Working for social change

The Stevenson Family Scholarship offers a helping hand to those who will dedicate their lives to helping society’s most vulnerable.

Published

29/10/2018

Story By

Randi Morris

When students undertake a Social Work degree, they commit to completing 1000 hours of professional placement as part of their study. It is a struggle for many to find a way to fit in work placement, paid employment and their study load.

For Duncan Wilson, this juggle was made a little easier when he was awarded the first Stevenson Family Scholarship in Social Work. The scholarship, valued at $24,000 over three years, provided enough financial assistance so that Mr Wilson did not have to worry about full-time employment while studying. This meant that when Mr Wilson showed up for his placement at a juvenile justice centre he was able to give 100 per cent of this time and attention. Because of this Mr Wilson was surprised at his stamina and the impact he could make in lives of these young men.

The Stevenson Family Scholarship in Social Work was established in 2015 by Philip and Elizabeth Stevenson to encourage and support UOW students pursuing a career in the community services sector.  Their purpose was simple: to help the most dedicated altruists help society’s most vulnerable. So far the scholarship has supported four students in total, the most recent awarded in 2018.

“I felt they believed in me and the scholarship was a strong voice saying you can do it”

Mr Wilson said he felt encouraged by the support to excel at university and make a difference in his community. “I felt they believed in me and the scholarship was a strong voice saying ‘you can do it’,” he says.

Mr Wilson worked with young Aboriginal men at the juvenile justice centre. And said it was an amazing learning experience. He spent his placement building rapport with the young men he was working with and saw changes in them during the course of his placement.

Social work covers a wide range of career options and thus students often tussle with which career path to follow.  Mr Wilson’s scholarship enabled him to discover the advantages of working with young Aboriginal men and how he could have the most impact.

Mr Wilson hoped that during his placement he was able to show the young people he worked with that “there are people who believe in you and see the good in you and are committed to helping you in life.”

“It’s sad and emotional because you see the potential in these kids who just can’t get past their environmental circumstances,” Mr Wilson says. He feels their circumstances and lack of support outside the justice system hinders them from achieving their full potential. “It would be amazing if we could re-direct their energy. I want to be the person who helps and supports them on their journey.”

Mr Wilson hoped that during his placement he was able to show the young people he worked with that “there are people who believe in you and see the good in you and are committed to helping you in life.”

Mr Wilson’s own contact with role models and social workers who encouraged him when he was younger was one of the main reasons he wants to give back to his community. “I want to be that person to others because it is a pretty big part of my story,” Mr Wilson says.

“Phil and Liz Stevenson are encouragers and through their support of me I hope they will be a big part of the youths’ story that I am working with.”

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