Community welfare student Ruchi Chandra has been interested in community work since Year 6, when, instead of joining the Scouts like most of her classmates, she became a Red Cross student.
This involved living in village camps in her native Goa, working with the locals and organising fundraising events. “Ever since childhood I was interested in this kind of work.”
The 24-year-old dentist is hoping to work with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Australia when she finishes her course, supporting indigenous communities in remote outback regions. “It’s my ultimate dream to work with WHO. They need people who can work long hours in rural areas. There are many camps in areas where there are no clinics, so they need a lot of voluntary workers.”
After studying dentistry for five years and working in private practice for seven months in India, Chandra is keen to put her skills to good use. “In western countries dental treatment is very expensive, most people can’t afford it and there are long waiting lists.”
Community welfare courses don’t exist in India, so Chandra opted for Melbourne Polytechnic's Diploma of Community Welfare Work where she is now in her second year. “The modules covered were all areas that I was interested in.” At first she was surprised by the rapport between students and teachers on her course. “In India we don’t have that. We don’t have an opinion and we can’t make a suggestion.” And her Melbourne Polytechnic teachers have been helping her identify job opportunities in Australia. “They’ve been very positive,” says Ruchi.
Chandra says her parents were supportive of her travelling to Australia because of its low crime rate and reputation as a friendly multicultural nation. “My father chose Australia because he had a friend here and there are many Indians here already.”
As part of her course, Chandra has completed industry placements like teaching English to teenage Somali students while a second placement at a primary school in Braybrook involved working with young children who have learning difficulties. “I’m having a ball of a time there.”
Chandra had never travelled outside India before coming to Australian 18 months ago, but her Goa upbringing meant the move wasn’t a total culture shock. “I found the weekend culture great here. The party hard mentality is the same as Goa. I felt at home. We have beaches there so there are some similarities.” After a stint working in Nandos, Chandra found a job she liked doing – door to door marketing – and has leased a flat in Footscray with friends. “I do miss my family especially during festivals. But I like Australia very much. The system is very fair here. You can get somewhere and be recognised.”
Diploma of Community Welfare Work