Griffith’s Master of Human Services student Ben Pook found his calling for helping others be heard when he was growing up, even if he didn’t realise it at the time…
“I’ve always been very socially conscious, with my family and myself being involved in a number of different community projects,” he says. “My dad worked as a social worker in the local area and Mum was very active with different groups. My grandparents also actively supported several causes. My mother also has significant difficulties due to her disabilities but was always willing to help others. It was in my blood to help people.”
After completing an undergraduate degree in Education and Creative Industries, he did a Diploma of Community Services and began to realise that his passion lay in working with communities, rather than teaching. To upgrade his qualifications, he enrolled in a Master of Human Services so he could begin his new life in helping people.
“Because of my career and personal experiences, I gravitated towards majoring in Disability Studies. I had supported many people, particularly young people, in the community that had both diagnosed and undiagnosed disabilities and knew that it wasn’t the diagnosis that needed to be focused on but the way they were treated and supported,” he explains.
“What I have found is that disability is a much wider concept than is generally appreciated, and that changes to improve our community will not just assist those with disabilities but the community as a whole.” Now as a Youth Advocacy Project Coordinator for yourtown, Ben’s job sees him consulting with young people on future Federal Government Policy to ensure their voices are heard on important issues such as education, employment, health, the environment and various other future initiative. He was also recently published in the Journal of Children’s Services as part of his work with yourtown and one of Griffith’s academic staff Dr Kathryn Seymour.
“Previously I worked on the redevelopment of yourtown’s case management framework for working with children and families to assist with keeping staff up to date with contemporary, evidence-based practice. Now, I’m commencing work on a participatory research process involving young people from around Australia to inform practices and the direction of services into the future,” he says.
Ben says his time at Griffith University, including winning the Academic Excellence Prize in 2019, was crucial to helping him get to where he is today and helping him rediscover his passion. “Griffith has been a fantastic choice for me. The flexibility of the course itself, and ability within it to utilise my practice experience in my course work and assessment has helped me develop a rich and detailed understanding of the course elements and draw on real world examples.
“The academic staff have been fantastic as well,” Ben continues. “Their knowledge and experience have made me question and improve my day-to-day practice, not just my academic skills, and allowed me to immediately apply what I learnt.
“Their support during study and assessment periods has been fantastic as well. During my studies I’ve worked, added an extra child, and had some significant health challenges to manage. The University and staff supported me through that, giving me the flexibility and guidance to manage the challenges and succeed,” he says.
Ben says he’s also discovered how to maximise his impact in his industry. “I recently completed a community consultation process with the Indigenous Community I work in to assist with the development of a new program. I was able to utilise the skills that I had developed through my studies to inform and guide this process, that helped me to ensure that the elders and young people’s voices were the central focus and that it was a true participatory process.”
Above all, Ben says the process of going back to university to study again has played a large part in recontextualising how he sees himself and his ability to make an impact on the world around him. “The course has provided me with amazing opportunities and shown me how much I have to offer the industry,” Ben says. “I didn’t struggle through my undergraduate studies, but it was obviously not my passion, so I didn’t do as well as I could have. This course has allowed me to find my passion, excel and demonstrate the knowledge and the skills that I have. It has shown me what I am really capable of,” he concludes.
Due to new funding initiatives, the disability sector workforce is expected to double in the next few years and qualified human services workers will be well positioned to fill this requirement. Like Ben, you can become a professional in these fields within 1 to 1.5 years of online full-time study (or 3 years part-time) with the Master of Human Services at Griffith University.