Anglicare Scholarship awarded to UTAS social work student.

Each year Anglicare provides a scholarship to a social work student in their final year at the University of Tasmania. The 2020 winner is Jessanna Gent.

Recently we caught up with Jessanna, who is based at the UTAS Hobart campus, to learn about her studies and what the scholarship means for her.

Q. What motivated you to get a degree in social work?

Straight from school I started out as a Law student at UTAS. It’s what everyone seemed to do if they got high marks in English so I went with the flow. But it wasn’t long before I realised Law wasn’t the right path for me.

But it did help me to really think about what I am passionate about and that is social justice. The only subjects in Law I enjoyed were those touching on this area. And I knew from school I’d found it enormously rewarding to volunteer for charities.

So I spoke to a few people I knew about changing degrees, and Social Work emerged. I was lucky to have some amazing people in my life who worked within the social work profession and they inspired me to take up this degree. This was reinforced through volunteer work that I did with the Hobart Legal Service. I saw there were more career possibilities for me to work in social justice if I swapped into Social Work, than to remain in Law.

I was lucky that when I did swap degrees, I was given credit for the Law subjects I’d completed. And my friends in social work helped me manage the transition. Without them, I may not have gotten as far with my studies.

I’m much happier learning about things I’m passionate about. It’s motivating to find out how we can respond to inequalities as social workers.  We are taught to be realistic about what we can hope to achieve and to understand change takes time, decades even.

I’ve also always been a big believer in helping people to gain the skills and knowledge they need to empower themselves. And I feel like social work has been really instrumental so far in teaching me how to do this effectively.

Q. How will the scholarship assist you?

It’s certainly going to take the pressure off my needing to work as much. The scholarship provides me with a safety net but also means I can devote more time not just to studying, but to the volunteer work I’m currently involved with.

Last year, for my placement as a third year Social Work student I spent 14 weeks at the Bridgewater PCYC. Before this I’d done some volunteer work for Share the Dignity so I asked my supervisor at Bridgewater about the possibility of a collaborative project. Now as a volunteer I’m working on this. I put together and deliver personal hygiene packs and these are made available to young women through the PCYC.

Q. Where to next? After your studies?

My time at the Bridgewater PCYC was really enlightening. I was struck by the strong sense of community and how much people support each other. It has sparked my interest in working as a community support worker in youth justice and child safety.

Last year I also spent time volunteering at Anglicare’s Social Action Research Centre, helping with gambling analysis. I do enjoy this type of research, possibly influencing changes in government policy.

Now I’m in my Honours year, I have another work placement to do and I’m not sure where this will be yet. It will be another new area to experience.

But at this stage moving forward, I’d definitely like to start my professional career next year.

Q. And for people thinking about studying social work – do you have any advice?

Go for it! If you’re interested in social justice it really is spot on. It’s an amazing degree, so interesting and you also get to learn a lot of life skills. From what I’ve seen the degree can take you anywhere, with diverse possibilities.

The $4000 Anglicare Scholarship is a part of a wider partnership Anglicare has with UTAS. You can find out about this collaborative arrangement here.

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