Skip to main content

Learning to decipher a life story – social work students on placement with the Heritage team

MacKillop’s Heritage team continue to safeguard stories of people in out of home care by sharing their knowledge with social work students on placement - the record keepers of the future.

In a year where enquiries for historical records of peoples’ care experiences reached a record high, MacKillop’s Heritage and Information team continued to support those seeking answers about their past at a time when other historical record holders closed their doors.

At the height of this busy period, two Master of Social Work students from the University of Melbourne joined the Heritage team for work placement experience, in what turned out to be a highlight of the year for the Heritage team.

Sindhu Narayanan from southern India and Duyi Zhou from Shanghai in China, are international students who became part of the MacKillop family for ten weeks in Winter 2021.

Sindhu says she was initially anxious about joining the Heritage team as she had little previous contact with clients and had mainly communicated with other students and staff at university. “It was a very steep learning curve and I am so happy that I spent this time with Jenny and the team who have helped me enormously. Working with the Heritage team has given me a fantastic foundation.

Each file is a person’s life, it’s not just paper you are dealing with. How you help them decipher information can have a huge impact.

– Sindhu Narayanan, Master of Social Work student

For Duyi, studying in Melbourne during COVID-19 restrictions meant there had been very little opportunity to meet people and build relationships.

“I learned so much from the Heritage team, they have been very supportive.

“It was also a privilege to get insights into people’s lives and their stories. I discovered that people can be very resilient and it was great to see that some people had a happy story to tell after spending time in out of home care.”

Duyi added, “The most important thing I learned is how to support each other in a group. This is something the Heritage team do really well. They work as a team and knowing you have that support gives you great confidence. I could ask any questions and everyone took time to explain things to me and make sure I knew what to do.”

MacKillop’s Heritage and Information Centre Manager, Jenny Glare, says it was a real boost to the team to have the students join for ten weeks.

“Duyi and Sindhu very quickly became an important resource to the Heritage and Information Centre. They were a joy to work with and I was very impressed at how quickly they fitted in.

“I know I speak for the whole Heritage team when I say that our ten weeks with Sindhu and Duyi was the highlight of this past year. I was delighted to see how everyone worked together to support our placement students. We were also privileged to play a part in their training and understanding of the importance of record keeping and how it impacts the stories of people who have lived in out of home care,” Jenny added.

Their time with MacKillop’s Heritage team has left a lasting impact on the students. “It should be mandatory for all social work students to do a placement on record keeping,” said Sindhu. “When you witness firsthand the emotional impact of someone receiving information about their past and filling in the blanks in their knowledge, it changes you forever; keeping proper records of all those little things that make up a person’s life story is something that will stay with me always.”