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Industry Q&A: Community Services with Tom Conley

President & Executive Managing Director

Tom Conley currently works as President & Executive Managing Director at DCSS Australia Inc

DCSS stands for Diverse Community & Social Services and they are a non-for-profit organisation that focuses on supporting people who have incurred fines and debt in Victoria (VIC) and New South Wales (NSW). In addition to this, Peer Support & Basic Case Management services are also offered for individuals with unique health and wellbeing needs. 

Client testimonials bring more meaning to work

When Tom talks about the rewarding part of his role, he explains that receiving positive feedback from their clients is what makes it worthwhile. When talking about his role, he mentions, “It’s about the great testimonials and feedback that we get from our clients, especially in regards to their lives being transformed.”

He continues, “We're the only non-for-profit in the space that has a dual accreditation both in Victoria and NSW, so we have no restrictions on who we service. It's just about empowering our clients and providing them that professional guidance and support - it's really important.”

The demand for supporting LGBTIQ+ and CALD communities grows 

gay couple embracing each other with lgbt flag

Tom addresses that there is a growing need for community support workers who are able to assist clients that are part of the LGBTIQ+ and CALD communities. He also states that individuals face struggles with their finances and ongoing health issues from heavy substance abuse.

“There’s definitely a big need for them [community service workers] out there,” he explains. “The LGBTIQ+ and CALD communities do fall through the gaps. They find it hard to express what their problems are, and then they suppress them and turn to drugs or alcohol or smoking - all that stuff that's really bad for their health.”

Self-care comes first 

The challenges of separating work from your personal life can be tricky when you are working with clients who have personal and health issues. Tom has revealed that he too has found it challenging to not be so emotionally involved with clients. 

While many of their clients face struggles with their finances and health issues, Tom emphasises that you also need soft skills to be able to work in the community services field, and be sensitive to the needs of the individuals you’re dealing with.

“You need resilience and communication skills. You also need to learn how to work in a team and independently, and be able to use your discretion,” he explains. 

He also puts a further emphasis on the need for people working in community services to put self-care first

“Self-care is something that a lot of the graduates don't understand and are not really taught nowadays,” Tom explains. 

He continues, “I can't emphasise how important it is to really understand self-care. It's really important to acknowledge where you need support and how you can get it. We're worrying about everybody else's health, so we need to worry about our own as well. You can only offer them the service and you can't be heartbroken if they don't want it.”

Tom also mentions the importance of setting boundaries and sticking to them, especially in this line of work.

“I don't think it matters what profession you're in. You do need to know those professional boundaries and how self-care works.”

Interested in studying community services?

If you want a rewarding career where you get to assist individuals with mental health or alcohol and drug problems, check out Upskilled’s great range of online courses in community services.

Courses are designed to be completed within 12 months and can help you gain practical skills in the field. With most courses offering a work placement component, you’ll have the opportunity to work as a volunteer support worker, which can give you a leg up when looking for paid work opportunities. 

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