Western and Sydney Alliance team up on climate action and housing affordability
Assistant Organisers gather weekly as part of their collaboration between Western Sydney University’s Centre of Leadership in Social Work & Civic Action and the Sydney Alliance. The students have been working on community projects by meeting with a variety of representatives from unions as well as religious and community organisations. Photos: Sydney Alliance
A new partnership between Western Sydney University and Sydney Alliance is providing unique placement opportunities for up to 35 Social Work students each semester and extending the reach and community impact of important social activism projects.
The University’s School of Social Sciences is the largest provider of tertiary-level, accredited Social Work programs in the Sydney region, while Sydney Alliance is a leading social advocacy organisation comprised of 38 partners that include religious organisations, unions, and non-profit organisations.
Through this new partnership, the two organisations have worked together to upscale Sydney Alliance’s community work and expand opportunities for Social Work students to work as Assistant Organisers in a unique placement experience.
The first cohort of students in 2022 were provided with an induction at St Stephen’s Uniting Church Cathedral in Sydney, where they were equipped with the skills to implement the Sydney Alliance community organising methodology and achieve maximum social impact over their semester-long placement.
Mr David Barrow, Lead Organiser at Sydney Alliance, said the organisation works to highlight a range of cultural and religious issues through its community advocacy campaigns, and advocates for the support of migrant and refugee communities and international students.
“When students come on board with us as Community Organisers, we spend a lot of time working with them to determine the type of project that resonates with their interests, and will also have the most widespread and positive community impact,” said Mr Barrow.
“This current cohort of 32 students is working on key issues affecting western Sydney such as climate action and housing affordability. They are keen and energetic and are ready to make a real impact.”
The issues the Assistant Organisers have elected to tackle include the improved visibility of women in their respective communities, housing affordability and climate change.
Genevieve Kelly, a Community Organiser with the Sydney Alliance, said the program is about addressing urgent issues that people often feel powerless to do anything about.
“We are training future social workers to work at the local level, particularly in Western Sydney, to help make changes for the better,” said Ms Kelly.
"These students have chosen to take on this challenging task because they believe passionately in the issues they will work on and they want to learn from the support and mentorship they will get from the Sydney Alliance network.”
Dean of the School of Social Sciences, Professor Brian Stout, said the initiative is an example of an engaged community partnership that provides a range of reciprocal benefits for the partner organisations and the broader community.
“This partnership with Sydney Alliance provides great opportunities for our students to have a high-quality learning experience, while also making a real difference to the communities of Western Sydney,” said Professor Stout.
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