Where are you from?

I am from Gove, Northern Territory, Australia

So, tell me a little about you

I was born in Gove, Nullumbui, back in 85, and since then, I went to school there for fifteen years and then I went over to Darwin for college, so living there. And then I moved with my mother down to New South Wales and was there for a few years and then moved to Sydney and started working as a chef.

I was doing that for about five years and I then went to work for Perisher, down at Perisher in the mountains and was a chef there and had some fun skiing every day. Yeah. So that was a lot of fun.

And then from there I moved back to Darwin and started working as a bartender. And so that was a different scope of interacting with people because being in the kitchen you really only interact with the other chefs and cooks, kitchen hands and stuff.

And so then I was in an aspect of living and working in two different climates which was fun. And got to meet lots of interesting people and became friends with them, and yeah, we had some great times working in Darwin.

I did that twice, down to Perisher and then back to Darwin and then moved to Mackay.

And when I moved there, a large tragedy happened with a few kids and it got me thinking of what I could be doing to help. Living in Sydney, working there, you get to see a lot of homeless people and that got me thinking as well. There was a pack suicide with about 13 15 year olds.

That was the weekend I moved there, so that got me thinking of “geez what’s going on” and all that sort of stuff and then I moved to Townsville.

So then I moved to Townsville and stayed with a couple of friends of mine. Their parents bought houses and we were renovating one house and there was a squatter in the house.

They could have only been about 17 to 20 years old. I couldn’t tell exactly. And we were chasing him for about two weeks just to go “Hey. We’re gonna be renovating. And you’re welcome to stay until then because it’s going to disrupt everything.”

So I then quickly said just stay here and we’ll get some food and sit down and have a chat and see what we can do to help.

And then, because we called the cops and said “look there’s a squatter in the house, we don’t want you to move them on. We just want to let him know that the renovations are gonna be happening,” I came back with some food, got back to the place and he had bolted. Then cops came round and we started talking with them.

And I just said “what happens when you find some homeless?” and he said “we just move them on because they can’t be squatting in the house.” I said “okay, so what about the shelters?” And the cops just said “they only stay for three nights out of the week.”

And I thought, there’s something else that’s going to happen to them. That’s not quite adequate enough.

Yeah. So then I started thinking of where can I start to do some good. So I came back down to New South Wales and studied and that got me on the education track of changing careers so from hospitality into now looking at social work. And that’s what I’m studying now, a Bachelor of Social Work.

So yeah, I am a year and a half into it except for I actually started uni up in Townsville but I wasn’t happy with the way it was being delivered so I came to this campus which is UQ and started studying here.

And so I’m kind of doing first year courses again because the courses are different. So I started studying here and yeah just taking on a new education scheme and getting it right, I guess.

What’s important to you and your life?

Important to me would be family and friends. Everything else comes and goes, so you can have money and still not be satisfied. So family and friends is the most important thing I can think of. And that’s with through education, through everything. It is just having that support, being able to do stuff with people, yeah and have lots of fun I guess.

So what does that look like in your day to day life.

Well hanging out with friends at uni, being able to phone family and friends just have a chat every now and then because none of my immediate family are here. They’re all separated around the country. So yeah, travelling to go see them sometimes, which is good. So yeah, there’s been a mix of phone calls and interaction with them.

My sister’s actually overseas at the moment and she’s coming in this weekend. My brother’s down in Lismore.

What specific experiences, people or events have shaped your view?

Not really people, apart from my family or friends. Just seeing events happen, I guess, in day to day life has kind of led me to this, going “This should be something happening.” So yeah, that’s why I chose social work.

So has anyone ever asked you this question before?

In school very, very far back. I would have to say about year 9 or 10. I think that was the last time I was asked this question.

And what comes up for you today with me asking?

Recounting their stories, they’re actually quite personal, and they actually hit me very emotionally. So yeah, that’s kind of just gone, that’s just triggered me. This is what should be happening and this is what’s happening. So there’s a gap here. How do we close that gap.

Who in your life do you think would benefit from being asked this question.

I think everyone. Everyone would benefit because it puts things in perspective and finds what drives people, I guess. So I think asking people, everyone.

Because, I mean you could actually ask this question periodically in somebody’s life so say 14, I guess, starting around that age and then maybe 5 to 10 years later ask them the same thing and just seeing if they are still the same or if things have happened and it’s changed.

About Thomas

Thomas is studying Social Work at the University of Queensland.