Tommy Christop (2014) after graduating from Nazareth began a new chapter in Melbourne and undertook a Bachelor of Human Services, and Masters of Social Work at La Trobe University. Now working as a Community Social Worker and Project Worker at Banyule Community Health.
Once he completed his studies Tommy worked as an Oncology Social Worker at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, supporting patients and their loved ones during their cancer diagnosis and treatment. “I worked with patients who were diagnosed with colorectal and lower gastrointestinal cancers, and it was rewarding to support them and their loved ones during a very difficult time”.
In his current role, he is coordinating the Emergency Relief Program and he conducted a research evaluation project of the Peer Support Service component of LIFT Stepped Care Model for Mental Health. “I focus on supporting community members with obtaining assistance in the provision of food relief and material aid, to alleviate the financial hardship they have experienced due to their psychosocial circumstances. He continues “I also provide short to medium-term casework support to assist individuals with various social-health related issues”.
Over the last year, he has also been responsible for leading and supporting Banyule Community Health with obtaining Rainbow Tick Accreditation, providing a welcoming, safe, and inclusive service to people who identify as LGBTIQA+.
“I am very grateful for all of the opportunities I have been given, to make a significant impact on the health and well-being of individuals, families, groups and communities”.
Tommy says “It has been important for him to maintain a balance between his personal and professional life when working in the helping profession. There have been times in my role where I am physically and emotionally exhausted, due to the complexities I address in my client work. I am very fortunate to have a supportive team environment and formal supervision in place”.
Tommy shares a key highlight he has experienced in his social work career so far which is “how rewarding it is giving back to people who have experienced significant trauma in their lives. Also being a voice for the marginalised, oppressed, and disadvantaged in society, empowers me to support clients in achieving the best possible outcome towards their circumstances”. He continues “I may have only done something small to support someone, but to them, it’s a big thing. Being a light amongst the darkness and supporting clients to become the best version of who they can be, truly brings me so much happiness”.
“From a young age, I always knew I wanted to be in the helping profession”.
He says “When my friends were going through a difficult time, taking the time to listen and provide them the space to express their thoughts and feelings associated with their experiences is something I loved helping them with. It brought me joy and happiness knowing I could provide a listening ear to my friends when they faced adversity”.
Tommy explains his passion for social work came from his personal experiences but also from his Year 12 Research Project which focused on understanding the practical strategies counsellors implemented in their roles, to reduce the risk of vicarious trauma.
“At that time, I remember coming across information about the roles social workers have in advocating to alleviate the disadvantages individuals, families, groups and communities experience with accessing inclusive and equitable healthcare”.
He then began researching social work degrees at university which made him realise it was the career path he wanted to pursue after graduating high school.
Tommy shares he received significant support from his Mentor Group Teacher, Mrs Sarah Chemny in Year 12 when he was going through personal challenges. “Mrs Chemny’s warmth, compassion, devotion, and unconditional support, gave me the strength and motivation to focus on my aspirations, and not allow the negativity to prevent my growth”.
“Mrs Chemny always provided an open forum for me to come into her office outside of Mentor Group, as well as after school, to check in on how my day went, and see how I was feeling”.
The support Tommy received from the staff at Nazareth enabled him to put more effort into producing high-quality standards of work while receiving support for his well-being.
Tommy shares he will never forget how proud the Nazareth staff were at the Year 12 Graduation. “For me, it was a night filled with excitement and happiness because, despite the personal battles I faced, I stood my ground, got back up on my feet, and gave everything my all in my studies. I was so proud of myself ”.
“At that moment, it was the beginning of me evolving into who I have become today. All the experiences you go through in life, support you with becoming the best version of yourself, and lead you to all of the blessings life has waiting for you”.
Tommy explains when he moved to Melbourne he experienced high levels of anxiety when he was starting university. “It was a vulnerable time in my life as I was leaving the place where I was born and spent most of my childhood and adolescent years living. However, I knew that this was my life path. I had the resilience, determination, and ability to connect with others, as well as see my personal and professional visions become reality”.
He shares that the qualities he has developed through his social work career have helped him become the person he is today. “Engaging in leadership activities to implement organisational changes, has provided me an opportunity to critically reflect on how I have been a leader to achieve my personal aspirations and prosper in all aspects of my personal and professional life.
Tommy provides some valuable advice “You need to be vulnerable to evolve in all aspects of your life, especially when creating the life, you want. Through this, you can reach your highest potential, and be rewarded with all the work to make things happen. You are the narrator of your own story”.
The advice Tommy gives the Nazareth students is that “everything falls into place at the right time”.
“Celebrate yourself, and the growth you make every day, as this can empower you to focus on creating the life you want. Never let negativity outshine you. Remember, you are the pen and you have the power to write each chapter of your journey in a way that aligns with who you are. This is guiding you to reach your highest potential and preparing you to receive all the rewards you desire. Trust the process and know that you have what it takes, to make things happen”.
Tommy hopes to continue to focus on reaching his highest potential. He is aiming to start supervising social work students to help them understand the social work role and provide a space where they can apply their key learnings from university to become the best social worker they can be once they graduate.
“I want to continue doing what I love the most. Helping people and making a difference in their lives. People need a voice, someone to listen, someone to understand, and to help them recognise their potential to become advocates of change. This work aligns with the person I am today and is something I want to continue doing for the rest of my life”.