Jordina Quain’s career aspirations have taken some twists and turns.
As a performance studies undergraduate, student life was all about the spotlight and the stage. The John Curtin Leadership Academy participant was so passionate about performance, she planned to become a high school drama teacher, however her decision to take an elective unit in sexology in her second year of study set her on a uniquely different path.
Studying sexology, which is offered by the School of Public Health, was a “life changing experience” for Jordina, who currently works at the Youth Affairs Council of WA (YACWA) as a sexual health and blood borne virus peer educator, and is now aiming to be a sexuality and relationships educator. She believes the most intriguing aspect of her elective unit was the breadth of its content.
“I think the most interesting thing about sexology is that it’s not all about sex. Although it is in the title, our course is all about people. It encompasses history, psychology, arts, media, education, health, research, science, counselling, criminology and more, making it arguably the most diverse subject, as my tutor Dr Sam Winter claims. It’s a subject that revolves around acceptance, celebration and diversity,” she said.
“Sexology taught me to value and understand people for all that they are, and not to shy away from things that make other people uncomfortable. It was a subject that challenged a lot of things I thought I knew, and blew my mind with different perspectives and information every week. My teacher, Dr Lorel Mayberry, was so passionate, engaging and inspirational that my career path was changed from there.”
Jordina’s teacher, Dr Mayberry, is the president of not-for-profit organisation, Borderless Friendship Foundation (BFF), and Jordina has had the opportunity to volunteer with the foundation and work with the hill tribe children in northern Thailand, an experience she found enlightening and humbling.
“I was travelling with Lorel and Pramote (BFF President) to all of the hostels supported by BFF, which involved me staying in villages, playing games and having fun with lots of beautiful kids, and helping them practise their English… Nobody has the new brands or the latest technology but what they do have is each other. The value of community I saw over there humbled me immensely. A saying of Pramote’s is ‘not rich in money, but rich in love’, and that is just so true,” Jordina said.
“The hill tribe children love school. They know it is such a privilege for them to go, as many do not, and they are ready early for school, pristinely look after their uniforms and ask for extra English lessons on the weekends. The children live in hostels, with up to 50 kids, and they all help out, play their part and you never hear them complain, they just do their jobs and homework without a fuss… I’ve taken away so many lessons … that we really don’t need much in life, except human connection, and that we can always do a lot more together than we ever can alone.”
The relentless poverty, and limited available resources in Thailand, meant that Jordina could not assist all the people who needed help, an experience she found troubling and difficult to reconcile.
“The most challenging thing was probably seeing a lot of poverty-stricken people, and knowing that you can only do so much to help. It’s one of those situations where the more you look the more you find, and that can get quite overwhelming… However, you have to hold faith that your work will cause ripples and help change the next generations,” she said.
Despite her change in career direction, Jordina has not abandoned her love for treading the boards and, as the 2017 recipient of the Soroptimist Riverside Bursary, she has been able to combine her love of theatre with her passion for sexuality and relationships education.
With the support of the bursary, Jordina has created a unique mindful drama program, Act Up!, with fellow Sexology student Christina Self, through Christina’s business Red Ginger Services. The program has been run at the Mirrabooka Education Support Centre (ESC), and covers topics such as social media, cyber safety, sexting, cyberbullying, drugs and alcohol, positive mental health, resilience and respectful relationships. The students are currently working on a program-related performance for their graduation ceremony at the end of the year.
“I was really nervous at first as to how the students would react, as this was my first proper professional teaching experience, the first time I’d taught children with intellectual disabilities and the first time implementing a program I co-wrote, however the program has been such a success,” Jordina said.
“Our students are just gorgeous, and have been so excited about drama since the first week I came! Teachers have mentioned to us that they weren’t sure if the kids would like it, but now they always ask when they are going to have drama. This is the best thing for us, teaching to kids who are engaged and want to learn makes all the difference, and also the fact that they are just the best helps too.”
Not only do the students enjoy the program, statistics from weekly evaluations indicate 83 per cent of participants believe it will help them in real life situations, and 94 per cent believe they have learned something useful. Jordina also delivered a presentation about the program at a symposium about sexual health and disability, which was very well received.
While Jordina is involved with a dizzying array of projects, as well as managing a hefty postgraduate study load, creating positive change through education is a recurring theme in all her work, in Australia and globally.
“I’m impacted to keep working towards positive social change for our communities locally and globally. Sexuality and relationships education may seem like an odd way to do that for some people but in Thailand, where children don’t have access to education, can’t afford it or simply aren’t encouraged to go, they fall into child labour, young marriages, pregnancy, poverty and/or sex work,” she said.
“While most people think that being a ‘sex ed’ teacher means a lot of condoms on bananas, it’s a much more holistic these days with discussions around consent, gender, protective behaviours, respectful relationships, and sexuality for example. With the stats in Australia regarding intimate partner violence and child sexual abuse, the biggest way we can fight back is through prevention and education, and that’s ultimately why I started studying post grad sexology.”