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Nicholas Steepe - Equity & Diversity Project Manager

Nic Steepe, Charles Sturt University

Nic has grown up in regional Australia and currently resides in Bathurst. Social justice is a core value of his and is proud to have contributed to the conversation around youth mental health, marriage equality, and advocated strongly for increased inclusion for LGBTIQA+ individuals in regional Australia.

Whilst working and studying, Nic also volunteers for The Pinnacle Foundation and sits on the Management Committee as the Scholar Advocate, an organisation that provides scholarships and mentorships to disadvantaged and/or marginalised LGBTIQA+ people. 

What is your current role and what does it involve? 

I'm the Project Manager, Equity & Diversity at Charles Sturt University. I am responsible for the development, management and completion of equity and diversity projects and the delivery of equity and diversity initiatives and programs. This role supports the University’s objective of creating a diverse and equitable environment that enhances CSU’s diversity. One of my major responsibilities is the development and implementation of the University’s Gender Equity Strategy.

Tell us about your study journey

I attended public school all my life and graduated in 2011 from Dubbo College Senior Campus. As I was the first in my family to graduate Year 12, I did not have a desire to attend University, but through the support of my Society & Culture teacher, Miss Hudson, I enrolled in a co-enrolment course with TAFE and Charles Sturt University in Dubbo. This involved completing a Certificate IV and Diploma in Community Services, in conjunction with some Bachelor of Social Work subjects. In the last two years of the degree, it was purely University subjects – so it still took the same amount of time as it would have, I just came out with a Diploma as well through the pathways course.

During my last placement, I obtained full-time employment with headspace Dubbo and continued to work them after I graduated. I wasn’t sure how I would cope with further study, however, I knew I wanted to pursue additional learning. So to test my capabilities to manage study, full-time work and other extracurricular activities, I enrolled in a Post Graduate Certificate in Project Management. As I felt I could handle the part-time study load, in 2018, I began my Masters of Social Work (research/dissertation strand) which I aim to graduate from at the end of 2019.

What was your first job and what do you think it taught you?

Every job that I have had has taught me something. Starting my working life at Go-Lo and Sam’s Warehouse, as well as being a cleaner for a number of years, taught me to appreciate the role that retail and cleaners have in our society, and to ensure I do my best to make their job easier. My first community services job (part-time) was at the Schizophrenia Fellowship, Personal Helpers and Mentors Program, and it provided me with a solid foundation of skills that I would (and will continue) to use in my life. It also taught me the importance of reflection, both internally and externally, to learn from past experiences in order to grow. 

Why did you want to study social work?

I wanted to study social work to help people - as cliché as that might be. Based on my own personal experiences with mental health, identity issues, bullying and family issues, I saw an opportunity where I could help others, as others had helped me throughout my journey. Due to the fact that I was not sure about even studying, social work provided me with different pathways and options that I could select, such as child protection, mental health, advocacy, community development, which was beneficial for me as my mind was not completely set on a path. 

Name a career highlight

There are so many career highlights, that I just don’t know which one to choose. Marching down the main street of Dubbo in full drag for the Central West Pride March? The various nominations and accolades that have been awarded to me? The friendships and bonds that I have forged that will last a lifetime? The incredible stories of resilience that I have encountered from so many different people? The opportunities that have been presented to me? The confidence in my skills and abilities that I have ascertained? The change in attitudes and beliefs in the Central West?
Most recently, I was asked to be a part of four Charles Sturt University Dubbo Alumni banners, which I was humbled to accept. At the unveiling ceremony, amongst well-established professionals in the Central West, my niece and nephew attended, and the joy on their faces seeing me on a banner was such a highlight. But more than that, it is the possibility that I will inspire them (and perhaps others) to go to University.

Name something you still don't know

There is lots that I still do not know, hence why I am undertaking more education (and most likely will for the rest of my life). Knowledge is power, and you are ignorant if you think that you know everything. Also, feeling like you have all the answers is detrimental to having an open and honest discussion with others, as you will not be able to understand and take into consideration their point of view or their reality.

What’s the most important career tip someone has given you?

Whilst I have had many tips throughout my life from incredible mentors, the tip that resonated with me the most was “change starts small. It is incremental and we, as advocates of social justice, should ensure the momentum continues” - CJ Thomas.
Change does not happen overnight, and we all play a part in making it happen; keep fighting for what you believe in. This has rung true throughout my professional life, even if I was not given this advice until recently. 

What are important qualities and skills should people have if they want to get into social work?

An open mind, a commitment to social justice, empathy, listen (not just for the sake of replying) and critical thinking. Social work is quite broad, but if you are committed to changing an individual, a community, or society in general, there will be a place for you within the profession. 

What’s next for you?

Who knows, really? For someone who questioned whether they would be complete Year 12, I never imagined that I would be where I currently am. I do not see this as a bad thing, I will just continue my journey with an open mind and limited expectations. For now, I will continue my role with Charles Sturt University and further my knowledge through my Masters of Social Work. 

Inspired to make a difference in your community? Your path to a more fulfilling career starts with a course in Social Work - enquire today and help make a better tomorrow.

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