Social justice advocate Nicholas Steepe pays it forward

Nicholas Steepe pictured in meeting.

Nicholas Steepe doesn’t waste a minute of any day. Powered by unlimited energy and a constant appetite for social justice, he is making a positive difference in this world – and the 24-year-old is in for the long haul.

Nic is charismatic, owns an impressively colourful collection of bow ties and has a wealth of compassion. He is using his Charles Sturt University Bachelor of Social Work as the foundation for a career – and his life’s calling.

“I wanted to study social work to help people – as clichéd as that might sound. Based on my experiences with mental health, identity issues, bullying and family issues, I saw an opportunity to help others. Just as others had helped me throughout my journey.”

Finding his way with Charles Sturt University

Studying at Dubbo College Senior Campus, Nicholas was the first in his immediate family to complete Year 12, but he had no real desire to embark upon tertiary studies. He admits taking the long way round to tertiary education before he hit his stride.

“With the support of Miss Hudson, my society and culture teacher, I enrolled in a co-enrolment course with TAFE and Charles Sturt University in Dubbo. Because I wasn’t sure about studying, social work provided me with different pathways and options such as child protection, mental health, advocacy and community development. That was beneficial because my mind was not completely set on a path.

“I completed a Certificate IV in Community Services and then a Diploma of Community Services before completing the last two years of the Bachelor of Social Work at Charles Sturt University. It still took the same amount of time, but I came out with a diploma as well through the pathways course.”

With the bachelor’s degree under his belt, Nicholas soon found himself heading back to Charles Sturt – to test the waters.

“To test my capabilities to manage study, full-time work and other extracurricular activities, I enrolled in a Graduate Certificate in Project Management. After that I felt I could handle the part-time study load. So, in 2018, I began my Charles Sturt University Master of Social Work.”

Maintaining the momentum for social justice

Social work appealed to Nicholas because he could make real change – helping one person or a whole community – and encourage acceptance and inclusion.

“Working in this field offered an opportunity to change an individual, a community or society in general. And, I am also drawn to the values of social work – professional integrity, respect for persons and social justice.”

Thanks to some incredible mentors, Nicholas knows the quest for social justice is an ongoing endeavour. One he happily pursues in every sphere of his life.

“The mentor tip that resonated with me was a CJ Thomas quote: ‘Change starts small. It is incremental and we, as advocates of social justice, should ensure the momentum continues.’”

What does a world worth living in look like for Nic?

“The answer is social justice. It is at my very core. It’s what drives me professionally and personally. Advocating for those who don’t have an equitable standing. It’s about ensuring that everyone is respected and accepted as an individual.

“But we have to recognise the inequalities in the world and try to address them.

“The fundamental way to begin to address inequality is to be authentic and true to yourself. People can’t pick you apart if you are. Feeling included is about that sense of connection you have with the community. It took me a little bit to found, but it was always there.”

Clearly a man of action, Nicholas continues to chip away at inequity and discrimination, and break down stereotypes. He works towards a world where “people treat others with open-mindedness, empathy and understanding by removing their assumptions and harmful attitudes”.

How Charles Sturt University is helping Nicholas create a world worth living in

That’s why Nicholas and Charles Sturt University are a good fit. Nicholas is the university’s equity and diversity project manager and works to create an equitable environment that enhances diversity.

“Creating a world worth living in takes a very long time and we all play a part in making it happen. So keep fighting for what you believe in. In the meantime, we have to look at the positives. What’s changed and how far we have come, as opposed to how far we have to go.

“What we do as individuals, within our communities, in our personal and professional lives, does make a difference to somebody. It will have a ripple effect. I think the small changes have the biggest impact. Take pride in the small steps we are taking.

“I get to make a difference in what I do and what I do makes a difference.

“Every day is different, and that’s what I love about it. I am responsible for the development, management and completion of equity and diversity projects and the delivery of equity and diversity initiatives and programs.

“As an alumnus and current student of Charles Sturt University, I love working here because of the positive impact the university has on the communities where the campuses are located. The values of Charles Sturt are also aligned with my own: impactful, inspiring, insightful and inclusive.”

Nicholas seizes the day and pays it forward

Though juggling work with study, Nicholas’ belief in paying it forward means he volunteers with organisations like The Pinnacle Foundation.

The foundation is a national charity that provides scholarships and mentorships to disadvantaged and/or marginalised LGBTIQA+ people.

“I volunteer and sit on the management committee as their scholar manager. I was lucky to receive a scholarship and mentorship from The Pinnacle Foundation in the last year of my degree. Now, I’m thankful for the opportunity to give back to an organisation that’s contributed significantly to who and where I am today.”

And that’s with his feet firmly planted on the path to improving the world.

“I recently got an email saying that I was on the executive dean’s list [for excellence in study] for my masters and I never thought I’d even finish Year 12. Six years ago I didn’t think I’d be sitting in my own office with my name on the door, achieving what I’ve done. I never would have imagined my life at the moment – it was never in my reality.

“So, we should all believe that we can and will make a positive difference in this world, no matter how big or small. Seize every moment that is offered, use the wealth of experience and knowledge around you, and pay it forward.”

Create a world worth living in

What does a better world look like to you? Does it mean finding a cure for illnesses, improving education, making new discoveries, leading a movement or developing innovative technologies? Or is it about having an impact in your local community and making a difference to the little guys out there? If you’ve ever wanted to make a difference in a career you’re passionate about, you can with us.

Our wide range of courses will give you the skills and industry knowledge so you can be the change you want to see in the world. Follow your heart, get qualified and land a job you’ll love with Charles Sturt University. Let’s get to work!