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Photo of Joseph PanapaJoseph Panapa
Social Work graduate
Functional Family Therapist, Youth Horizons Trust, Central Otago

Originally from Dunedin, Joseph completed high school in South Auckland but didn’t go on to university immediately.

“I was into my touch rugby and earning $7.50-$9 an hour, I didn’t know any better,” he says.

Why did you choose to study Social Work?

“I had many transferrable skills, gained from family, my culture, working in factories, playing sport and living in South Auckland, that enabled me to relate to the content in the social work papers. However, it took a few changes in my degree and major to learn that. My experiences of social injustices and poverty, my Pacific Island culture and my studies provided me with an insight into the issues experienced by whanau and/or community.”

What advice would you give to people wanting to study Social Work?

“Don’t be scared to ask for help. It’s also helpful to work out what suits you and also what you have to offer. For example, males and Pacifica, there’s a need for you to be working in these areas, males in particular.”

What’s the Social Work programme like?

 “Department staff are quite understanding and accepting. The lecturers take your life experiences into account, they value them. This makes it easier to communicate with the lecturers.

What is it like being a Social Worker?

“A lot of people have an unrealistic idea about social work – either it will change the world, or take away your children.

“You have to be role models; to learn to balance what you have with what you’ve learned in order to provide support and advocacy to people and to families.

“Also, the skills acquired in a social work degree are transferrable to many other occupations, for example, youth work, teaching, counselling. You acquire a good skill set, a good foundation, so that you don’t have to be stuck in one field.

“In social work practice you are given a map to release your potential - ‘Just Do It’!”