effects.

If I have learnt anything, it is to never underestimate the resilience of an individual.

Genevieve Pender
4th Year Social Work Placement Student from the University of Sydney

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