Radhika Murali did her student work placement with Advance Diversity Services (ADS) from February to May 2021. She says her experience improved her knowledge of working in diverse communities and helped her to feel more comfortable when facing challenging situations. She’s also learnt about various health programs in which she could offer her expertise as she heads into the sector to find employment.

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

I was interested in doing my work placement with ADS since I found there were a wide range of services provided by this organisation which were mainly CALD, refugee and migrant related. Being a migrant myself I wanted to see what different opportunities and services can be provided to people to enable them to be successful in their job.

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 with TAFE St George. I am currently completing my Diploma in Community Services. I feel I could relate well with people and people felt connected to me since most of my clients came from different cultural backgrounds and were migrants like me. I have a background in health so I felt that I understood people’s problems and fears even before they spoke to me.

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 assisted both temporary and permanent visa holders in the emergency relief programs during Covid-19, and learnt about the different visa and eligibility criteria for each of the programs. My studies in TAFE helped me deal with a diverse range of problems like confidentiality, dealing with difficult clients, learning about different social structures and practising equality among clients.

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

The most challenging work I have done with ADS would be dealing with the fact that I couldn’t do more with clients who didn’t have a working visa. It was like they are caught in a loophole and have limited options due to their visa conditions.

What strengths have you brought to your placement?

I always felt that no work was difficult and everything can be learnt. This helped me acquire new skills with Advanced Diversity Services.

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

I felt happy when one of my clients, Mrs G, who was suffering from cancer, was not only able to get financial relief but also got support from Moving Forward for household amenities. She was also was in the process of getting her housing application done by them.

‘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?

For the first time I felt I was treated like a ‘normal person’ in my workplace. No one judged me on my colour or accent. No one remarked, ‘Oh you speak English’. I could ‘be me’ and not feel different among others.

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?

I would suggest the government give training to people who are working in different sectors to be more accepting of migrants. To realise that they are knowledgeable and have years of experience, which can be put into good use for the community. At the same time, it should give some information to migrants to help them to adjust in their new country as many are not aware of the programs offered by different NGOs.

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 in the health sector. I have learnt new things from ADS which have helped me improve my knowledge of working in diverse communities. I also learnt of the various health programs I could be part of. I was able to face challenging situations with ease and comfort due to training with ADS.

Please finish this sentence: I love ADS because …

I was given an opportunity to work in community services and finish my work placement. I worked with a team of people who were not only very encouraging but also guided me on the various paths I could take which could lead me to my goals. Special thanks to my team lead who was very welcoming and patient with me. I didn’t mind travelling one-and-a-half hours to come to work. When you have good leaders in your workplace the organisation will always succeed. I could say the same thing about ADS: everyone was passionate about their work and had genuine concern for people.