The University of Ballarat is the third oldest site of higher learning in Australia. It offers secondary schooling, technical and further education (TAFE), higher education, and research opportunities. There are six campuses (Mt Helen, SMB and Camp Street campuses in Ballarat and at Horsham, Stawell and Ararat). University also works with many partner institutes across Australia and the world. Most of the students are Australian citizens, but about 500 are students from other countries e.g. India and China.
At this moment I am here as an exchange teacher. One week behind, and one to go, just great. It’s very interesting to notice, social work is a global profession. The main issues and problems are same despite the country you are working in. Of course there are cultural differences e.g. in orientation, but the basic elements are the same. Population is getting older, young people are moving to the cities, problems caused by unemployment, issues of drug problems, violence, child protection, issues of social work in remote areas or with indigenous, etc.
I have noticed some differences, too. In Finland child protection might be more child-oriented compared to Australian way of protection. Also the use of information technology producing social services is not so popular here in Australia, although they have very high level technology-solutions in conference-centres etc.
The education of social work is much more pre-scheduled as in Finland. Teachers give the time-table in advance, and students are highly presumed to take part to the lectures. Students have to make their readings before the lectures and they are very interactive during the lessons. They make a lot of questions etc. Students of social work have two field sessions during their studies: the first one is about 20 days and second is longer, about 50 days.
Also the problems of universities are same both in Australia and in Finland: shortcuts, the threat of redundances, lack of money, not enough resources to do research and so on.
People here in Ballarat (and also in Melbourne) are extremely friendly and helpful. There is no place or issue you won’t get help if needed. If you are looking at the map, there will be just in a moment someone friendly person asking if you are lost and were you want to go. They also want to know something about you. In the country build on immigration, this might be normal; people are willing to help. Or maybe it's in the genes.
The hospitality of the university’s staff has been overwhelming. They’ve taken super-good care of me and each of them does everything to make me feel comfortable here. Let’s take just one example. They wanted to borrow their car to me during the weekend, but for my own best I refused; this left-side traffic is a little bit confusing, even if it is very fluent because of all those roundabouts in the junctions. So, during last weekend they decided to take me to a trip. We visited some beautiful villages and small cities near Ballarat. As they say, “life is too short not to be friendly and kind to other people. And the most important things in the world are good food cooked with love and good friends around you enjoying it.” No worries at all so far!