‘Nothing is more valuable than listening and understanding the stories of a migrant or asylum seeker especially when working out what services are right for them,’ says Hayley Bryant who started her student placement with ADS in January 2020 and will conclude it at the end of May.

What drew you to volunteer and/or to do your student placement with ADS?

When going through the interview process at uni I stated that I was open to anything. My main aim during placement is to learn as much as I can about different things. I am fortunate that with ADS I get to experience in a lot of different areas.

What are you studying and where? And how has your personal history and/or your cultural background informed your work with ADS?

I am studying a Bachelor of Social Work at the University of Wollongong. From my background, and the area I live in, I have not been exposed to the inequities that people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds experience. Because of this, I have had to use more of my social work background to inform my work.

What ADS programs have you assisted with and how have you been encouraged to apply your studies and/or expand your skills in your role?

I have assisted with the SETS program and also aged care. Both have encouraged me to work in a teamwork environment and understand policy, community engagement and advocacy.

What has been the most challenging work you have done with ADS during your time as a volunteer / student?

Working with clients one on one was very challenging! I had not had that experience before so it was very daunting. I had so much to learn and a lot to work on – but it helped me immensely.

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your placement role?

COVID-19 has not affected my role overly much. I am fortunate enough to continue to support the staff at ADS from my home and from the office. The physical distancing requirements have limited a little of the experience – in the sense of attending client assessments – but overall ADS has adapted really well to the changes required, ensuring everyone remains safe.

What strengths have you brought to your role and placement?

I’m not really sure on this one, I think having a social work background has helped me. From everything I have learnt thus far at university I can apply these skills at ADS and also share my knowledge with the staff.

What has been your proudest moment, greatest achievement, deepest connection in your time at ADS?

One of my biggest achievements has been working on the Multicultural LGBTIQA+ Support directory. I have been working on this project since I started my placement and seeing it develop, over time, has been great. I am excited to see it in its finalised form.

‘Be You With Us’ is ADS’ tagline, and it reflects the organisation’s commitment to welcoming and accepting everyone of all ages, gender, culture, sexuality, and religious beliefs. How have you been encouraged to ‘Be You With Us’ during your time with ADS?

ADS has provided me with the opportunity to be a part of LGBTIQA+ training which has allowed me to broaden my knowledge. Our work with allied organisations and LGBTIQA+ specific groups has also allowed me to work in an inclusive environment.

What more should the Australian Government be doing to welcome migrants and refugees and to ensure they find the support they need to adjust quickly and well to life in Australia?

The government does not provide enough support, resources or funding to migrants and refugees. Having English as their second language limits a person’s access to a variety of information, so I believe more in-language materials are needed as well as more visibility of services in the community.

What is your ultimate goal and how has the work you’ve done with ADS equipped you for what you would like to do next?

My ultimate goal is to work with children who’ve lived with domestic and family violence or been involved in drug and alcohol abuse. ADS has allowed me to take a different perspective when working with clients and to understand how culture is important in many people’s lives. Nothing is more valuable than listening and understanding the stories of a migrant or asylum seeker especially when working out what services are right for them.

I love ADS because it does extraordinary work for the CALD community that does not get the recognition it deserves. They are an incredibly supportive and kind team.