First week of work is over! I have never looked forward to a weekend so much. I am so tired!
Some highlights of work included mastering SPSS software, making some really sweet maps of where different types of donors live, going out to lunch with most of the policy unit, having lunch with Jen on her birthday and taking my teapot into work so I can have delicious tea whenever I want.
Some lowlights included the fact that the fancy new GIS software still hasn’t been loaded onto my computer, my boss’s daughter got sick with suspected swine flu and I discovered that Anglicare doesn’t have a toaster in the staff kitchen.
There was a super big highlight though. From Wednesday onwards, everyone else in the policy unit was on holidays/at conferences/on study leave/not working because they are part time/looking after their sick daughter, so I got to go on a conference that my boss was supposed to go on. It was run by the Fairfield Migrant Resource Centre and it was called “Poverty: Whose Responsibility?“. I guess I will see much more of this kind of thing while I’m working for Anglicare, but it was the first time I have been on a conference like that. It was amazing. There were people there from every level of government, from Centrelink, from the Housing Commission, from big organisations like Anglicare and from tiny grass roots organisations that focus on specific areas and cultures. I’m making it sound big – it wasn’t. I think there were only around 50 people each day. But it was still very very interesting.
The range of topics was vast. We heard about the complexity of poverty and the many ways that it is experienced even within one local government area. We also heard about a lot of big issues, like education, the global financial crisis, welfare payment systems and state housing shortages, and looked at how they all applied to the residents of Fairfield Council. We heard the testimonies of women from Northern and Southern Sudan and from Iraq. Two of them had come here with their husbands only. One husband died of cancer within a year of arrival. The other husband was very sick and was nursed by his wife, only to kick her out when he was healthy again. These women were granted entry to Australia as spouses. They have no income because only their husband can claim social security payments.
I didn’t know anyone else, but every single person I met at the conference (apart from one social worker who was a couple of years older than me) was an immigrant. So in between papers on poverty and the migrant experience in Fairfield today, I heard other stories of women (they were all women) who migrated here. They moved here from places like India or Argentina 25 years ago, and New Zealand (the dodgy part) and the Cook Islands within the last decade. They shared their own experiences of poverty and discrimination. The Indian lady I met today was very old. She had a PhD in economics that she got before she left India. She has only just started a job in that field now (she is past retirement age!). It is a volunteer position. She has a PhD! But it is from India, so it isn’t as valuable.
I am a little bit daunted by the complexity of the field that I am working in now. I have been churning census data and colouring in maps and writing reports for a while now, but the last two days I saw the faces of the stats that I have been adding up and colour coding into maps. Daunting, but very helpful.