Sharon Yuan began as a volunteer with ADS in June 2019 and went on to complete a student placement from August 10 to December 4, 2020. She says these experiences have been instrumental in helping her to develop confidence, skills, and understanding as a future social worker who will serve migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and other people in need in Australian communities.

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

I was drawn to ADS as I wanted to understand more about the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers and the barriers and challenges they face during their settlement journey in Australia.

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

I am completing a Bachelors of Social Work at the University of Sydney. As I grew up in a Chinese speaking family, I am able to speak basic Cantonese and Mandarin. Because of this I was able to provide basic Cantonese interpreting to clients of ADS and build rapport with Chinese clients through a sense of relatedness and understanding of Chinese culture.

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

During my time at ADS, I have been a part of the Specialised Intensive Services (SIS) Program where I developed skills in providing case management to clients with complex and compounding needs, and providing support to clients through education and capacity building. Through this program, I have gained a greater understanding of the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers, who are forcibly displaced and arrive in Australia with a history of trauma and complex circumstances but are also met with multiple barriers and challenges during settlement.

I have been managing the Emergency Relief (ER) Program at ADS where I have developed the skills to assess and identify client needs to provide financial aid and to make relevant referrals to services. The ER program has allowed me to see the direct impacts of COVID-19 on many families and has helped me to develop my ability to analyse and evaluate complex situations, to think quickly on my feet and adapt to a variety of new situations.

The impact of COVID-19 has changed the way we interact and communicate with each other. I have been providing support to our community officers in the Settlement Engagement and Transition Support (SETS) Program to co-host Zoom sessions, which help them stay connected with their reference groups. My time at ADS has allowed me to understand the importance of community in building social connection and a sense of belonging for many migrant groups.

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

One of the most challenging cases during my time with ADS would have to be advocating on behalf of the client but being unable to reach a common goal with the other party. This was challenging as I felt the other party was not willing to accommodate to the needs of the client who required language support when being talked to. Through discussions with the ADS team, I was able to connect with another person from the service that was able to assist with this matter.

What strengths have you brought to your role / placement?

Strengths that I have brought to my role while on placement include communication skills, my ability as a team player and my openness to learning. The values that underpin the way I work with people include compassion, respect and inclusivity.

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

I came to ADS with no experience in advocacy and, from the support and guidance from my field educator, I was able to gain confidence in advocating on behalf of a client. One of my proudest moments was when I was able to effectively communicate the complex needs of the client to an anaesthetist and get a large medical bill reduced for the client who was in financial hardship.

‘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?

Through my time at ADS, I have seen the extraordinary work the organisation does with CALD communities and their ongoing commitment to inclusivity. I have been welcomed by the team since the day I arrived and seeing the way the ADS team works inspires me to always strive to deliver care that is collaborative, respectful and inclusive.

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 feel the Australian Government should treat refugees and migrants equally as people and provide more opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers to settle in Australia. There also needs to be more funding into settlement services for refugees and migrants so they are able to develop knowledge and skill to access services to improve wellbeing and life outcomes. Also, since the impact of Covid-19, there needs to be more support for international students and those on temporary visas to access assistance as they have become one of the most vulnerable groups during the pandemic.

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 was to become more confident and prepared as I enter the social work field – and I have achieved this. Through my placement at ADS I was able to further develop my skills as a future social worker, understand the key issues that affect newly arrived migrants and refugees and gain knowledge on how I can work in a culturally responsive and inclusive manner.

I love ADS because … of the amazing team! I have been welcomed by the whole team since day one and I am endlessly thankful for the support I have received during my time here at ADS.