If you’d asked a young Calum Taylor what he wanted to do when he grew up, he might have had a few answers up his sleeve. Whether it was working with dinosaurs, playing in the NRL, being an airline pilot, a teacher or police officer, Calum’s career aspirations have always been varied. Regardless, one thing has always spurred Calum’s ambitions – the desire to make a difference.
Now a Child Protection Worker for the Western Australian Department of Communities, Calum combines his care for people with skills learnt through his Bachelor of Social Work (Honours) every day.
Calum’s love of people initially inspired him to pursue a degree in Psychology. However, he decided to transfer to social work at the University of Sydney, a change that Calum describes as “one of the best decisions I could have made”.
What followed was a period of exploration, where Calum fulfilled his passion for psychology alongside other disciplines.
“A social work degree will see you stratify across a range of disciplinary perspectives like psychology, sociology, law and Indigenous studies,” he says. “What binds it all together is an unequivocal orientation towards the values of social justice, equity and fairness.”
No field of study orients itself more to the idea of building a better world than social work.
One of Calum’s highlights at university was his student placement in the remote far west of New South Wales, where he worked in the largely Aboriginal community of Dareton, on Barkindji country.
It was this experience that inspired him to leave the big city and begin his professional career working with First Nations families in the Kimberley. Here, he still draws on his honours research about child protection to inform his work.
“My research is ingrained in the lived professional experiences of child protection caseworkers, so I hope it holds relevance for my role,” he says. “So far, I can attest to the fact that it does. I hope that my time in Broome has a positive impact on people in some way, shape or form – however large, however small.”
I came into contact with some of the most inspirational, selfless and passionate people imaginable, who dedicate their careers to promoting us to do better as a society and to be there for our most vulnerable.
Calum is well aware there’s a stigma attached to social work, particularly when it comes to child protection. In his honour’s thesis, "Bringing A Focus To Hearing Children's Voices In Casework Practice To Facilitate Birth Family Connections", he confronts this while offering hope for a positive future.
“Children’s voices are grossly misrepresented and ignored within the system,” he explains. “My research highlighted the potential for improving the relational aspects of casework. How walking alongside people, building a relationship with them, being there for them, and showing faith in them gives rise to some of the most powerful human emotions in existence: trust, care, hope and belief. The power of these to help someone overcome their circumstances cannot be underestimated.”
You work with all sorts of people; of all different ages, cultural backgrounds, and from all walks of life. Every day is different and unexpected. Every day challenges you. I couldn’t think of many more rewarding ways to spend your 9-5.
Reflecting on his time at the University of Sydney, Calum remembers the people, experiences and places fondly.
“I would describe my overall experience as profound, impactful and even life-affirming,” he says. “Not only did studying social work open up an amazing career path, but it also taught me a love of people, a love of difference, and a capacity to reflect critically – on myself and on the world that we live in.”
As for anyone who wants to pursue a career that makes a difference, Calum recommends considering a social work degree.
“There are so many paths it can take you on,” he says. “From child protection, aged care, working in schools, mental health, hospital work, development and aid, advocacy, and many more!”