Final Thoughts

As we get ready to head back to the United States, we are left with many new ideas to implement back home. From what we saw during our agency visits, Australia’s mental health and child welfare services are both similar to and different from these services in the United States. Australian social service agencies tend to receive adequate funding from government programs and typically do not rely on philanthropic funding or payment by consumers. This means that access to these services is not limited by high healthcare costs and inadequate funding like it so often is in the United States.

Some of the facilities we visited were brand new and had state-of-the-art technology, whereas in the United States social services agencies often make do with inadequate facilities. This reflects the emphasis of Australian values on mental and physical health and wellbeing rather than the United States’ focus on money.

At the same time, there were definite similarities between agencies and services in Australia and the United States. For example, the process of responding to allegations of child abuse or neglect is very similar in both countries. Agencies in Australia also use the DSM-V diagnostic codes and many of the same evidence-based interventions as agencies in the United States.

Australia and the United States both are guilty of responding to people of color and indigenous populations in different ways than European-descended populations. Some agencies like the Bouverie Center made a huge effort to include dolls, artwork and family structures that were inclusive of all individuals of Australia; but most of the others that were predominately run by white or European descended individuals lacked an inclusive atmosphere and staff. In the United States, the same unbalanced service delivery can be seen.

Ashley Casey and Sarah Leonard

An Analysis of Agencies and Resources

The majority of time spent suring our second week in Melbourne was at regional agencies.  We were able to ask questions about the services they provided as well as any questions regarding the effectiveness of their services.  We can hopefully take our questions and answers and use what we learned to develop our services in America.

One of the most lasting impressions made at these agencies was the level of funding and support for the Australian child welfare system.  Every building we met in seemed to be well kept and modern, while often in America, the buildings many social work services are in poorly maintained and old buildings.  I think this can be attributed to the priority that Australians put on their child welfare system. They have a better understanding of the importance of child mental health and its impact on the entire population.

We learned that the foster care system has an emphasis on rebuilding families and keeping children connected to their roots.  Children in the foster care system rarely get adopted by an outside family, and is more of a last resort for these children.  While visiting the University of  Melbourne, we were able to learn how different types of bias can affect services provided for children.

Specifically, we analyzed a case and decided whether we thought the child in questiuon should stay with his foster family or enter a group home for further treatment.  Two groups received the same case, but in the first, the child’s name was Abasi and his foster family was low income, and in the second, the child’s name was Shawn, and his foster family had high income.  these two changes were done to show how easily bias can affect a social worker’s decision for further care based on race and income.

Another critical thing we leanred about in Melbourne was traum informed care and working with children from refugee backgrounds.  Like America, Australia has a large number of refugee and asylum seeking families and individuals entering the country.  We discuessed the multiple reasons that families need to leave their home lands and the emotional, social, and physical labor that families go through when fleeing.  Children in these families often feel more strain than their parents due to their start of development and need for stability in chikldhood.  Therefore, providing useful resources and coping strategies to this children is critical in order to make sure that they grow up healthy, both physically and mentally.

These trauma informed strategies for coping can be applied to many forms of trauma.  Trauma affects many individuals, yet is a very broad topic.  Each type of trauma is unique to the indidvual and their experience, and learning about broad coping mechanisms can help to be applied to each form.  The information we learned from these agencies is very applicable to many forms of social work, and can be adapted to work in America as well.

 

Mary Tillman and MK Crimmel

Week 3: Agencies and Departure Dinner

After the Great Ocean Road, we had a free day on Sunday so we decided to make a beach day! A few of us made our way down to Brighton Beach where we got to see the very colorful Brighton Bathing Boxes. We took a bunch of pictures by the bathing boxes and the freezing water. Lunchtime came around and we were all starving so we got some good food and smoothies at a restaurant near the beach.  We also decided to go to St. Kilda Beach where we got to see some more penguins. It was a cloudy day but we made the best of it. We really took advantage of this free day because we had a really busy week ahead of us.

Monday morning started off with some really good pancakes both homemade and bought. Once we got to Batyr they handed us a variety of pamphlets and documents about different mental illnesses and different ways in which they can be prevented from happening. This agency’s main focus is to reduce the stigma around mental health by having young speakers talk about their stories to other young people in hopes of helping them seek help if they feel like they need it. Fun fact, their logo is an elephant because they want to address the elephant in the room and the name batyr was the name of an elephant who could actually talk. Afterward, we had to get on a train to go visit Maribyrnong City Council’ Phoenix Youth Hub where we got the chance to talk to two of the girls participating in one of the hub’s programs and they helped us make buttons with positive messages on them.

We visited the Bouverie Center the following day. They are a family institute and their mission is to improve relationships with family and others. We had a really unique experience at this agency because they had us partake in an actual scenario of a family struggling to stay together. Once we got to our apartment, a group of us got together and went to the pool and the sauna to relax and have a fun time.

On Wednesday, we had a long travel to our agency visit at Family Life. Everyone was exhausted this day but we pushed through and listened to everyone’s really well-done presentations. They gave us little snacks and the last two ladies who talked to us about trauma gave us little toys to play with and help us stay awake.

Finally, our final day of agency visits we went to Mind Australia where one of the researchers talked to us about how they work with people ages from 16-64 years old and the programs they have with the main focus on YPARC. Then we divided into two groups to go to two different YPARC facilities and got the opportunity to see them and ask any questions we might have had. It was our last night in Australia for this program so we had our departure dinner at an Italian restaurant, We had good conversations and said our goodbyes. This was truly an incredible and humbling experience and we are glad we came on this trip!

Ashley White and Leobeliz Perdomo Blanco

Week 3 in Melbourne, Australia

We can’t believe that our time in Melbourne has come to an end. The three weeks that we spent here have been incredible and have provided us with an endless amount of memories that we will cherish forever. This past week in Melbourne focused more on agency visits but we still got the chance to explore the city and its outskirts. We also got the opportunity to spend the last night all together as a group at a departure dinner. I thought this dinner was a great way to end the trip as we all got to reflect on our time in Melbourne and enjoy a delicious meal.

Though the last week was very busy in terms of agency visits, it flew by, and we learned more about child welfare and mental health in Australia. The agencies we visited were very informative and I felt as though they were a bit more interactive. We visited Batyr, Bouverie Center, Family Life, and Mind Australia and out of the agencies we visited, we found that Batyr and the Bouverie Center grasped our attention and interests the most.

Batyr’s moto, “giving a voice to the elephant in the room,” truly articulates the organization’s motives and goals. The staff works to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and does so in many ways. Speakers of Batyr go from place to place talking about their experiences with mental health and essentially “give a voice to the elephant in the room.” They make it clear that it is okay to seek help and that people are there to listen. The also provide workshops for young people to participate in where they are able to talk about their personal experiences in a safe environment and also learn how to open up about these experiences to others.

The Bouverie Center is an organization that focuses on improving the lives of families and youths through services that focus on relationships. During this agency visit, we were given the opportunity to role play and fully engage ourselves in a “mock” session. During this session, we acted as the clients and also gave feedback on the session. This allowed us to see what it is truly like to be a social worker at the Bouverie Center because we witnessed the way they handle situations. We found it amusing how the social worker was able to balance each client’s’ stories and feelings. Visiting this agency was very beneficial to us and we know that we will use all of the information we gathered in our future careers.

Although our time in Australia has come to an end, we will always remember this trip. It has provided us with so many memories, new friendships, and an appreciation for a new culture. Living in Melbourne for three weeks gave us enough time to submerge ourselves into the daily life of an Australian and this opportunity serves us wonders. We are ready to go home but now we are going home more educated and informed on the world around us. It will be difficult to get used to the time difference given that we feel as though we just adjusted to the Australian time zone, however, a few sluggish days when we get home are well worth the great experience that we had in Australia.

-Cristina Renee Pliego & Alexis Wilson

In the Schools

Throughout the Melbourne trip, I loved when we visited agencies that discussed their work in the schools in Australia. As a future school counselor, it is so important that I gain this insight and learn about new ideas that I could implement in the school that I will work in someday. During our last week, two of these agencies we visited were Batyr and Family Life.

At Batyr, we learned all about the organization and the work that they do for youth across the continent. Their motto is “Giving a voice to the elephant in the room,” accompanied with their elephant Batyr logo. The main goal of Batyr is to break the stigma surrounding mental health, and the way that they send this message is by having speakers go out and tell their stories during assemblies at schools. We learned about the shocking statistic that out of every 30 students in Australia, 7 are having mental health issues but only 2 reach out for any kind of help.

Those who wish to become speakers or just want to practice sharing their story attend a Being Herd workshop where they are encouraged to tell their story with a few others who have also experienced struggles with mental health. Then if they choose, they can go through training to speak at the schools. As a school counselor, I would love to invite young people to come speak at my school. I think that it is so beneficial for students to hear about others who have seen victories with their mental health. It shows them that there is hope for them and they do not need to suffer alone.

At Family Life, we heard a presentation from two women who work in the schools of Bayside and Frankston. Their job is to initiate different school-focused youth services. For instance, we learned about one program that has to do with removing gender stereotypes among young men. This program is designed for boys who may not fit the typical mold of what a man is “supposed” to be like. It seems like a great way to teach the next generation that there is nothing wrong with them if they do not fit that mold that they see expressed in the world. In addition, the facilitators of these school programs conduct trauma workshops for faculty. This workshop is 2 hours long and explains the basic science behind trauma and how best to help students in schools who have experienced trauma in their lives. Another program discussed had to do with recruiting parents to develop a community-based initiative with the school. This idea is a great way to help get parents more involved in the schools.

Through these visits specifically and along with the other agency visits, I have learned so much about ways that I could incorporate different programs as a school counselor. Also, I have learned a lot about mental health and child welfare, in general. The trip to Melbourne was incredible and I am very grateful!

Megan Caldwell

Adventures in Australia

Our first weekend in Australia, a majority of our group decided to travel to Sydney for sightseeing. The first place we visited was the art gallery, one of our classmates had an uncle who contributed an art piece that we got to see. After visiting the art gallery, we found a small market that had shops that were selling unique things like crafted candles, fine jewelry, and clothes. While we were walking, we stopped by a photo festival and saw pictures of people and their stories of growing up and working in mines for numerous years. Once we got back to the hotel, we decided to go out to dinner at a haunted restaurant, our waitress told us stories of how they would put away furniture for the night and come back in the morning, only to find out that all the furniture had been mysteriously rearranged. A few members of our group decided to walk along the Sydney Harbor Bridge and got a beautiful view of the Sydney Opera house along the way.

In the morning we went to a pancake house for breakfast, the pancakes were big and delicious! After breakfast, we went to the Royal Botanic Gardens; this place had beautiful flowers and breath-taking views of buildings and a water fountain. The gardens also was a place where we saw beautiful cockatoos fly around. We made our way to the wishing fountain and each of us circled the fountain 3 times to the left and right and made a wish. We then went to Bondi beach and did a little shopping at a gift shop; we also walked on the beach and saw a beautiful rainbow on the ocean. This trip to Sydney was another great experience for us to have and hope to treasure every moment that we were there.

We had Monday as an extra day off and went to the Sea Life (Melbourne aquarium). We saw a lot of exotic fish; there were stingrays, an enormous alligator, and lots of sharks. The last section of the aquarium, we saw penguins.

On Tuesday, we went to an Agency called The Foundation House. The agency provides services to people of refugee backgrounds in Victoria.  This was a very eye-opening experience and interactive session. Wednesday, we went to the University of Melbourne and experienced a classroom setting and talked about biases and how we need to handle them in the social work field. Thursday, we went to another agency called Anglicare. They focus on protecting Victorians for example, children suffering from abuse, a homeless young person, a woman escaping domestic violence, etc.

Friday and Saturday, we visited the Great Ocean Road and got an amazing view of the coastal drive. We saw the Twelve Apostles that had a beautiful view of the ocean. On our way to our destination, we saw the countryside where we saw cows, wallabies, and koalas. Our group stayed at a hostel for the night which was interesting because it was set up like a dorm and everyone shared a room.

The overall experience that our group had was unforgettable!

~ Ashley White & Leobelize Perdomo

Week 2!

We are at the end of our second week, and this trip is flying by! This week started to become more eventful in our activities surrounding social work and it has been a very informative experience.  This week, we did three visits: Foundation House, a Research Colloquium at Melbourne University, and Anglicare.

 

Foundation House was the first visit of the week and, for us, had the biggest impact.  Foundation House is an organization that provides help to people of refugee backgrounds, whether it be they are trying to adjust to life in a new country, dealing with trauma, etc.  While visiting this agency, we watched a video of a family in Syria and how they lived during a period of wartime.  It was hard not to feel shocked and almost disturbed by the conditions they were living in, especially when you saw a 7-year-old girl being able to tell the difference between a missile and a tank projectile just by the sound.  Afterwards, we read a case study and identified the effects change and trauma can have on children, and steps we can take as professionals in the childcare field to get those kids the services they may need.  We felt very awakened by this visit since there is a high population of refugees in America, including Ohio.  Learning how to help refugees cope with massive change and maintain a sense of cultural identity is definitely something to bring back the US with us and apply to our jobs in order to help the situation with refugees and immigrants in our country, especially since we are both interested in working with minority populations.

 

During our second week, we also got the opportunity to travel on the Great Ocean Road! We took two days to travel by bus, and we saw so many breathtaking places.  We got to see the beautiful rolling hills of the Australian countryside, a huge change from the modern city life of Melbourne!  Here, we saw some of Australia’s natural foliage and wild life, like gum trees, wallabies, koalas, kookaburras, and kangaroos!  It was very cool seeing these animals in their natural habitat since we can only see them in zoos in America! We also, of course, saw many beautiful places on the ocean.  When you stand on the top of a massive cliff and look out over Australia’s bright blue water, or in a canyon that used to be hundreds of feet underwater, it hard to grasp that what you’re looking at is even real.  When we saw London Bridge and the Twelve Apostles, we closed our eyes, as prompted by our tour guide Katy, and imagined the water creating something so beautiful and tried to take it all in.  This was our favorite excursion we’ve taken on this trip because we saw some of what we pictured Australia would be like before we came, but we also saw things we never could have imagined, and that is something we will keep with us forever.

 

                                                  

-Jordan Mathias and Carynne Hawkins

Week 2 in Melbourne, Australia

The two weeks we have spent in Australia have flown by. Our time here in Melbourne has been short, however, we have received a plethora of new information on various aspects of a culture that is different than our own. This week we attended a research colloquium for social work at Melbourne University and we visited two agencies pertaining to child welfare and mental health. The experiences we have had so far have truly opened our eyes to the beauty of the diversity of cultures around the world and getting the chance to learn about child welfare and mental health in Australia has been incredibly beneficial to our education in social work and psychology.

Attending the research colloquium at the University was very informative in a part of social work that is often times overlooked. It dealt with the internal biases that could affect our judgements as a social worker and ways in which we can address these biases. The decision making processes in social work are not easy ones, and these internal biases have the ability to influence our decision making, therefore it was very useful to attend this colloquium because we felt as though we were better prepared to go to the agencies.

The Foundation House was the first agency we visited this week. It is an organization that provides services for refugees and helps them cope and deal with the trauma they may have experienced in their home countries. Learning about how to work with clients who experience different forms of trauma was very eye opening. There was an emphasis on the idea that every individual deals with trauma in different ways and understanding how to manage each case of trauma is essential in providing the best services for clients.  We found the Foundation House’s motives and goals extremely interesting because it gave us a new perspective on what life is like living as a refugee.

The second agency we visited was Anglicare, an organization that strives to help and protect disadvantaged children and families in Australia. The core of their work revolves around presenting children and young people, who cannot live with their families, with safe and secure housing. We thoroughly enjoyed visiting this agency and learning about the services it provides;  learning about foster care and permanent care and the means by which they provide these two services in Australia was interesting and useful to our education in the area. We also got the chance to speak with a woman who works for Child Protective Services which gave us a deeper understanding of the work that they do.

This week in Melbourne was one that we will never forget. Not only did we get to attend two incredible agencies, but we also got the opportunity to further explore the city and its outskirts. We visited Brighton beach early on in the week and got to witness the beautiful sunset on the ocean while sitting on the steps of one of the famous decorated beach houses. We also got the grand opportunity of traveling along the Great Ocean Road. This trip has been one of our favorites thus far because we got to view the wonders of Australia’s natural beauty. Being able to go on these excursions as well as visit these agencies adds to our cultural awareness and appreciation.

-By: Cristina Renee Pliego & Alexis Wilson

Week 1-Melbourne and Aboriginal Culture

The first week of this trip is down! With this last week being heavily focused on cultural history, we had a lot of free time to explore our new home for the next couple weeks! This city is vibrant and always seems to have a new adventure around every corner. As a group, we were able to experience the Aboriginal section of the Melbourne Museum together. We were expecting a sort of mundane illustration of history with a lot of factoids, but it was actually a very interactive and artistic section that was full of interesting stories told by virtual make-ups of Aboriginal people. In particular, there was an exhibit that seemed to be an eagle that had various colors and nature scenes projected onto it while a story was told in the background about the Aboriginal culture. The story in the background talked about the Eagle as the Aboriginals Creator, and the crow as their Protector. Throughout this storytelling there was also nature sounds in the background, such as water dripping, or various bird calls. The entire museum was interesting, but we found this one to be our favorite because we thought it did an excellent job of illustrating the importance that the Aboriginal culture places on their relationship with nature and the Earth that we live.

We also visited VACCA, which is the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency. We learned a lot about the history of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and we found it quite interesting to draw similarities between their history and the US’s history with Native Americans. We think Australia seems to do a much better job at acknowledging their Aboriginal people than the US does as far as acknowledging Native Americans. At VACCA, the first thing our instructor did was acknowledge the original people of the land we were meeting on and paid respects to that specific tribe’s elders, past and present.  The Agency provided services centered around protecting the culture and rights of Aboriginal children. They also play a role in working with the government, like Child Protection, to help inform decisions that best accommodate an Aboriginal child in the system. It was incredibly devastating to learn about the “Stolen Generation”, which was the Aboriginal generation that was essentially forced from their parents’ care and placed into foster care so that they could receive a more “European” lifestyle. The basis of this was barbaric and stripped this generation of their cultural identity without legitimate reasoning for removal. VACCA informed us of services and ways they are working to protect the rights and cultural identity of Aboriginal children today, and the ways Australia is working to make sure that they do not treat Aboriginal people as they did in the past. 

 

Alexis Wilson and Cristina Renee Pliego

The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road – a drive that anyone should partake in if given the chance! This drive is full of beautiful views that are unforgettable, although taking a few pictures doesn’t hurt either. Built in the early 1900s, the road has a rich history of almost 100 years. It is also the world’s longest war memorial as the entire length of the road – 243 kilometers/151 miles – is dedicated to World War I soldiers.

For our drive, we began in Melbourne and headed through country roads full of cattle for about two hours. Then, we started to see the stunning beauty of the coasts of Australia. We first made a stop at Bells Beach which completely took our breaths away. This spot had a great view of the ocean, full of pretty much every shade of blue. After stopping to get a quick snack at McGains Nursery, our bus headed to Point Roadknight. This stop was extra special because we got to take a moment to reflect and live in the moment. Our tour guide, Katie, told us to close our eyes and pay attention to each of our senses. She encouraged us to recount what brought us to this point of the trip. These moments of reflection allowed us to slow down and take it all in.

Other stops on this first day of the trip included Big Hill, Lorne Spot, Kennet River, and Apollo Bay. Each of these views did not disappoint. Another highlight of the day was getting to look for koalas in the gum trees above. We got to see a few which was exciting! Other animals we saw during the day included a kangaroo, a lot of birds, and a fox. Whenever outside of the big cities in Australia, be sure to be on the lookout for wildlife. The other activities of the day were walking through a rainforest and seeing the 12 Apostles at night.

The next day, we started early in order to see as many views as possible before heading back to Melbourne. Loch Ard Gorge was the first stop of the day, and I highly recommend it – one of my favorite stops of the trip!

We went to the 12 Apostles, this time in daylight, the London Bridge, the Grotto, the Bay of Islands, and the Bay of Martyrs. I appreciate how each of the stops have signs that explain the stories behind them.

The drive along The Great Ocean Road was breathtaking, and I highly recommend the trip to anyone visiting Australia. My words of wisdom are to take the time to reflect on what you are seeing, feeling, and experiencing. Think about what got you there and the people who may have helped you get there. Be present and take in all that is around you. Take the time to reflect on those who have gone before you and the stories that each of these stops hold. I have no doubt that you will have an incredible journey along The Great Ocean Road!

Megan Caldwell