Program Manager Jessica Burley discusses Holmesglen's Community Services and Justice programs.

A Community Role

Anyone that has achieved something significant in their life can often trace back the accomplishment to a bit of help, or a simple piece of advice. For nothing worthwhile is ever reached alone.

Fittingly, there are certain professions where supporting and serving the community are the basis of any eventual role.

Community services and justice are two fields that play significant roles in society. With a passion for the community as the foundation, they go beyond spread sheets and text books, instead directly working alongside the community, and the people within it.

"There's a concept in sociology called Agents of Socialisation where it means you've had an impact or influence on a person. The thought that you could be that to a couple of students each semester, I love that," Program Manager (Department of Social Science) Jessica Burley says.

It's a full circle approach for Jessica. A former justice student with Holmesglen, she is now on the other side of the fence; returning to help guide new students. "When you see a change in someone because they've been inspired by something that you've been teaching them, there's something about that where you feel like you were a part of a change in their life."

An equal consideration in helping with this change is ensuring students also receive up-to-date teachings. Holmesglen's course structure is always planned to meet current industry needs, giving graduates the best chance to succeed once in the workforce. The aim is to stay ahead of the curve.

"Every year we have an industry reference date. Each course will invite members from the industry. For justice, we invite Victoria Police and community corrections, for community services we get people from key mental health and alcohol and other drug organisations. The day is really about asking them, what are your current issues?" Jessica explains.

"For example, two years ago when we asked them the question they said family violence is the biggest thing we're facing, and working with new and emerging communities. Based on that information we re-jigged the electives we were offering to make sure one of the electives was a family violence unit."

With study choices ranging from important social areas like mental health and alcohol and other drugs, Holmesglen strives to make students feel comfortable and supported. "I find the first thing to do is identify student strengths, and play on those. We build those foundation skills first to make them feel more comfortable," Jessica says.

As she also states, "We build up the skills." Recently, Holmesglen students – from the mental health course – ran an expo in the Waverley campus cafeteria. During the afternoon, students surveyed staff and fellow peers about their social routines and exercise habits to better understand approaches to mental health. Over 127 responses were gathered.

Similarly, Holmesglen has worked with community organisations such as Headspace and Family Life. Another recent event saw students from the youth work course go out to a local high school to run a program, which helped them better work alongside young people.

While the practical opportunities are key, Holmesglen is also equipped to help students find work experience in the field. "We have a placement office, where the main job is to meet with students and ask them about their preferences, and then the staff will find placement for them," Jessica notes.

Essentially, though, the main goal is always a vital one, to create a friendly and personalised study space. "We're not trying to convince people to come here instead of university, it's more about thinking about the type of environment you want to be in."

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