Becoming a social worker
Growing up in Papua New Guinea, Keren Rowaro thought a business career was in her future, but a six-month time out pushed her towards social work instead. Two years into her degree, with multiple placements now completed, Keren is certain it was the right move.
“When I was finishing high school at home in Papua New Guinea, I applied for a Bachelor of Accounting and Finance degree at ACU. I thought I’d go into business and work in accounting or maybe information software development,” Keren said. “I can’t believe that now, but that was the plan! Instead, I decided to take a six-month break in between school and uni. It gave me time to think.
I asked myself if I really wanted to wake up every day and pursue a business career. I knew the answer was ‘no’.
“I’ve always been told I’m a people person who’s easy to talk to, but I didn’t recognise that in myself. When I came to understand that is how other people perceived me, I started to see how I can use who I am to create a foundation and build relationships easily with others.”
Before coming to ACU, Keren completed a Diploma in Community Services at TAFE, which only confirmed what she already knew – social work was where she was meant to be.
“What I was studying in the diploma was so different to what I had focused on in high school, but I started learning about new theories, concepts, values and belief systems, and it all aligned with who I wanted to be and what I wanted to learn.”
Keren enrolled at ACU again, this time for the Bachelor of Social Work at the Brisbane Campus.
Putting it into practice
Keren said she chose ACU mostly because of the placement opportunities, and getting to put theory into practice has been the highlight of her degree.
“One of my first placements was with St Vincent De Paul in Brisbane in case management,” she said. “I was working with clients who had experienced domestic violence or were from refugee and immigrant backgrounds.
“Being able to support them was incredibly satisfying. When someone came to me and said something like they didn’t have enough food, even when it was hard, I was so determined to find a way to get them the help and resources they needed.
“As social justice is important to me, getting to see how I could put that value to work in an organisation like Vinnies was very rewarding.”
Currently, Keren is completing another placement with Queensland Health working at the Children's Hospital in the Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS).
“Being in the role has allowed me to work in consultation with clients that have complex care needs and with those that come from a culturally and linguistically diverse background. I’ve found myself drawn towards the humanitarian aid development aspect of the job and I like working with children and young people that have mental health issues, so this placement has been a good fit for me.”
Taking an interest
Social work can be a challenging degree and even more challenging to practice. For Keren, during the tough times on her placements it has all come down to her natural ability to build relationships.
“When I was doing an internship at a high school that had a large population of students from a refugee or immigrant background, a lot of the time I’d start by asking them about their interests. I wouldn’t launch straight into, ‘Oh, I see you’re from this type of background’.
By starting with a chat about their interests and who they were broke down barriers more quickly and I was able to build rapport, trust and relationships with them.”
Keren contributes much of her positive experience at ACU to the support she receives from the Mercy Scholarship, which has made a huge impact on her studies.
“When I applied, I didn’t realise it was so competitive and that it only gets awarded to two people every year.
And little did I know that the Mercy Scholarship would waive my tuition fees for my entire four-year degree.
“When I told my family the big news, they were thrilled but also so grateful to ACU for giving me this chance. My dad was so shocked, he did a little dive onto the floor! When he stood up, he gave me a hug and said, ‘God gets the glory for this!’ Even now, every day when I wake up I still can’t comprehend this amazing opportunity that I’ve been given.”
Even though Keren will be finishing her undergraduate degree in 2021, she’s not sure this will be the end of her time on the Brisbane Campus.
“I am definitely thinking about a Master of Social Work. I want to stay in Australia and start working to secure my future. I know I want to work with children, young people and families and that could be in a school, a hospital, I don’t really know. I’m open to whatever comes my way.”
Find out more about where a social work degree at ACU can take you, and discover how many scholarships you could be eligible for to support you along the way.