Foster caring inspired social work student to follow her heart to further study

We caught up with Social Work student Samara Phung ahead of today’s World Social Work Day to ask what motivated her to pursue the field. In short, it was a strong desire to make an impact on the lives of foster children, beyond what she had already achieved as a carer.

“I was a foster carer for a number of years, and I was really dissatisfied with the system. I just couldn’t reconcile why some decisions that had such massive long-term impacts on the children I was caring for and their families were made. So, it was a desire to develop a better understanding of the processes involved with decision making that originally led me to become interested in social work. 

Originally, I completed a Cert IV in Community Services at Bendigo Tafe. At that time, I was only trying to learn more about community service roles and the processes involved. However, I enjoyed it so much that I then decided to complete the Diploma of Community Services.

I started working at one of the local primary schools and once I felt more confident with myself and surer of what I wanted to do I enrolled with La Trobe using the pathway offered. 

Coming to university was a huge step for me, especially as a mature age student with a family to look after. I had doubts about my abilities and how I would compare with fellow social work students. With family and work commitments, I wasn’t sure how I was going to make everything work. At times it was very overwhelming and honestly it still can be challenging at times.  

I found attending classes on essay writing and library referencing skills very beneficial in overcoming any barriers when it came to the work. Keeping in contact with my teachers around concerns or problems I have as well as trying to be extremely organised are also very helpful. 

Juggling family, work and social life has been a huge challenge for me. I’m not always successful but I try my best. The Covid lockdown was also challenging. I had my two children home schooling at the same time and finding a quiet space for all of us to get our work done was sometimes difficult.

There has been a lot of highlights but probably the biggest highlight so far was being awarded the Barrie Winzar Bursary in 2020. I was so overwhelmed I cried on the phone when I was told. 

If all goes well, I should finish my social work degree at the end of 2022. I am not sure what I will do after uni. I would like to continue working with children in some capacity.”

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