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Making a community-wide difference

  • morgan

As a Health Promoter with the Problem Gambling Foundation and a qualified youth worker, Morgan-Jean Butler is able to put the equity and social justice skills they studied into practice.

Morgan moved to Auckland from Hamilton eight years ago, straight out of high school. They knew they wanted to study something community-based, and landed on Unitec’s six-month Community certificate (now called Social Work and Community Studies).

“My mum worked with people impacted by abuse, and my nan also worked in the community. It was something I’d been around all my life, so I thought ‘why not give it a go?’ I saw the Community certificate course at Unitec and liked that it was broken up into different aspects of community work. As a young person just out of school I wanted that variety - I didn’t know yet exactly what I wanted to do.”

Although the course was only six-months long, Morgan says their time at Unitec set them on a good path for their career, and also gave them the confidence to be open about their identity.

“I was 18 years old, Maori and queer, in a totally new city. It was daunting! But I felt so supported at Unitec. One of my lecturers in particular was such a mentor to me. They talked openly about their life and identity, which gave me the courage to also be open about my own.

“I was based at Unitec’s Henderson campus, which I enjoyed. I love West Auckland, and the campus was smaller, so you feel a real sense of community. Everyone knew one another, classes were easy to find, and the tutors and lecturers were really accessible.”

After finishing the course, Morgan knew they wanted to get into youth work, so studied to become a qualified youth worker and found a job at RainbowYOUTH - an organisation that provides support and advocacy for young queer, gender diverse and intersex people.

Making a difference

“RainbowYOUTH is such a great organisation. I worked one-on-one with young people who were struggling and I really enjoyed feeling like I could make a difference in their lives. I then went on to work at VOYCE, a service that advocates for children in care, before moving to a Student Support role at Auckland University.”

With some real-world experience under their belt, Morgan decided they wanted to move away from casework and into a wider community-based role - securing their current role at PGF (Problem Gambling Foundation).

“In 2019, I moved to Wellington to become a Health Promoter with PGF. I work with communities to acknowledge gambling harm, partner with NGOs and Government organisations whose clients have gambling issues and hold presentations and workshops to talk about gambling harm.

“Because of my background and qualifications as a youth worker, I also work with young people and rainbow kids who are affected by gambling. For them, gambling is often more about gaming - spending all their money buying ‘loot boxes’ or gaming accessories online.”

Morgan feels their own personal journey enables them to better connect with people who are feeling marginalised.

“I love the idea of peer-to-peer support, and my own experiences have given me the opportunity to level with people - not just those from the rainbow community, but from other minority groups. I find I can engage with them more easily and really understand what they are experiencing.

“What I really love about my job is being able to make a difference - not just one-on-one but at a community level. I especially love seeing young people who were the ones needing support, going on to become the leaders. Some of the youth I’ve worked with have gone on to absolutely flourish outside of the system. It’s a really rewarding experience.”

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