I didn’t come back with an Aussie accent, but I did come back with unforgettable Aussie memories.

I’ll be the firsIMG_4807t to admit that the song “G’Day G’Day” by Slim Dusty has been stuck in my head since the first time I heard it on our Great Ocean Road Trip, but that’s only one gem that I took away from our phenomenal trip to Australia. Two months ago, I was sitting in Columbus thinking, “Soon I am going to be traveling halfway around the globe on a plane for 16 hours with 14 strangers? That sounds crazy!” Now, after all is said and done, here I am sitting in Columbus again, assured that I am a better person because of following through on this crazy idea. I can’t imagine having a better trip with any other group of people!

I am currently a fourth-year neuroscience major at the Ohio State University with a minor in disability studies, as I hope to be a pediatric occupational therapist in the future. I spend a lot of time learning about and helping others with various intellectual and developmental disabilities, since that is my passion. While it is absolutely excellent to gain experience directly pertaining to my future career goals, it can be beneficial to think outside of the box. This study abroad program through the College of Social Work allowed me to explore other aspects of childcare through the eyes of other helping professions that I may work with one day. Experience in a variety of areas of childcare, especially within other cultures, can help me thrive in my future practice. Being in Australia allowed me to learn about their ideas in childcare, what works for them, what does not work for them, what the United States could change and how they could change, etc. Taking the time to understand the practices of other cultures can lead to a more well-rounded practice for everyone because as they say, two heads is better than one.

The mental health aspect of this trip really stuck with me. I know that early intervention is key to helping children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but this can also apply to helping those with mental health issues.  Even if a child does not show signs of struggling with mental health issues, if they do not grow up in a safe environment with healthy relationships and basic necessities, this could lead to mental health issues later in life. I have noticed that Australia really prioritizes prevention over treatment, while the United States is the opposite. For example, we visited an organization called Reach. Reach’s goal is to help young people live a safe, healthy, resilient, and fulfilling life. The organization provides workshops for children as young as ten years old. In my opinion, this is huge! Starting intervention so early in a child’s life can help them keep their life on track before it even goes off track! Reach provides workshops at their own facility, but they also provide workshops at schools, which is great for children who may not even realize that they are really struggling yet.

Another organization that stuck out to me was Berry Street. When we visited this organization, we were able to help out with the playgroups that they offer for parents and children. This playgroup is way more important than it may seem. For those families who have experienced trauma, violence, or who simply do not get to spend much time together for various reasons, this playgroup provides a safe environment for the parents and children to connect. It is beneficial for the children as it gives them a chance to have a healthy interaction with both their parent(s) and other children. The child may not be able to express it, or they may not know it, but the playgroup could serve as a bit of a stress-relief each week. This can be the same for the parents. The parents are able to give their child attention, while also engaging in conversation with other parents, giving them a break from their daily activities. In my future career, I hope to be able to implement some type of mental health awareness, no matter how small. Prevention and awareness can help people of all ages, and starting off with young children can help to set the stage for a healthy life. Educating parents on how to be aware of their child’s mental health could also be useful for prevention at home.  Prevention seems to be a technique that is working for Australia, and I would love to see more of that, and be a part of more of that, in the U.S.

During our program we also had the pleasure of learning about Australia’s Aboriginal culture. We spent a lot of time listening and reading about the hardships the Aboriginal people were faced with, and it is unbelievable that these people still struggle in the modern world today. These people were forcefully removed from their lands, separated from their loved ones, and stripped of their cultural identities. When we visited VACCA, we discussed how so many Aboriginal languages have been lost and that only 30-60 of the languages exist today, which is devastating. An aspect of Australia that I really admired was that although the terrible things the Aboriginal people had to endure cannot be undone, Australia apologized. In 2008, the Prime Minister issued a public apology speech to the Aboriginal people. Additionally, in many of the buildings around Melbourne, I noticed that there were plaques hung on the wall either inside or outside the building that acknowledged that the facility is sitting on the land of the Aboriginal people. Like I said, what was done to the Aboriginal people cannot be undone, but at least the people of Australia are taking gracious steps to try to make amends. I wish I saw more of this in the United States pertaining to the Native Americans. While I cannot speak for all of America, I personally do not see as much awareness being spread for the Native American people, nor do I see such apologies.

In addition to VACCA, at the Melbourne Museum we checked out the First Peoples exhibit and in the Grampians we checked out the Brambuk Aboriginal Centre, both of which contained really empowering history. The exhibit and the centre both demonstrated the importance of spirituality, kinship, and hard work in Aboriginal culture. It was amazingIMG_4453 to see all of the hand-crafted tools and weapons made by Aboriginal people too. All of my experiences learning about the Australia’s Aboriginal people showed me how significant it is to respect and be aware of other cultures. WIMG_4448hen fairness and equality are practiced, fewer hardships have to be endured, and this can even prevent struggle and cruelty from occurring. We are all in this world together, so we should all work together to keep it as peaceful and fair as possible.

Last, but not least, one of the most vital things I learned in Australia is to live in the present moment. Look at your surroundings, listen to the noises, smell the air, and do these things without looking through the lens of a camera, or through a phone screen. That real feeling when you are standing at the top of a mountain looking out at the beautiful sunset, or sitting down on a sandy beach watching as the waves crash ashore is not the same through technology. While I did take a million pictures (not literally…maybe), I reminded myself to put the phone down and take it all in. Who knows if I will ever be back to Australia, so I knew I should absorb as much of its beauty as possible in the present moment. I hope to carry this with me in the future.

This was the perfect program for exploring another area in a neat and interactive way. The more I know, the more I can be of help to others in the future. All of us helping professions will work together after all! I would do this program again in a heartbeat and I would definitely recommend it to others!IMG_4854

Thanks for all of the laughs, friends, learning opportunities, donuts, beautiful sceneries, and kangaroo selfies Australia. Cheers!


G’Day Mates… I Live For Moments Like This…

As I am back home and reflect back on my 21-day journey in Melbourne Australia I must say that I am extremely grateful for all the cherished moments and created memories. This was my first time ever being abroad and I must say that I had the time of my life. Aussie will always have such a special place in my heart. Weeks 1 through 3, I would call it a moment of finding myself and purpose. That was my goal and I totally feel like I have accomplished it.


IMG_7762     I arrived to Australia on Saturday May 7, 2016 and my birthday is on May 8th so being able to start a new chapter of life in a new country was so profound for me. It was a dream come true. Talk about finding myself… That was something I got an opportunity to do. I am a wife and a mother of two who juggles both work and full time school so on my typical day to day schedule, there is rarely quiet “Me” moments to be quite honest. This study abroad gave me an opportunity to explore my inner self and dig deep inside of me. Gave me a chance to find the strong woman inside of me and truly get to know her which I would say was extremely important for both personally and professionally development. That was the most valuable gift I could receive for the start of year 24.


Out of all the time that I have been studying at The Ohio State University, I never took a Social Work course before this and honestly I have always thought of “Social Work” as negative based on my childhood of being in a lower social economic status and the challenges my mother was faced with in regards to social workers. However, this course has changed my thinking completely for the better.


After being able to talk with my cohorts who are in undergrad and graduate level social work programs and to learn their perspectives and see what they are doing in the field, I have grown a level of interest within the field of social work. Also, being able to explore different aspects of social work within Melbourne, Australia and getting an opportunity to learn new things people around the world are doing to make the difference in other people’s life was a fresh breath of new air.


All of the agencies that we were able to visit such as VACCA, Anglicare, Mind, BeyondBlue, and Lighthouse just to name a few showed me the importance of social work and how dedicated organizations with awesome visions and heart based workers can create such a positive movement of helping families better themselves.



The three-day camping trip to the Great Ocean Road was a time for personal development. Definitely something I would have never planned for myself but something that I am ever so grateful for having. Being able to see and embrace the true beauty of nature and letting go of my fears as I mediated on top of a hill in the wild where Kangaroos walked passed; was the moment that I found HER… Her meaning the REAL me!! IMG_7714 My cohorts pushed me to keep going even at times when I felt the walk was either too long or too hard. Those were moments that I seen the strength that I truly had inside. I felt so POWERFUL walking away from that. Standing looking at the 12 Apostles IMG_8187 and just seeing this HUGE body of water in front of me flowing so beautiful was when it totally hit me that my focus of life should be more on the journey instead of the destination in order to truly take in moments like these. Katie, our tour guide said something so profound. She asked if we could put our phones away for a second while we were standing on top of a mountain watching the sun set. She explained why. She stated “sometimes we get so caught in trying to capture the moments for everyone else through pictures and social media that you walk away from it and never got the chance to first capture and embrace the moment for yourself.” Wow… How profound is that.


So, as I conclude I must say that this study abroad opportunity gave me the chance to figure out my purpose in life in which I can say I have found that social worker inside of ME! I am ready to not let my past push me away from my purpose, but to let my purpose make a difference so that families won’t have to experience horrible social workers like my family once did in my past! I am ready… I am motivated… I thank OSU Study Abroad.


Studying Abroad was always a dream I had. And its within that dream that I found myself and my purpose. Australia has showed me awesome things that will be long life tools for my inner toolbox. So thank you Aussie!


I live for moments like this…

~ Taja Tolliver


Alex in Australian Wonderland

For my Australian application essay, I used this quote by Judith Thurman:

“Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.”

This is how I have always felt about Australia, and couldn’t have been more true!


First off – hello! My name is Alex, I am an MSW student, and I am on the Child Welfare track. My current placement has specific focus of working in outpatient therapy with adolescents with trauma; I also have a focus on youth mental health and foster youth.

Most Influential Aspect Career Wise of OZ

One issue I continually see, is the gap in service with level of care. Generally speaking, the level of care we have can be either outpatient therapy or hospitalization. (For the majority – some services provide in-home care, or specific issues part hospitalization.) A lot of kiddos I see; these options aren’t right. An adolescent who is overwhelmed- whether it be from a life event, mental health, or just stressors can be further traumatized from hospitalization. On the other hand, sending someone home when they don’t or as a professional you don’t feel completely comfortable can be just as harmful.

During agency visits, we visited Frankston Youth Prevention and Recovery Care (Y-PARC) with Mind Australia. The second we were ushered into the building I immediately knew – this was the place I didn’t know I was looking for.

Y-PARC is a voluntary partial residential which they consider both prevention and recovery care (PARC). The building is set up like a dormitory – but a dormitory focused on positive mental health. There is a room filled with art supplies and adorned with artwork made there.


There is also a room with guitars and bean bag chairs that is open and inviting. Included comes gym space, private rooms, sitting areas outside in the sun – and freedom. Part of what makes these spaces so inviting is the fact they are not forced as the building has a “come and go as you please” atmosphere. All the kids are there on their own accord, and they are encouraged to continue attending school and work – and encouraged to take the time they need when they need it. They have freedom to see their friends, or spend the night at home if they want to. They tailor make their choices.

The place from top to bottom exudes trauma informed care. Trauma informed care centers around detailed thinking of ways to make a person feel safer. Small things, like the daily schedule board letting the client know what lies ahead, and the policies and procedures in order. All of the staff (who are not counselors) still work from a strength based, choice theory approach allowing the youth to guide their own recovery. [Guide – not control.]


Treating adolescents in mental health is decisively tricky. Teenagers are treated with authoritarian power by the state, yet often expected to behave like an adult in society with similar pressures. I’ve always felt that there needs to be more medium ground with letting youth take part in their treatment, but are still treated as a non adult. Mind Australia Y-PARC creates a place like that and it’s reinvigorated my passion for adolescent mental health.

A place like this would be hard to create in the States… In my experience in youth care, there is A LOT of “red tape” to get around. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. I believe seeing a place like this exist will only further fuel me to help advocate for it’s existence here.

Changes need to be made in adolescent mental health and youth care services, and seeing Mind Australia reminded me why this is what I want to pursue. I would love to stay in Australia and have services like Y-PARC available, but right now that’s not possible. But at least I figured out my plans for what to do next. I feel as this helped further develop my career goals, as I was able to see a place like this exist, and work… This was said verbatim from youth during our visit – and as we all know they are the toughest critic.

Most Influential Aspect of my Goals in OZ

The truth is, social work and working in child welfare can be downright hard. Burnout, compassion fatigue, and jadedness can be very real aspects of the field. When everyday you are faced with some of the most heinous truths of human nature it can very easily get to you. No matter where you travel, child welfare is imperfect and kids can slip through the system and this trip solidified that. However, this trip also solidified the truth that wherever you go – there will also be helpers.

For me, working with others who are also wading in the trenches reinvigorates my passion for this field. (Crazy enjoys company right?) Having the opportunity to travel across the world and meet other people who are fighting for the same things fueled me in a way I never expected.


During a conversation with Suzy from Victorian Cooperative on Children’s Services for Ethnic Groups (VICSEG) I mentioned something that would never, could never happen in the states. In the gentle encouraging way social workers have a tendency to communicate in, Suzy asked “Why not? What would it take to be different?” I started to explain ways that things needed to change and then I realized Suzy was smiling at me. What I was talking about could change – but only if someone was bold enough to try to do it.

The biggest impact Australia had on me and my goals – was by making them as big as Australia! When we continue to look at a broken system the same way it becomes difficult to see ways we can fix it. By trying the view from somewhere else – all of a sudden we can start to imagine new ways to put it back together.


Most Influential Aspect Cultural Wise in OZ


I would like to pay my respect and acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which I traveled on, and also pay respect to Elders both past and present.

Before I can even begin to address the cultural learning aspects Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) helped teach me I felt I needed to include an “Acknowledgement of Country.”

One of the first ways we learned to show respect for Aboriginal culture and heritage is to say at the beginning of any meeting or gathering an Acknowledgement of Country. All this entails is acknowledgment that the meeting is taking place in the country of the traditional custodians.

I believe that taking a minute to ruminate over the rightful owners of the land is powerful. A brief minute (almost) daily, keeps the remembrance of the Aboriginal history fresh in everyone’s minds.

Before I visited Australia – it never occurred to me that Australia has a black history too.*

*Side note: Any person who identifies as Aboriginal – is. Being Aboriginal is not defined by skin color as it is the culture and beliefs that define the individual. “Black History” is inclusive to all Aboriginals (and Torres Strait Islanders) – no matter their skin tone.


Similar to what we are used to – level of skin pigment is impactful. In America, it was common practice for lighter skinned slaves to work inside and be considered more attractive; while darker skinned slaves were expected to work in the fields. It was also common for individuals who were mixed to struggle with identity as they were too light skinned to be considered black so they were rejected by the other slaves, and as they were half black they were rejected by white families.

Aboriginals have similar “light skin/dark skin” identity issues. Through forced colonization and a harrowing time of removing Aboriginal children and placing them white homes – culture became the mark of being an Aboriginal not skin color. Many white Aboriginals struggle with identity because people don’t see them as Aboriginal. One person I spoke with commented on how growing up as a white Aboriginal made him feel like he constantly had to prove himself.

He talked about one time he was dressed and painted in traditional Aboriginal clothing for a ceremony, and a person said “I know that you are Aboriginal” pointing to his darker skinned friends, but then they turned and pointed to him and said “but what are you?”

Traditional Aboriginal Clothing

As an egocentric American, I’ve always felt that America has had the most racially charged history. America was not discovered, it was invaded- and taken through deceit and unfair advantage from the Native American Indians. The country was taken, then built off of the backs of slaves that white men decided to “take” as well. Our racial issues continue to stay a controversial hot topic, but our discussion of the Native Indian Americans has since died down.

During our cultural training at VACCA I realized that acknowledgment of past is one of the most healing aspects for the Aboriginals. This is why the Acknowledgement of Country is so crucial. Every single time someone takes a moment to mention the original custodians of land, it brings the issue back to the table and recognizes that a lot of pain has occurred.

What if Americans did the same?


What if instead of celebrating Thanksgiving- the real story was shared. What if instead of cheering for teams mockingly named “Redskins” – we opened sports games with an acknowledgment of land? What if instead of having a black history month acknowledgment of slavery and racial oppression was a continuous discussion? What if we acknowledged the pain our country has caused?

As much of my focus is working with trauma, I tend to view the world through that type of thinking. One important aspect of trauma work is acknowledging the power of the perception. As I have a clinical focus, I sometimes lose sight of the greater population as a whole. VACCA opened my eyes to the effect of this. If a single individuals’ recovery is greatly influenced by acknowledgment of trauma – imagine the magnitude of a whole country NOT showing acknowledgment.

When I listened to the firsthand account of the individuals from VACCA I realized much heartache has been endured, and continues to be caused by people not acknowledging the full scope of the pain that has occurred. In order to deal with the trauma of the country we have to first admit it has happened and the effects still linger.

I believe as a whole, visiting VACCA was one of the most empowering agency visits. The visit really encouraged me to think further than the “here and now” of racial and ethnic issues. The best advice from VACCA? All you have to do is two things.

  1. ASK

Caring to learn about someone else’s culture – (acknowledgment) is one of the best tools we have.

Deep Listening

Final Thoughts on life in OZ


My final thoughts and reflections on the program are quite simple. “I’m so glad I went.” The program catered towards my professional passions and my personal interests. I was both able to travel across the world to continue my education in pursuit of my professional passions AND play in nature as the adventurer and an explorer I love to be.

Yes, I am one of those people who keeps a bucket list. This trip helped cross off many items on my bucket list. Scuba diving around the Great Barrier Reef, seeing the Twelve Apostles, seeing the Three Sisters, gloriously hiking through the Blue Mountains, living in another country, and most importantly HUGGING A KOALA are all huge checkmarks on my bucket list. Although these are not “educationally” related I kind of think they are.

As a person who focuses on clinical work, I understand I am my own “product.” If I want to encourage others to find the best lives for themselves, I need to know how to do the same for myself. As one with wanderlust – exploring is the best life for me, and I am overjoyed at the opportunity I’ve had to put that in practice.


Koala  Three Sisters

Take Me Back..

I recently arrived back in Columbus and it is definitely bittersweet to be back on the Eastern Time Zone. I have been so accustomed to Aussie living that I am fully awake and alert at 3 AM and by 6 PM and am ready for my morning tea/ brekky). In fact, when we got to the airport I eagerly went to pull out my Myki Card to “tap on” and take the train to the next terminal. This was my first reality check that I was no longer in the Land Down Under.

This program and the interactions throughout this program have greatly influenced my career goal of becoming a pediatric Occupational Therapist. The agency visits granted me the opportunity to gain knowledge about the socioeconomic impact upon Australian children’s mental, emotional, and social development. I do not have a social work background, so I was unaware of the differences in policies for child welfare and mental health that exist between Australia and the United States. Nevertheless, by learning about the challenges that Aussie children are currently facing with mental health, I was able to learn about youth in a new setting and place, and also view childcare from a different lens.

VACCA was our first agency visit and I cannot imagine having started at any other institution. Their presentation set us up for the remainder of our trip. Every time we entered an Aboriginal facility there was a sign of “acknowledgement of traditional owners” to show respect to the Aboriginal People. In our time at VACCA we learned about the “stolen generation,” where aboriginal children were stolen from their families and brought to other “states” in an effort to remove their dark pigment and rid the “aboriginal” from them gradually. There is now a day of apology that takes place every May to say “sorry” to the Aboriginal People for all that was done to them. I found it fascinating and strikingly similar to the history of the Native Americans within the United States. I respect Australia’s government for putting forth the effort to reconcile with the Aboriginal People because our country has not made any effort to apologize for how our predecessors treated the Native Americans. I love how the focus of Australia has been shifted from the practice of the removal of children based solely on their culture and race to transferring their attention towards child safety and best interests. Being surrounded by various diverse populations has taught me that “culture is a means to heal” and it is important that everyone respects each cultures practices within their families and the community.

My main career goal as a future pediatric occupational therapist is to help kids gain independence while also strengthening the development of fine motor skills, sensory motor skills, and visual motor skills that are necessary for them to function and socialize. I was amazed to learn of all of the resources that the various agencies have available to provide support for youth. In addition, I admire how well the agencies partner with each other to offer the best possible support for their young people.

Being that I am a psychology major, I loved the connections that the “Lighthouse Institute” made when discussing trauma neurobiology. Directors of the agency discussed how children who’ve experienced complex trauma are in a constant state of flight or flight. Because our brains work off of experience, these children have hyperactive amygdala’s that result in the exaggeration of warning signs. This happens because their brains were continuously exposed to threatening environments. The impact of trauma affects all aspects of a young person’s daily life by making him/her deprived of experiences necessary for growth. It is so amazing how different each child’s scenario can be viewed, depending on the expertise of the person who is explaining it. Also, it was quite refreshing to hear about child development from a biological standpoint. The information that I learned at this agency can aid in my facilitation of occupational therapy by broadening my understanding of anatomy and the developing brain. I now know that there may be multiple reasons that a child may be experiencing difficulties with daily living.

My time at all of the agencies really increased my overall mindfulness of childcare and mental health. One agency in particular, “Young& Well Cooperative Research Center” supports youth who are tackling challenges with their mental health. They provide universal support through a series of apps that promote a positive well-being and guide their youth in being safe, healthy, and resilient in the workplace. Young people all around Australia know how to connect with the agencies services if they were to ever feel vulnerable to the stigmas of mental health. Incorporating these innovative ideas into my field will aid in one of my roles as a therapist; to enhance the self-esteem and sense of accomplishment of the children I work with. My favorite app of theirs is named “@ppreciate a Mate.” With this app, young people are able to utilize technology to send kind messages to their friends as a means to promote positive reinforcement. Their program appears to be taking great strides in increasing children’s overall awareness of mental health in Australia, and their services have definitely influenced my life’s work.

It is very clear that Australia has created a culture where it is okay to begin conversations about mental health and talk about traumatic events that may be troubling a person. There are “Beyond Blue” signs everywhere and it appears that Australian’s have an overall increased awareness of what a healthy well-being constitutes. Mental health is a vital part of Occupational Therapy and health care so I am extremely blessed to have learned so much about the topic throughout my study abroad experience.

Other experiences, while, in Australia that made an impact on my goals and me were the weekend adventures that we took to Phillips Island and The Great Ocean Road. Since our trip to the Great Ocean Road, I have definitely grown more observant and appreciative to the smaller things in life. For the first time ever I went glamping! My study abroad experience was full of discoveries and leaping into the unknown. Everyone in our group had different levels of fitness so it was so exciting to watch people push themselves to new limits on our hikes and I really loved how well we encouraged each other to involve ourselves in new experiences. My life goal is to work with children and uplift their spirits in any way possible. I hope to inspire and mentor youth as my peers, professors, and our amazing tour guide Katie did for me.

The greatest lesson that I take away from my trip is that the world is way too beautiful to not explore every inch of it! The memories I’ve made in the Land Down Under are everlasting and I am so thankful to have been blessed with this once in a lifetime opportunity. My study abroad experience was incredible.

Candles and Mirrors: Australia as a Place of Illumination and Reflection

Seeing How Other Countries Address Mental Health Has Illuminated My Path Ahead

While the physical time I spent in Melbourne might have only been three short weeks, the way it has shaped my thinking and understanding of the world will influence me for years to come. First, this program has furthered my understanding of how research and policies impact individual work and vice versa, and strengthened my interest in pursuing work in that area. Somewhere between meeting with Dr. Brophy (the head of research for Mind Australia at Melbourne University), our visit to the research collaborative Young and Well, and discussing the role of government committee membership with leaders at VICSEG, I decided I definitely wanted to pursue my Ph.D. This is because what I’d really like to do is perform research that I can then use to advocate for policy and programming changes, a connection I saw often throughout our agency visits. One element of this connection between research and practice that continued to jump out at me, and is something I want to incorporate into my work, is the way many agencies in their own ways empower and involve the youth/client. Young and Well and Reach Out do this in relation to Youth Ambassadors and youth voices in content development. Mind Australia surveys involved parties as a part of developing research questions, Lighthouse has a collaborative process in which clients  rank their preferences for placements, and at VicSeg a clients’ culture is at the center of their activities and interventions.  During my time learning about American social work, it has seemed that while we often talk about client-directed treatment at an individual level, but often it feels like we only involve others as subjects in research rather than active participants in the research process. Utilizing this client-centered framework more within research and policy development could lead to better implementation and treatment efficacy, in that clients are receiving a treatment researched and geared towards their expressed needs and preferences.

Another aspect of Australian mental health services that I would like to bring back to the U.S. is the emphasis on Family/Domestic violence. For instance, the Royal Commission, a government funded research publication on family violence that was released recently, came up at several visits. Furthermore, mental health services have a specific family violence program, rather than it be tacked on to other existing services.  Mental Health providers work closely with other community partners like hospitals, schools and community health centers, and often go a ride alongs with police, and said police are required to make referrals for both parents and the child for mental health services. These policies and services and the evidence of their efficacy are something I’d like to use to push for change within American social service systems.

I really appreciated that Dr. Brophy pointed out that there is a lot of variance in services/climate/beliefs within different parts of Australia. It helped me to remember the Grass is Always Greener effect- I tend to focus on the negative parts of the U.S. and the positive of Australia, but both have strengths and areas for improvement, and often these are similar. For instance several agencies discussed how recent conservative governments have cut funding and impacted services, something we have certainly experienced within the U.S.  One agency’s comment about a large contributor of homelessness being the lack of investment in public housing was very reminiscent of issues in the U.S., and I worry about the state of homelessness in both countries if this trend continues. Seeing how technology and globalization has really connected researchers and providers from every country and culture has deeply piqued my interest in international social work, particularly regarding issues  such as homelessness, foster care, and internet as a utility, topics that seem almost universal.

In the end, while there are many differences, there are so many similarities between our cultures and indeed most cultures-hearing the kids in the at Berry Street sing Old MacDonald and just enjoy coloring and throwing balls reminded me of that.                  

young and well OSU berry street

Learning About the Aboriginal People of Australia Has Helped Me Reflect on Native Americans and American History

I thought it was so important that we started the agency visits with VACCA, as it really heightened my awareness of how colonization and the cultural genocide of the aboriginal people resonates throughout Australian culture, but especially within human services. Also, being part of the white majority both within Australia and the U.S., I thought it was especially important that we started with an honest discussion about systemic privilege and government-induced cycles of trauma. Throughout the visit I was frequently struck by how there are so many similarities between U.S. and Australian First Peoples and colonists’ interactions with them-from the decimation of smallpox, to government roles in stolen generations. It’s scary to think that during my parents’ lifetimes aboriginal children with a white parent could still be taken from their parents and worse that it was justified as being for “their own good”. All this felt very similar to U.S. government’s policy of removing Native American children with the justification of “killing the indian to save the child”. The cyclical nature of the effects of the Stolen Generations are very sad and frustrating- because those stolen have both been traumatized and not had positive attachment and parenting models, their own abilities to parent are impacted, which could lead to their own children being taken into custody, continuing the cycle. This is further exacerbated by the understandable distrust aboriginal people have for institutions such as schools and health care, which unfortunately can result in misunderstanding and this cycle continued.

The VACCA visit also set the tone of me having an understanding and appreciation for groups that did an Acknowledgement/welcome to country (including the Sydney Opera House, National Library of NSW, and an aboriginal tour guide in Cairns) as well as a heightened awareness of those that didn’t, especially other human service agencies.


In addition to a formal visit training on Aboriginal culture, I learned a lot about it through specific Aboriginal venues such as the exhibit at the Melbourne museum and the Aboriginal cultural center during the Great Ocean Road. At the Melbourne Museum I was struck by how many unique tribes and languages were packed into such a small country- I know we used to have many different Native American tribes, but these were spread out over a much larger space. I also thought that the emphasis on sustainability and living off the land in a semi-nomadic way seemed very similar to our Native Americans. It’s funny (though not funny ha ha) to think how colonists and probably a lot of non-tribal people today think of these cultures as primitive, but they were able to master living in a harsh land far better than people are able to today.  I liked that the First Peoples exhibit was all aboriginal curated and contributed, in that it seems to be a genuine effort towards reconciliation and aboriginal empowerment.

In addition to places dedicated to Aboriginal history and culture, there were also influences at the Immigration Museum. and the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). For instance at the NGV it was very interesting seeing early colonial art, and observing how history is skewed either to show aboriginals present and happy when they had already been wiped out, or just wipes them out completely. I was glad to see that Aboriginal shields and other artistic pieces were displayed as art rather than anthropological remnants, something I’ve seen within American museums and which strikes me as very elitist and oppressive. 

aboriginal shields

The friendliness and welcoming nature of natives resonates within the culture today, though with similar expectation of tanderrum in that it’s like a visa- you’ll go back to your own native land after. It is so sad and frustrating the way this was taken advantage of, both within Australia and the U.S. While some may view the Apology as too little too late, and it certainly is a stepping stone but not the end to reconciliation, I do think it is an important act and something I am sad America has not done with our own Native Americans. On the other hand, I know some white Australians, similarly to white Americans, question why there should be an apology at all since people living today didn’t play a part. This demonstrates why it is so important to discuss the systemic nature of privilege, and to push people to see outside of themselves. I hope to use what I’ve observed and learned in Australia to help more of those conversations and changes to happen within the U.S.


Being Both a Candle and A Mirror: Reflecting the Light and Influence of Other Countries and Cultures While Also Shining That of My Own

Another aspect of my experiences in Australia that resonated with me deeply was the emphasis on preserving nature and being in touch with the land as  a method of healing. This was demonstrated from the way the government bought back prime beach real estate to help support the penguin population, to the existence of phone numbers on animal crossing road signs that you can call to report injured animals. As a gardener and general lover of nature myself, I appreciated how deeply rooted (no pun intended) this connection to nature seems to be here. While within the U.S. we have taken our own steps to protect the environment, there is also opposition and contention, something that could come back to haunt us as climate change progresses. My experiences here have helped me to see that these changes at a policy level can happen, and I want to do my part to make it so.

check under car

I have also experienced an increased awareness of just how litigious American society is, and how insidiously its incorporated itself into daily life. This was highlighted first to me when we visited Maru wildlife park and other open wildlife areas where we could wander among the kangaroos and wallabies (it was amazing!), something that could easily have been shut down by a lawsuit in the U.S. At more of a human services level, the fact that in the U.S. the fear of lawsuits when providing suicide prevention/support services push many providers away from providing such services at all is a loss of potentially life saving care.  My experiences here have caused me to wonder if there’s anything I can do to help push for a less law-suit heavy culture.

feeding kangaroo

I am so glad that in addition to the informative agency visits we were given opportunities to visit and experience other aspects of Melbourne and Australia. For example learning to navigate the Melbourne tram system really helped me to understand the city and increased my confidence in being able to navigate and direct myself. Going to the art museums like the NGV and Sydney art gallery were very informative as a reflection of Australia’s culture and history. But I also learned sometimes we read too much into things, and an upside down cow is just an upside down cow.

                                                  upside down cow

I was encouraged and impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of the people I met during my time here, from the fact that tram drivers will get off to make sure you know where you are going, to a post about reporting “anti-social behavior” at the footy game. While at the NGV we asked about aboriginal art, and the gentleman at information  directed us OUT of the gallery to the Koori heritage site-so he not only knew of resources outside his agency, but directed us to them. These experiences not only helped me feel more welcomed, but also more comfortable with my own mid-western friendliness, and increased my determination to try to increase my own welcoming and helpful attitude back home. 

Overall, this trip has been an amazing opportunity for learning how to better get outside my bubble and be aware of other cultures, even within my own country. However, I’ve also learned to be aware of the Grass is Always Greener effect, and to incorporate appreciating where I’ve been, where I am and where I’m going.


I’ll be back Australia

Hello from Columbus! I have made it back to “the states” safe, sounds, and completely fulfilled. My month abroad in Australia was everything I could have asked for and more. Not only did I gain extensive knowledge in the fields of children’s welfare and child mental health, but I also experienced beauty that you cannot find anywhere else in the world. It is impossible to see everything there is to see in Australia in just four weeks, but believe me I would have if I could. Hopefully, I have the opportunity to return to the land down under in the future to continue to explore all that the country has to offer.

From a classroom perspective, the Child Welfare and Children’s Mental Health program deeply submerged me into the Social Work field, and I found myself able to connect the information presented at the agency visits to my interests in pediatric medicine. Over the three week program, we visited 10 different agencies. Each agency presented us with their policies, beliefs, procedures, underlying theories, etc.

Our first, and perhaps my favorite, agency visit was our time spent learning about the aboriginal culture at VACCA. We learned all about connecting with individuals through culture. I realized during this training that culture is something unique to each person I will come in contact with. It is especiallynew important that when I am working with patients in the future I first try to understand that patient’s cultural background. Without this understanding, I will not have the ability to treat a patient. Understanding one’s culture is essential to preforming treatment on an individual basis and knowing everything you can about a particular case before taking any actions that may go against or disrespect one’s cultural beliefs.

Our morning visit to Innovative Resources, a partner of Anglicare also provided me with knowledge that I can use in a variety of disciplines. Innovative Resources is an organization that uses creative resources to get in touch with children’s emotions and help with communication of these emotions to adult professionals. One resource I found particularly interesting was a set of playing cards called “The Bears” in which bears are pictured on the cards experiencing a variety of emotions, open for interpretation by the viewer. The goal of this resource is to have children choose the cards that describe how they are feeling in that moment. I immediately thought about how useful this resource could be to help children with physical pain to describe the intensity of their pain to a medical professional. I hope in the future I am able to access similar resources to get an accurate evaluation of a young patient experiencing any kind of discomfort.

I truly believe that my time in the Australia Child Welfare and Children’s Mental Health program will help me in the future to provide a multidisciplinary approach as a physician’s assistant. The medical field and the mental health field overlap too often to approach one without simultaneously thinking about the other. This could mean having a patient fill out a mental health assessment before medical appointm13220693_10204635386964646_4206300590780467151_oents to avoid mental health triggers. It could be accomplished by making sure patients have the resources they need to have good mental health after their appointment. For example, at beyondblue, I realized how important it was that expectant mothers and fathers are provided with access to information about preventing perinatal mental health disorders. These disorders, such as postpartum depression are very serious, and it is necessary to address the potential for them before they become a problem. A simple conversation during a prenatal checkup could protect an expectant mother from months of postnatal depression and anxiety.

Now onto the fun stuff…

Here’s just a few things that I learned about traveling to Australia –

  1. When crossing the road in Melbourne, look EVERY direction, not just left and right. You NEVER know when a car, tram, train, bus, or even biker is coming (I definitely had some near death experiences with oncoming trams and trains…)
  2. Australia is very conscious about water use, and “the states” could definitely benefit from the half flush/full flush toilets you see everywhere.
  3. Kangaroos do NOT like selfies.
  4. Cherish free ketchup. You’ll have to scrounge up a dollar coin if you want a little “tomato sauce” with your chips (French fries) in Australia.
  5. When someone says “How are you going?” don’t say “by tram” like I did once. The Aussies really mean “How are you doing?”.
  6. Coffee in Australia is to die for. The flat white became a daily necessity while abroad. There is nothing like it here in the U.S.

As soon as I arrived back in America people started asking if I enjoyed my time in Australia. I still have not been able to give a single person an answer that explains just how important this trip has been for me and how much I have grown through this experience. In life “post-Australia” I hope to constantly remind myself that every day has the potential to be the best day ever. The world has so much to offer that I never knew was out there. I encourage everyone to travel/study abroad because once you step out of your comfort zone into unknown territory it is so much easier to open your eyes and realize how much around you has changed. It makes you realize what things you love about your everyday life and what things you wish you could do just a little better. I hope that I continue to embrace everything I have learned while abroad and always remember to create my own energy and happiness at the start of each and every day.


True Blue, I thank you!

The 86 Will Always Take You Home: Reflections From a Month in Australia

The 86 Will Always Take You Home: Reflections From a Month in Australia

Angela Borgerding
(aka A’Mapsy)

My career objective is to work at a public child welfare agency and ultimately work in policy analysis to help ensure that legislation is being created, passed, and enforced, that promotes the mental, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual well-being of all children. I applied to this program because I wanted to understand how child welfare organizations function in Australia and use this to draw comparisons as well as understand differences that will be able to help in understanding how our current system could change.

Throughout our time in Australia we visited several wonderful agencies. The following are some of the agencies that helped to influence my career goals.



During our visit to Lighthouse we focused a lot of the discussion around the importance of practicing trauma informed care by understanding trauma neurobiology. I think sometimes we can forget that the behavior can be a result of the trauma a child has experienced. For example, due to the trauma experiences a consequence is that the brain in a constant state of arousal which can cause a child to become highly anxious or hyper aroused by every day experiences. This may result in a child acting out or reacting in a strongly negative way to something that would normally not cause much anxiety. In regards to my career goals, I think that it is important to ensure that foster parents have an understanding of the effects trauma has on the brain in order to be able to differentiate between a child who is acting out due to being defiant versus a child who is acting out as a result of their trauma. Being able to gain the insight to begin to differentiate between the two could help reduce the number of children bouncing around between foster homes. If a family is informed that a child has been exposed to traumatic experiences and is equipped with an understanding of what their behavior might look like and they are given tools to help with managing this behavior it might lead to less families complaining about their foster child’s behavior and requesting they be moved.

The idea of projective identification also follows along a similar line. Projective identification refers to a person who is being target with projection beginning to behave, think, and feel in a way that is consistent with that projection. Many times a child who comes from an abusive home thinks that all caregivers will treat them in this way and have difficulty accepting and understanding that there are people who genuinely care about them and want to help them. They also tend to believe that all people will eventually let them down causing them to be distant and reluctant to open up. Again, giving foster parents information about the possibility of them exhibiting a projective identification would allow them to be better prepared in fostering a child who has had particularly bad experiences with parental figures.



During this agency visit we were able to meet with Dr. Brophy to learn more about the research and evaluation framework for this organization. The one part of the discussion that I particularly enjoyed was when we examined the logic models. We saw how the researchers created logic models with both the staff, youth and parents in order to create a comprehensive logic model. This reminded me of the importance of making sure that everyone is involved in the planning of a child’s placement. Not only is it important for the caseworker to be aware of the objective of a child’s placement but it is also important for the family and child to be actively involved in the planning and to be aware of the long term plan and outcomes.

The other aspect of this organization that I enjoyed learning about was the model the Y-PARC’s use. I found it refreshing that this organization encourages the young people to make their own decisions rather than forcing them do things a particular way. For example, being able to be in charge of their own medications, and if a youth is sick rather than telling them what to do, helping them to navigate the system and to learn how to do things themselves. I think that for my future career this not only applies to children but to parents and families. It is important to not do everything for the family but to help them learn how to navigate the system and create their own path. Giving everything to the family does not help them in the long run as it only provides a temporary solution, however, teaching the family how to navigate systems and how to be self-sufficient creates a longer, more sustainable system and family.

Beyond Blue


This organization has a lot to offer in the way of mental health. I definitely think that using the Kids Matter and Mind Matters Programs helps in reducing the amount of stigma associated with mental illness as well as creating conversation about mental illness. I think that this program can be easily implemented into schools as it is designed to be flexible and work with programs that are already being used in the school system. Again, I think that this program would allow for increased awareness and education about mental health not only for children but for their parents, which could again positively impact family relations, and as having a child with a mental health problem is a risk factor for child abuse and neglect, providing parents with opportunities and tools to understand their child could be used as a protective factor. Additionally, the program designed for postpartum depression is a useful tool to have. As maternal depression can negatively affect child development which could result in strained family relations and even more so having a case opened with children services. Being able to promote awareness about and provide programming for postpartum depression, as well as recognizing that fathers too can experience post-partum depression, could lead to not only better overall health for the parents, but better child development and positive family relations.

Additionally, the social media campaigns, specifically the Brain, reached 73% of young Australians. To think that one social media campaign can reach so many young people really speaks to 1. How many young people are using the internet and 2. How frequently young people are using the social media. I think that using this information and understanding how to relate to the population while also integrating important mental health information is a skill that needs to be cultivated in agencies. In regards to use in my future career, this data goes to support the idea that young people receive information via social media and that this is a platform that should be used to reach them. Additionally, it might be useful to create online social networks to help kids in similar situations connect.



The visit to VACCA influenced my perspective on working with diverse populations as it enlightened me to the fact that many times a specific racial or ethnic group will have certain behaviors or thought patterns that they believe are what truly make a person a part of that specific racial or ethnic group. This idea came up in the discussion of stereotypes that people have of Aboriginal people which then led into discussing who holds these stereotypes. The leaders of the group mentioned that many times the Aboriginal people themselves hold these stereotypes and that for example someone might not be considered a “true Aboriginal” if they do not drink alcohol or are not violent, or exhibit other stereotypical characteristics of Aboriginal people.

I then began to think about how this could apply to many stereotypes of minority cultures and how maybe if they were able to change the way they saw themselves or change the way they define what it is to be Black, Asian, Latino, etc. then we might be able to begin to shift the way the majority culture views these groups. Now, I am in no way saying that the majority group should continue to stereotype or deny privilege to the minority groups, but I am simply saying that I think there is something to be said about people groups thinking that in order to belong to that specific group (i.e. to truly be Black, or Asian, or Latino) then they must abide by these certain stereotypes (i.e. be in a gang, be good at math, be a drug dealer) and how this prevents these groups from breaking free of these stereotypes. I also think that this leads to showing the importance of empowering people to break free of stereotypes and to encourage them to define for themselves what it means to be a part of a group.

This influenced my thoughts about racial and ethnic issues in the United States as again it seems as if many groups fall into the trap of believing that in order to truly be a part of that group they must be all of these stereotypical things. This not only makes it challenging for people to understand that they can belong to a group without fitting a certain set of characteristics, but also creates a divide between those that do fit a stereotype and believe that this is what makes them part of the group, and those that have gone beyond the stereotype.

Other Australian Experiences 



Participating in Wanderlust allowed me to experience the freeness in just doing what you want and not being afraid of someone judging you. I tried acro yoga and slackline yoga without being afraid of what someone might say. I was really challenged to continue to challenge myself and to step outside of my comfort zone without fear of being judged. This experience allowed me to be reminded that I need to be open to new experiences and to allow myself to be challenged. 

Personal Travel


During my personal travels I ventured to Sydney and Cairns by myself. Having this time to myself allowed me to refocus on my career goals. Travelling around by myself allowed me to further cultivate my strength in being alone. This reminded me to stand firm in what I believe in, even if I stand alone.






While in Cairns I decided to go skydiving. It is something I have always wanted to do but for some reason or another just never have, and I still cannot believe that I actually went skydiving. I did not go with a group or anyone I knew I just went by myself. Surprisingly I was rather calm all the way up until I realized how high the plane was going and when I saw how fast people were being “thrown” out of the plane. Words cannot describe the roller coaster of emotions I went through during this experience. I was at first scared to death and then thought I was going to be sick but then had an epiphany; I was not breathing. I told myself to breath and once I did this I was able to see how truly amazing the experience was. Skydiving taught me to take a leap of faith even if you don’t exactly know what is on the other side and to always remember to breath.

The 86 Will Always Take You Home”


Now you may be wondering about the title of this blog. Well during our time in Melbourne we had many a travel snafus; we arrived late, got on the wrong tram, and had several uncertainties of the address, amongst other normal tourist mistakes. However, during my personal explorations of the city I came to realize that the 86 tram seemed to always be the closest tram to where I was and would drop me off right across the street from our accommodations.  It was at this point that I began to say “the 86 will always take you home”, and ironically enough, when I was leaving Melbourne, I did indeed take the 86 to the bus station to take to the airport to take me home.

Raising the [kanga]roof Down Under


The sunset while coming back home was incredible.

It’s been a little over a week since I’ve been back in good old Ohio. I have noticed so many things that I missed while in Australia; American food, my bed…watching the Bachelorette. Over the month, I grew far more appreciative of my lifestyle. However, being in Australia changed my mind about a lot of things.

My goal is to become a clinical child psychologist and being in Australia did not change that. It did open my eyes, though. I realized the immensity of the problems facing youth, especially those in diverse and disadvantaged groups. Problems are always so much deeper than they appear. While visiting the agencies, I learned the truth in the quote “it takes a town to raise a child.” Often, if a child is suffering with a mental health issue, you can also find issues in the family, community, school, or peer relationships. It makes it difficult for psychologists and social workers to implement effective treatments. Visiting these agencies showed me the importance of holistically treating an individual, giving them strategies to deal with the external factors in their lives. It’s hard to remember that when a child leaves your office, they go back out into a possibly risky environment that may cause relapse.

One of these agencies that brought up issues of diversity was VACCA. VACCA is dedicated to helping the Aboriginal population in Victoria. Before heading to Australia, I knew barely anything about the Aboriginal population. Many of their struggles remind me very much of the struggles of our own Native Americans. Their government has a long history of oppressing Aboriginals, trying to rid of them through the stolen generation. We participated in a cultural awareness training and got to learn more about the history and traditions of Aboriginal culture. The difference between Aboriginal people and our Native American population is the way our governments have tried to right their wrongs. Australia has taken great strides to apologize to the Aboriginals while our government has not done the same. It was very interesting to learn how issues of diversity play into mental health treatment.


This is a opossum skin blanket that children at VACCA made and decorated. These blankets are a tradition among the Aboriginal community and are said to have a calming and spiritual presence.


The agencies were not the only part of visiting Australia that had an impact on me. My free time, my cohort, and cultural experiences helped me broaden my horizons. Exploring nature was my favorite part of the entire trip. I personally love to camp, so our camping weekend was incredible. Being in the presence of large mountains, flowing waterfalls, and wildlife allows you to feel small and humbled. Being there with my peers made it all the better. I was lucky to be in the presence of strong, goal-driven women who’s opinions and beliefs opposed mine. Hearing their opinions and thoughts allowed me to remember that not everyone is living in my world and it’s important to keep that in mind as a future psychologist.

One person who had a particularly positive impact on me was my friend, Taja. I did not know her before the trip but I am happy I got to know her. I got to see her try so many new things and really get outside of her comfort zone. I love to try new things and it seems so easy to me, so when I see other people I sometimes don’t understand why they’re so uncomfortable. However, this was not the case with Taja. While she was sometimes uncomfortable with new foods, experiences, or ideas, she fully embraced everything and just let herself grow. I also got to see her grow through our agency visits and really engage with the staff at each one. I admire her engagement and passion to learn. Becoming friends with Taja, and my other undergrad “squad,” really made this trip one to remember for a lifetime.


Left to right: Mary (me), Sam, Taja, Courtney, Erin, Jaine

Overall, I had a wonderful experience. It was nothing like I expected, but I don’t even know what I expected. I learned so much about Australia, social work, and myself. Visiting the agencies solidified what I want to become in my future. There is nothing I am more passionate about that helping those with mental health concerns, especially children. I got to learn all of these things while having so much fun in the process. If anyone is looking for a study abroad that will change your views, challenge your body, and include a great group of students (and professor), I would highly recommend this one. I can’t wait to explore more of Australia one day.

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Australia: My First Trip Abroad

Me and Bird

By Lisa Mallett

I just went on an epic adventure!  At 40- years old I went abroad for the first time in my life and I had an amazing opportunity to study social work in Australia!  How cool is that?!Mel Apt View

I just spent three weeks studying child welfare and mental health in Melbourne with eleven other students from Ohio State.  My reasons for choosing this program were very specific.  First, I wanted to learn as much as possible about the social work profession and various systems within Australia in preparation for my move to Western Australia after graduation.  Second, my interest is in trauma and crisis intervention, so I saw this as the perfect opportunity to learn from Aboriginal people about their experiences with intergenerational trauma and how they navigate systems in their own country.  On both counts I feel like this trip was a huge success.

VACCA was a very important visit for all of us.  We learned a ton about Aboriginal history and culture.  It is also important to note just how much other child welfare agencies work with VACCA and rely on them for assistance with Aboriginal children that have been brought into the child welfare system.  They have developed several programs that help children learn about their culture and develop a strong sense of pride, strength and belonging.  We also learned about the huge impact the Apology had on the national consciousness in 2008.  This was an official apology by the Australian government for the atrocities inflicted on the Aboriginal people known as the Stolen Generation.

I think the biggest impact VACCA had on my feelings regarding racial and ethnic issues in the U.S. is that we have never as a country apologized to our Native American people for the atrocities we inflicted upon them during colonization.  There was an obvious cathartic response in many people in Australia when that apology was made and it really meant something to most Aboriginal people.  Backing that apology up with increased social service assistance for Aboriginal people has really had a positive impact on their lives.  While there is still much healing to be done in Australia, they have at least started on the path.  I wish that we would do this for our original landowners.

Intergenerational trauma is such a complicated and pervasive thing.  As professionals, we diagnose someone with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc., and then present a prescription for healing that tries to fit our healthcare system model.  What can get lost in this approach is the generations of crisis and trauma that a person may come from and how complicated and personal the unraveling of that story becomes as treatment continues.

We now know that trauma literally changes the brain itself.  That when exposed to trauma, neglect, or abuse, children will grow up with a brain essentially built to deal with those issues, thus compromising the development of other cognitive functions.  Seeing this play out in children and young people in Australia and then seeing their social support responses was extremely beneficial to me.  I can now take back my knowledge of other trauma-informed care systems and see how they apply to my experiences with children and adults in the States.  I feel like this program has broadened my understanding of trauma in people of all ages and it has certainly served as a catalyst for my current and future work in trauma and crisis intervention.

Melbourne Sign

My Career Exploration in the Land Down Under


Influence on My Career Goals:

For my entire life I have wanted to work with kids. I always imagined that I would be a teacher and work in a classroom. That changed after I explored Social Work in my Senior year of undergrad. After entering the MSW program at Ohio State, I began to understand a few things. The first is that I really have an interest in social work as a career. The second is that working with children and youth continues to be my true passion. And finally, that I want to look at global issues of children and youth. When this opportunity was presented to me in my first week of Grad school, I knew I most do it. Being chosen to be apart of this program gave me the opportunity to explore every part of my career goals.

Being able to visit another country gave me a great start to obtaining a global perspective on issues. I currently work and volunteer for groups at the Ohio Department of Mental Health Children’s Division and have had the opportunity to attend National Conferences in Mental Illness in the US. Visiting Australia allowed me to gain insight into how another county addressed the same issue. I found some of the comparisons very interesting. For example, in the US there is a lot of stigma around mental health and while there is also some stigma in Australia I found it to be much less. I really liked some of the awareness campaigns around mental health.

Other areas where I felt I learned a great deal about my goals were learning about youth, refugees, and native Australians. Before coming to Australia, I always thought I would want to work with younger kids who are in elementary school. After visiting the agencies, I am leaning toward a focus on older youth. The agencies that we visited have done amazing work for young people. Australian youth face many of the same barriers as youth in the US, such as finding services, homelessness, abuse, and drug and alcohol use. I felt the agencies in Australian youth were dedicated to removing barriers.

As I reflected and analyzed the practice of the multiple agencies, I actually found that the mindset around child welfare and youth mental health is far more open than ours. There seemed be more conversation and awareness among the general public. As I move forward in my career I will work to incorporate some of the ideas I learned in this experience into my own work here. I don’t feel I would have as much insight to the daily issues an agency addresses without getting to visit so many different agencies and gaining a well rounded perspective.


The VACCA Experience in Cultural Diversity:

Visiting VACCA definitely made me more culturally aware of Australia Aboriginal people. It was good that this was the first agency we visited because it was so informative about the history and development of Australia. This was a good perspective to learn before going into other agencies.

I found it very exciting and interesting that in Australia it is basically required to acknowledge the aboriginal culture in Welcome to Country during large gatherings and events. This visit made me reflect on the difference and similarities between how Australians treat the Aboriginals verses how the US treats or acknowledges the Native Americans.

I was very shocked to learn that this acknowledging of culture is a very recent change. It wasn’t until the past two decades that Aboriginals were even treated as humans. Before that, they were not treated well at all. Mostly they were looked at as wild animals or categorized as livestock. In most cases their children were taken away and given to whites.

It made me really reflect on how the United States has along way to go on how we treat the Native Americans, as well as the recognition of our history and willingness to take ownership of our past mistakes. I don’t see us embracing a National Sorry Day of validation for the way we have treated Native Americans, African Americans, or Asian Americans in the US. Mostly I feel we just right off our wrongs and expect people to move on and get over it.

In relationship to my own career goals, I found that some issues youth face are human development and can globally look similar, while others are directly related to culture and environment. I want to find a career where I can work with multiple cultures.

Other Thoughts and Experiences:

In addition to being able to explore agencies I felt that having the opportunities to explore Australia made a big impact on me. The extra curricular activities gave us a chance to really experience the way other people live daily lives. I liked living in an apartment gave me insight into living in another country and not just staying in a hotel.

This past month has been absolutely amazing, and I wish I could have stayed longer. I think Melbourne was a great experience and I enjoyed all the difference agencies, but at the same time I wonder how the rest of the country is in terms of there view point on child welfare and mental health. I feel I was able to get a full and diverse snap shot in the time we were there, but it would be interesting to spend more time exploring the government perspective on Mental Health and to learn more about how programs are funded and supported to meet long term goals.

This experience was important because I hope to work in or with other countries in the future. I fell that being emerged in the community helped me see what it would be like if I do get the opportunity to work abroad in the future. I highly recommend a study aboard for any student as it gives you the chance to see the world an understand different ways of thinking and addressing issues.