Jess Gala

I think it’s a really great career if you’re wanting variety. No two families you’re working with are the same. You’ll learn a lot about people, and hear so many life stories. 

Hi Jess, what does a Child Safety Officer do?

It’s varied. Our primary duty is to uphold the ‘Children and Young Families’ Act. So, there are laws we work under to make sure kids are happy, safe and well. In my role, there are lots of meetings with families. Child visits to find out what the children want. There are meetings with outside agencies who might be working with the families. Or working with the carers to make sure the kids are well supported. There’s also plenty of paperwork. This includes writing up notes from visits. Doing referrals. Writing up legal documents, as well as lots of phone calls. 

What’s the age of the children that you’re working with? 

Anywhere from unborn babies up to the age of 18 years. 

 How many children would you be working with? 

That’s hard to say – around 10 to 15 at any one time. 

 What are the types of issues you’re trying to resolve? 

There’s a lot of family violence, mental health, homelessness, alcohol and drug issues. These types of issues can mean the parents struggle to meet the needs of their children – so the kids are at risk. 

What’s the most satisfying part of your job? 

When you know you’ve been able to help a family make positive changes. Some days I’ll have difficult conversations with people, especially the parents. But when they understand you’re trying to help them, and they come up and thank you for what you’re doing – that’s huge. It means a lot. 

What it’s like when you go to a family home? 

It depends. If we’re going out to make an assessment, we’ll always go out in pairs. Or with other service providers who are working with the family. Sometimes we’ll go in with the police.  

What are the most important skills for being successful in your role? 

Being curious is important. For example, sometimes you might get information that doesn’t match from different sources. So you need to explore things further to find out why certain things are the way they are – that’s a big part of the job. 

 What skills, training and education do you need for the role? 

I have a Bachelor of Social Work. 

Are there lots of jobs for Child Safety Officers in Tasmania? 

Absolutely! In Tasmania, there’s about 300 people working in this area. And we’re always looking for more. Also, there are different roles; there’s business operations. There’s the Advice and Referral Line. We have our Unit Coordinators who help with admin tasks. There are team leaders and management positions. We also have support workers who do the family-type visits for us. 

Are there opportunities to move into other areas down the line? 

There are heaps of opportunities. In fact, I’ve just been offered a six-month contract in the ‘Intensive Family Engagement Service’ program. 

Was there a particular moment when you decided you wanted to work in this field? 

When I was at Uni this area of social work definitely interested me. Also, seeing how it crossed over into mental health, drug usage, family violence. In this role you’re working with all these kind of factors in society. 

Can you describe your office environment? 

We work in a building at St Johns Park. There are different teams spread out about the building. When you walk down the hallway, whoever you bump into you’ll generally smile at each other and have a bit of a chat. Having a good team around you is very important. We’re all there to help each other out where we can. There’s a real sense of everyone being in it together. 

Do you remember your first job? 

I was pretty young. My first job was at Subway when I was 14 and a half years old. I worked at Subway for almost five years. And I remember making lots of sandwiches.  

What did you do after you finished Year 12? 

I had a gap year. I worked at a bar that had gambling; poker-machines and that sort of thing. I’d observe the regulars who would come in. I found that fascinating. 

So when you’re not working, what do you like to do? 

Having a good work/life balance is important. I love being outside, bushwalking and camping. Or getting down to the beach and playing with my dogs. 

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a Child Safety Officer? 

I think it’s a really great career if you’re wanting variety. No two families you’re working with are the same. You’ll learn a lot about people, and hear so many life stories. 


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