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Elizabeth Young
Elizabeth Young
BA Religious Studies (major), Philosophy (minor)
Postgraduate Diploma, Religious Studies and Biblical Studies (combined)
MA Religious Studies

Elizabeth Young, although not religious herself, became totally engrossed and passionate about Religious Studies in her first year at Otago.

”It is about what makes the world tick, and it underpins every decision we make, even if we are not aware of it or don't profess to have a religion.”

Today Elizabeth works as a Case Worker with Vulnerable Adult Males Seeking Asylum, who are living in Community Detention in Melbourne. Her clients come from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, and are a host of different ethnicities. Elizabeth describes it as her dream job.

“I am fortunate enough to gain the trust of some of the most vulnerable, persecuted and marginalised people in the entire world, and really help them affect change in their lives.”

Elizabeth credits her Otago degrees in Religious Studies for making her well prepared and ideally suited for her present job.

“Because a degree in Religious Studies covers so many different religious and cultural practices and beliefs, I am able to really connect with my clients as I actually know and understand where they come from and why they believe what they believe and do what they do.

“I also understand in great detail, the reasons behind why many of the people that I work with have had to flee. I know what the political situation is like in many of these places, I have studied religious persecution and have a deep understanding of why these people have been forced to become refugees; much of this was learned through my study at Otago. Without this knowledge, I wouldn't be able to do my job. My employer recognised this and, coupled with my previous experience working at the Mae Tao Clinic on the Thailand / Burma border, and with Refugee Services Aotearoa, they were excited to have me as part of the team.

“Every day at work is different and unpredictable, I deal with all kinds of chaos ranging from suicidal clients, clients in tears as I have to inform them that their children have been killed by the Taliban, helping clients in court and Refugee Review Tribunals, to being proposed to, being force-fed cup after cup of cardamom tea and being told I am loved like a daughter and a sister.

“The people that I work with are truly heroes, and I feel honoured and humbled on a daily basis that I am given the opportunity to share their lives and stories with them, and help them through this stage of their refugee journey.”

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