Empowering mothers through social work

Social work takes patience and heart – it was perfect for Shiree, who studied as a mature-aged student, and now works at child protection agency Barnardos.

I had a dream when I was younger that I would study sociology,” says Shiree, Project Coordinator at child protection agency Barnardos “It was a long time coming when I started studying as a mature aged student.

At 19, Shiree became a mother. A great deal of responsibility had fallen into the lap of such a young woman, leaving her without the capacity to earn a uni degree like she’d always imagined. As the years went by, she was still bothered by her sense of unfinished business, and decided finally to enrol into Griffith University’s Bachelor of Arts degree, online through Open Universities Australia.

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Shiree - Studied Art at Griffith University, through Open Universities Australia.

It was during a community event, that Shiree crossed paths with a senior manager at Barnardos, with whom she got talking about her passion for sociology. The manager was impressed by her university essay, and offered her a role as a support worker for Barnardos – the rest is history.

Now a valued staff member at Barnardos, Shiree coordinates a project called ‘Beyond Barbed Wire’, which supports mothers while they’re in custody, and post-release. Having been a young mother herself, Shiree has a lot of empathy for mothers, recognising the pressure on them to raise their children while making a living, often on their own. Sometimes life can derail, impacting both mother and child. “It’s heartbreaking when you look at the statistics. The number of children who are currently in out-of-home care in New South Wales has just gone through the roof” says Shiree. Aside from her regular day-to-day duties, Shiree has the opportunity to get involved in research that could influence policy down the line, and to take part in community events. “Working for an NGO, it’s all about that grass roots feeling – it’s something that keeps me really passionate about the work that we do.”

It's heartbreaking when you look at the statistics. The number of children who are currently in out-of-home care in New South Wales has just gone through the roof.

Before beginning her Bachelor of Arts degree, online through Open Universities Australia, Shiree had some concerns around social isolation. But once she jumped in, she found herself easily connecting with her tutors and peers. Initially her goal was to work in juvenile justice, but after moving through subjects, Shiree turned her gaze toward sociology and locked it down as her major. For Shiree, the best thing about her degree was the vast selection of elective subjects, which enabled her to choose what she was truly interested in, to align with both her career goals, and her personal thirst for knowledge.

To others considering social work, Shiree’s advice is to take the leap and start a qualification. “Get yourself a degree – it’s essential, not just for the piece of paper, but for the learning behind that”.

It’s not too late to get started

Whether you’re at the beginning of your career, or decades in, it’s not too late to make a change, and pursue work that excites you. It all begins with study. Through Open Universities Australia (OUA), you can:

  • Find the right course – Choose from over a hundred degrees and over a thousand single subjects from universities across Australia.
  • Earn the same degree as on-campus – Enrol through us, then study online with your chosen uni (and graduate with them too).
  • Study, regardless of your history – Start with single undergraduate subjects without any entry requirements.
  • Gain credit towards your degree – Apply for credit for past study or work experience, and finish faster.
  • Feel supported from start to finish – Get help from a friendly student advisor, right through to graduation.

Related courses through OUA:

Bachelor of Behavioural Studies – Swinburne University

Bachelor of Psychological Science and Sociology – University of South Australia

Bachelor of Arts – Macquarie University

Bachelor of Arts – Murdoch University

Master of Social Work – Griffith University


To express your interest in any of the courses on offer through OUA, fill out the form on this page and a friendly student advisor will get in contact. Otherwise, start browsing hundreds of courses from leading Australian universities right now.