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Exhibition reflects the lived experience of working in welfare


Jessica Nelson
20 December 2018

When Southern Cross University student Victoria Read began reflecting on her professional learning through art – little did she know of the impact it would have on others.

After graduating from the Bachelor Social Welfare in 2016, Mrs Read now works in the disability sector, a calling many in her family have followed, and is completing her Honours degree through Southern Cross.

The artwork which accompanies her submitted thesis is now on display in an exhibition launched in December and will be open to the public from January 2 until January 26 in the Building C Library at Southern Cross University Gold Coast campus.

Mrs Read predominantly works with clients who have intellectual disabilities combined with complex health, mental health conditions or challenging behaviours.

“My work is incredibly rewarding, though there are times when I can find myself in challenging situations and so I reminded I need to check my self-care and address my own needs as well, to make sure I’m okay. So art has become a professional tool - I use mental imagery now to reflect on how things are going,” the Currumbin local said.

“I started in the Bachelor of Social Welfare in the year it first began at Southern Cross, and a highlight for me was being able to switch into some art electives – I took three separate design-based electives as part of my degree which helped me carve out my own pathway.

“Southern Cross University’s new Library in Building C is such an interactive area, and it’s so nice to have a space to exhibit in.”

During her undergraduate degree Mrs Read said many of the assessments involved written self-reflection, but for the final one she decided to create an artwork which she then explained in writing.

“I couldn’t separate the imagery from the written reflection and so I submitted them together to ensure it all made sense. This process has now informed what I’ve chosen to focus on for my honours thesis to help others use visual imagery to support their own learning. I think this will inspire change for others who are engaging in their own research in the field of self-reflection, as it’s already broadening the perspective of the lecturers I’ve been able to engage with and learn from.”

The artwork on display follows Mrs Read’s first year in professional practice and includes a thematic analysis of how visual representation contributed to the process of her work.

The mixed media pieces include digital and three-dimensional works with photography components – one piece depicts anxiety and tension and another represents the psycho-sematic responses in body to stressful situations, while other pieces reflect on the connections built with people that take time to develop.

“For me, visual imagery is safety – I definitely feel safe doing something so personal and I know my work will continue to grow and evolve from here,” Mrs Read said.

There are 11 pieces with eight core reflections included in the exhibition, entitled Reflecting outside the written word.

Lecturer Dr Louise Whitaker from Southern Cross University School of Arts and Social Sciences co-supervised Mrs Read’s honours thesis with Dr Elizabeth Reimer, and said she was proud of Mrs Read’s work and the explanations of the role that they played in fostering self-awareness, now on display at the Gold Coast campus Library.