Zar Ni

Zar Ni

Postgraduate Research Student

Degree: Bachelor of Social Work

Current Position: Child Protection Caseworker, Department of Communities & Justice

1. What attracted you to studying Arts & Social Sciences at UNSW?

I have always wanted to become a counsellor and wanted to pursue a degree that would allow me to learn not only about counselling, but also other areas that would effectively enable me to understand how to make a real and meaningful change in the lives of individuals, families and communities.  

The Social Work Program at UNSW was a perfect match for me, as I learned that it is the dynamic and evidence-informed program which is designed to help students make a positive impact at all levels of society. UNSW’s Kensington Campus was an absolute bonus for me as there was no one day in which I did not want to go to the campus... and I would drag myself to the campus even if I could not make it to my classes!  

2. Did you always have a clear idea of what you wanted to do after completing your degree?

Although my ultimate want-to-be career did not change, what I gradually learned while studying was that I wanted to get involved in Child Protection and Domestic Violence related areas, and I have been doing a job that covers both.  

3. How did your time at UNSW help shape who you are today?

As mentioned on UNSW Social Work’s media platform, studying Social Work at UNSW definitely opened the door to a range of career options across a multitude of sectors, including private and government agencies, social welfare support organisations and community groups.  

Being able to do two compulsory placements was the highlight of the degree, in which not only did I learn a lot at the fieldwork placements, I was also employed by both placements.  

I was also awarded “The Barry Bell Memorial Award for Excellence in Field Education Practice” for my final placement at the Department of Communities and Justice, formerly known as Family and Community Services, where I have been working as a Child Protection caseworker since early 2018; and some of the caseworkers I was fortunate to have met doing placement in their teams have now become my colleagues.  

4. How did studying Arts & Social Sciences at UNSW help you develop transferable skills?

As much as I struggled to make sense of all the social work theories I had to learn, many of them have become useful and instrumental in helping me to understand complex situations in clients’ lives when dealing with them. 

Listening skills, communication skills, time management/organisation skills along with teamwork, self-awareness, knowledge to respect clients’ rights to self-determination... are some of the skills amongst others I have learned, developed and have been nurturing and utilising in the workplace when dealing with children, young people and families.

5. How did studying Arts & Social Sciences at UNSW help form your view on the world and the contemporary issues we face today?

As an international student, I naturally had limited knowledge about Australia's First Peoples, but knew about Social Work Degree holistically. 

Having a chance to study the subject of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Social Work helped me gain a better and deeper understanding about extreme hardships, ranging from the loss of traditional culture and homelands, to the forced removal of children and denial of citizenship rights Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have experienced.  

Learning this history of injustice has encouraged me to study further about issues such as social injustice, inequality, abuse of power and control; and human rights which in turn have heavily influenced me the way I view these issues along with other issues (such as climate change, natural disasters, women's rights, etc.) in line with social work values.  

6. How did UNSW Arts & Social Sciences help prepare you for the workforce throughout your degree?

This degree provided me with skills and knowledge to positively impact the lives and wellbeing of others through promoting social change and enhancing the wellbeing of others.  

Furthermore, this Social Work Degree covered courses in mental health, social work counselling, community work, sociology, psychology and working with Indigenous communities. 

Combining the broad knowledge of social work and the fieldwork placements, where I was given an opportunity to apply my knowledge and gain hands-on experience, made me feel ready to utilise my skills upon graduating. 

7. How did you get your foot in the door as a graduate, following the completion of your degree?

I was already working in the social work field while studying the Social Work Degree at UNSW, and the completion of my degree further consolidated my position in the field.  

As mentioned before, I felt career-ready and this made me more confident when looking for jobs and going to job interviews.  

8. What advice would you give to someone considering studying Arts at UNSW?

If you have a strong desire to be of help to people and to make the world a better place, you should study Social Work - it is challenging as well as rewarding, and social work can bring tremendous satisfaction.

On top of that, career opportunities in social work are rich and the degree allows you to potentially work in many different areas where you can find yourself, all while helping others.

9. What was your experience like as an international student studying Arts & Social Sciences at UNSW?

The university's high-quality education, the learning style I was encouraged to adopt throughout the degree, and my course on its own, Social Work, have tremendously helped boosting my critical thinking and have given me confidence to attain something I considered unachievable before.  

The great thing about the UNSW is the multicultural environment, where different cultures and backgrounds are highly valued.

One challenging thing was that I was one of the very few international students in my course - the majority of my classmates were locals. Though it made me feel left-out at times, I nonetheless gained a few good friends and good connections with academics. The course helped me improve my language skills indirectly and studying amongst locals made me more culturally competent.  

One remarkable thing is that academic staff I encountered were highly professional and approachable; and the support I received from them made my university life as an international student a lot easier and fruitful. I am thankful for this and am an advocate for this university. 

10. Why do you Love What You Do?  

Child protection work is rewarding and fulfilling but it's not an easy job and it is life changing.  

In child protection work, the breadth of responsibilities is wide ranging and there is no such thing as a typical day.  

My role requires me to be confident, resilient, tenacious and compassionate to firstly support children and families living in challenging circumstances and also to help improve their life experiences. 

I love a challenging and meaningful job where I can make a difference and instil changes in people's lives.  

I could not imagine working in any other field.