It's been an amazing year. I know that sounds a bit clichéd, but it has been. In February this year I engaged in a whole new career direction and commenced studying the Diploma of Community Services Work and the Diploma of Community Development at the Kangan Institute Broadmeadows campus.
I feel satisfied with the quality of work I've completed this year and the various achievements whilst studying. I went the extra mile in assisting and supporting some student peers, and that was kindly provided to me in return.
R U OK? Day education and workshop session
During my studies on-campus during the year, the highlight for me was co-facilitating an R U OK? Day education and workshop session with study buddy Kerryn Hardstaff. Our training during the year led up to this high point where we both delivered the 1-hour session seamlessly and with a high degree of confidence.
The session gave us the opportunity to educate our peers about mental health, whilst facilitating their creative ideas during the workshop. I feel proud of how Kerryn and I carried out this whole assignment from start to finish where we worked closely on developing the concept and then all the way through to delivery. I believe the high quality of our work was accurately reflected in the feedback by our trainer Marta Kreiser where she described the session as "excellent".
TAFE funding cuts
Kerryn and I protested the funding cuts to TAFE during a class this year. TAFE is providing us with the opportunity to learn the skills we need as community services workers and I believe it needs to be protected and restored to where it was before the savage funding cuts were commenced.
Darren Stones and Kerryn Hardstaff protesting the funding cuts to TAFE
Photo: Colleen Austin
During my 20-hour student placement in September-November, I was able to experience the operations of a mental health outreach agency in Sunbury. I loved the opportunity to be on placement at the Western Region Health Centre Hume Community Mental Health agency as it gave me the opportunity to observe experienced workers and learn from them.
I was fortunate in that I had the opportunity to work with some clients, with the two highlights being mentoring a client regarding travel training, and planning and co-leading a client group outing to Bendigo. I enjoyed being part of a team and believe I gained a good working knowledge of what it's like to be a mental health outreach worker.
In studying the diplomas this year, it has opened some doors for me. I have become involved in the community services sector as a volunteer and that has provided me with good opportunities to work with experienced staff and volunteers.
I've commenced volunteering activities with Merri Community Health Services as part of their Young Carers program, and I'm involved in providing 1:1 social and recreational support to a person. These activities are good fun and an opportunity for me to support people in our community.
Expression of gratitude
I want to thank my family for their tremendous support during the year. Without them I would not be able to do what I'm doing. To my partner Bronwyn, Mum, Dad and my brother Matthew, you've been awesome.
I want to thank my TAFE teachers for guiding me towards my goal of becoming a paid community services worker, which I hope to achieve in 2014. Special mention to teacher Marta Kreiser, who I believe went the extra mile with our student group in what were difficult circumstances regarding TAFE funding cuts. I nominated Marta for a teacher's award with Hume City Council in 2013 due to the brilliant work she carried out with our class. She didn't win the award, but she won the students!
I want to thank my student peers for their support and encouragement, and in particular to study buddy Kerryn who has been fantastic to work with on various projects. A generous person indeed.
I want to thank my mentor Graeme, who provides me with emotional support and encouragement. He and I have regular conversations where we share information and ideas. I learn a lot about mentoring and counselling from Graeme, and I believe it helps me when I mentor and counsel people.
I realise there has been many other people who have supported me during 2013, and I want to thank you all for giving of yourselves. Cheers.