Vittorio for National President AASW : voting opens September 10th

It is election time! I have put together a short video slide show which you can see on my youtube channel. It has a little of my backstory: the people who influenced and inspired me; and the development of my values.


campaign poster

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Podcast episode 27: supervision, ethics and social justice- a conversation with supervisor and consultant, Deanne Dale

In this episode I talk with Deanne Dale about trends in clinical supervision and her supervision practice.podcts whit text psd

In a lengthy career Deanne has worked as a frontline clinician, team leader, senior manager, consultant and educator in a range of NSW government and non-government organisations that respond to inter-personal violence, including child protection, sexual assault, domestic violence and workplace abuse.

Over the past 20 years Deanne has increasingly focussed on providing clinical supervision to social workers and other allied health professionals working in inter-personal violence services.

She now runs an independent practice ‘Social Work Wise’ offering clinical supervision to frontline workers as well as management coaching, training, policy consultancy and leadership mentoring. While Deanne has worked within current evidence based theoretical frameworks she is most interested in approaches that stay close to the foundational ethics of social work, including social justice ‘doing’, and respect for the inherent integrity and worth of each person. Deanne also does some teaching in Social Work Bachelors and Masters qualifying courses at a range of universities in NSW- as well as supervising students in field education.

Deanne’s approach to supervision, mentoring and coaching is based on developing a safe space in which to critically reflect on practice challenges and struggles. While she offers encouragement and support to assist workers to develop preferred professional identities, she does not shy away from candid, challenging and thought-provoking conversations. She is aware that each relationship is unique- and so tailors her style to her client’s needs, preferences, hopes and intentions.

Our conversation touches on Deanne’s social work career and her preferred approaches to supervision. We discuss her commitment to response based practice and the inspiration she find in the work of Vikki Reynolds. We also talk about the importance of separating clinical supervision from operational management and- importantly- how this relates to the discourse about burnout. Too often the talk around burnout involves the social worker being blamed for not looking after themselves -or for allowing a client’s distress to overwhelm them.

Deanne’s preferred approach is one of worker solidarity with a collective ethic of social justice. We need to connect with our communities for spiritual sustenance and our shared hopes for a fairer world.


Deanne provided the following links which will be of interest to listeners.

Response based practice: (Allan Wade, Linda Coates, Cathy Richardson)  (Vikki Reynolds)  (Domestic Violence Service management)


Narrative Therapy

and Johnella Bird

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Podcast episode 26: identity, inequality and LGBT politics- a conversation with social worker and LGBT rights leader Jack Whitney

podcts whit text psdIn this episode I talk with Jack Whitney, an emerging social work leader, and current convenor of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.
Jack graduated with first class honours from the University of Sydney in 2018. Whilst studying he was also elected onto the University of Sydney Union Board.
Since graduating, Jack has worked in Health, and currently for a progressive policy think tank.
In our conversation we explore the intersection of the personal and the political in gay politics.
Jack also reflects on the challenges of coming out in year eleven of high school, its impact on friends and family, and his subsequent evolution as a Labor Party activist.
We discuss the current campaign focus of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby – opposing the Religious Discrimination Bill in its current form. As Jack states on the Lobby website- There is no such thing as equality – but with exceptions… This Coalition Government cannot be trusted to introduce fair, measured and equal laws that protect LGBTI people, women, people with disability, and faith-based communities.”
We also discuss the poor mental health of the LGBTIQ community. Since we recorded the conversation Jack has had a heartfelt piece published in the Sydney Morning Herald, reflecting on the suicide of Will Gavin, the president of the disendorsed University of Queensland Liberal-National Club. He wrote in part,

I am a politically motivated – and progressive – gay man. There is little that Gavin and I would have agreed on. But his death gives us reason to pause. How do we create a civil society in which different opinions can co-exist? This is a question for the LGBT community as much as it is for broader society.

Perhaps the simple answer is the embrace of diversity. That includes gay people who happen to be conservative. If Gavin’s critics perceived him as intolerant, they should have confronted that with reason, not further intolerance, not fire with fire. The alienating and shaming of anyone isn’t helpful. 

Jack’s book recommendations are Matthew Todd’s Straight Jacket: How to Be Gay and Happy, Alan Downs’, The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World, and Rutger Bregman’s, Utopia for Realists: And How We Can Get There.

If you would like to make a donation to the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) or contact Jack, you can find the details on the GLRL website.

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Podcast episode 25: from female naval commander to mental health social worker- a conversation with Suzanne Smith

podcts whit text psdFrom humble beginnings in the Royal Australian Navy, Suzanne Smith rose to a number of Naval Base leadership roles, being the Commanding Officer of HMAS Harman,  the Commanding Officer of HMAS Penguin, and Officer in Charge of the Royal Australian Naval College, succeeding in an era when discrimination against women was rife, both in the community and in the armed forces.

She then went on to be a senior public servant in Defence, ending her public service career as the Director of National Programs, delivering the National Family Support Service for Defence.

But Suzanne had always harboured the ambition to be a social worker- and she did just that- studying part time and also completing a masters of counselling and psychotherapy to complement her social work degree

Suzanne is now an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, counsellor and trained teacher in Mindfulness and Self-Compassion. She specialises in the integration of mindfulness approaches to the treatment of trauma, PTSD, anxiety and depression.

Our conversation covers her Navy career, her thoughts about leadership and her passion for social work and psychotherapy.

I asked Suzanne for some book recommendations- and those are as follows;

‘Your Life Matters’ by Petrea King,

‘An Intelligent Life: A Practical Guide to Relationships, Intimacy and Self-Esteem’ by Julian Short,

‘An Authentic Life’ by Caroline Jones ‘Healing the Heart and Mind With Mindfulness’ by Malcolm Huxter,

‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’ by Thich Nhat Hahn,

‘Present Moment Wonderful Moment’ by Thich Nhat Hahn,

‘Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Love, Parent and Lead’ by Brene Brown,

‘Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life’ by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles,

‘The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living’ by the Dalai Lama.

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Podcast episode 24: working with interpreters – a conversation with researcher and anthropologist, Hilde Fiva Buzungu

podcts whit text psdHilde Fiva Buzungu is both an anthropologist and an interpreter.  She is currently in Australia as a visiting PhD Research Fellow from Norway, writing up her research on social work with families where one or both parents have limited proficiency in the Norwegian language.

As a certified interpreter (Norwegian/English), Hilde brings a rich understanding to exploring the intersection between justice, migration, child welfare, social welfare, and intergenerational trauma and abuse.

Hilde was previously Senior Advisor at the Oslo University Hospital Interpreting Unit. This covered quality assurance of health care interpreting, research and development, recruitment and assessment of interpreters, interpreter ethics, and continuing professional development.

Her research findings were remarkable. In the Norwegian social welfare agencies working with migrant families, social workers went out of their way not to use interpreters. A key reason was often the inadequate quality, both in terms of language skills and interpreting skills on the part of the interpreter. This gave the majority of the social workers a deep, empirically founded distrust in the interpreting profession, and in the concept of interpreting as a solution in the face of language gaps. The Norwegian authorities do however require a higher quality of interpreter services in the areas of justice and health care.

Hilde and I talk about the implications of these findings, and what can be learnt from them.

Our conversation turns to exploring the narrow perspective of dominant monolingual cultures, the need for an interpreting profession, and the need for helping professionals to reflect the cultural diversity of their communities and their clients.

I also learn a little bit about the Sami, the indigenous peoples of Norway, particularly in relation to their need for good interpreter services and their struggles to avoid cultural genocide.

This conversation deepened my understanding of the ethical complexities, both for interpreters and social workers, of working in this space.

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Working in the pre-creative space: a conversation with legendary social worker, Norma Tracey

podcts whit text psdSocial worker Norma Tracey is 80 years old and still working.

She is an important part of the history of hospital social work in Australia- but has also done much more. Her remarkable career began in 1960 as a Family Social Worker at the Australian Red Cross. From 1968 to 1977 she worked at the Institute of Child Health and the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in Sydney

Her achievements included,

  • publishing one of the first Australian social work papers on child abuse
  • setting up special programs for failure to thrive infants
  • establishing a hospital interpreter service
  • running groups for depressed mothers with babies who with feeding or sleeping problems, and
  • establishing the first multidisciplinary teams in many areas of the Children’s Hospital.

In 1978 she went into private practice, and for 30 years, was a senior member of the New South Wales Institute of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. She became one of their main lecturers in the training and supervision.

Norma has a lengthy list of publications related to working with trauma, and working psychoanalytically with parents and children.

In 2008, she co-founded Gunawirra, a not-for-profit organization made up of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal professionals. Gunawirra works with children aged 0 to 5 in 43 preschools in NSW, and runs the Aboriginal Young Families Centre in inner city Sydney.

Psychoanalytic theory and Aboriginal ways of working guide their programs. These programs pay special attention to early trauma in infancy and childhood, as well as severe adult trauma, where often, emotion can’t be experienced, pain can’t be suffered, and meaning is lost. Psychotherapy and group therapy offered to parents recognises the links between cultural destruction, the intergenerational cycle of trauma and individual pathology.

In pre-school programs, Aboriginal artists work alongside professional art therapists in helping children connect with their Indigenous culture, traditions, and ‘dreamtime stories’.

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The risks of falling in love: reflections on vicarious trauma- a guest blogpost by Kristin Holzapfel

Kristen Holzapfel is a long-term Canberra resident and author of“Selfless: a social worker’s own story of trauma and recovery” (available at
I had a podcast conversation with Kristen earlier in the year, and it’s a pleasure to host this piece on my blog.

In addition to being a Social Worker, she has a Diploma in Human Resource Management and a Graduate Diploma in Professional Writing.

One of the insidious effects of Vicarious Trauma is a growing, sickening feeling that the world is an unsafe place.

This change in world view is reinforced by the stories you hear every day from the survivors of crime and trauma who struggle to regain their footing after experiencing horrendous physical and emotional injuries. Hearing these stories every day, it’s hard not to feel that the world is overpopulated with dangerous criminals who apparently lurk around every corner.

In 2006, I’d been a child protection officer for three years and, throughout every one of those 1095 days, I worked hard to slough off the hardened, cynical coating that threatened to encase me.

Yes, I experienced Vicarious Trauma. In my case, this manifested as a serious eating disorder, for which I was hospitalised in 2009. It would be years, however, before I fully realised the extent of how the Trauma would impact on my relationships with others.

In 2010, I was thirty-three and had resigned from child protection services. Now, I was a social worker in a small team analysing cases of completed suicide from a nominated community group. I looked for anything that may have increased or reduced the risk for these people and whether there were any common triggers. What could we learn from these deaths?

Considering the range of data before me, I realised that almost every single person in this study who had completed suicide had been affected by a recent relationship breakdown. The most common contributing factor in all the deaths was a broken heart.

Barely a year into my recovery, it was understandable that such emotive research had the potential to de-rail me. But I was full of bravado and a commitment to paying my bills and getting on with life. Underneath the bravado, I was searching for evidence to support my view that, for everyone’s safety, it would be best to lock myself away from the world.

In my traumatised mindset, I found plenty of evidence. As a child protection worker, I’d spent years listening to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault tell me about the full impact of their experiences. Reflecting on their horrific stories (and the research right in front of me), it was easy to believe that falling in love was indeed a dangerous proposition.

So, I quit love. For the next seven years, I remained single and concentrated on me and my own recovery.

After two, three or four years, I could have shaken myself awake and reminded myself that some risks are worth taking. But, then my anxieties would surge and I’d think about…

those horrific client stories.

the possible rejection.

the flashing red lights that went off in my head, shouting “Danger! Risk! Go Back The Other Way!”

And I continued to choose the safe option.

By the end of 2017, I’d have loved to share my life with someone, but had been out of the dating game for so long I’d resigned myself to the single life. There was (is) nothing wrong with being single. It was (is) a good life. My physical and mental health was stable and I was enjoying the freedom of living my come-and-go lifestyle. My confidence was building and, for the first time in a long time, the future was beginning to feel rosy.

That’s when I met a boy and we – oops – began dating. Still believing myself to be a romantic liability, I blundered my way through the early months of our relationship. I made him do all the work (sorry, babe!) and struggled to believe that someone could want to be with me, just as I am.

But he does.

I’m immensely grateful for the time I spent as a single person.

I’m immensely grateful to be in love with an amazing person.

I’m immensely grateful for the career that has provided me with opportunities to grow into a bigger and better person.

I’m immensely grateful to live in a wonderful world populated by amazing and beautifully complex human beings.

It’s all been worth it.




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Podcast episode 22: Supervision: nourishing and flourishing your professional self- a conversation with social workers, Pam Cohen and Marie Heydon

podcts whit text psdThe topic of this podcast is supervision and how we can do it better. I talk with two expert educators in the field, Pam Cohen and Marie Heydon.

Pam Cohen was the senior staff supervisor at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney for many years, and now has a private practice at St Vincent’s Clinic, mainly with cardiac and pulmonary patients.

In addition to her clinical work, Pam is an expert in group work and the clinical supervision of Allied Health professionals.  She has taught courses in clinical supervision, group work and the psychosocial aspects of cardiac disease all over Australia.

Marie Heydon has extensive experience as a clinician, supervisor and educator in the health sector, including running individual and group supervision for staff and students. Marie currently works as a senior workforce development consultant in health. She also does consultancy work as an Authorised Visitor for the NSW Trustee and Guardian.

Together, Pam and Marie regularly present an in depth 4-day course on supervision for social workers, to further develop the supervision practice of participants. The course was originally devised by the renowned Sheila Truswell and Claire Bundey in the late 80’s – and through their  succession planning, continues to this day.

Our conversation explores the key issues covered in their course, including,

  • What we mean by the term supervision
  • Working with the power dynamics and power differentials in the supervisory relationship
  • What the research tells us about the effectiveness of supervision
  • Why supervision may be an antidote or preventative for burnout
  • Working with differing learning styles
  • How to give feedback that is both challenging and constructive


  • How to improve the capacity for reflexive and reflective practice.
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Podcast episode 21: hope, politics and power in palliative care: a conversation with social worker, Julianne Whyte

podcts whit text psdMy guest on this podcast has lived most of her adult life in a small country town. But it wasn’t the life her parents had mapped out for her.

She was born into a prominent, conservative, Irish-Italian Catholic family in Melbourne. As the only daughter, she was expected to live close to her family – and, if a career outside family life was in prospect, it would ideally be in teaching or nursing.

This is the story of how Julianne ended up a long way from home: changed her career in midlife and became a powerful advocate, social worker and researcher in the field of palliative care.

She recounts how she came to establish a foundation to research, develop and fund rural end of life projects: Projects that truly delivered client and carer orientated, psychosocial, services.

As social workers we know that end of life care is much more than adequate pain relief, or when to withdraw active treatment- and it is also much more than a bucket list. It’s about meaning, values, and what it is to live a good life.

And so Julianne and I talk about the direction of palliative care research, the meaning of hope, professional politics and professional power in health care.

She describes her efforts to map out the best wholistic models of care and her continuing struggles against narrow more medicalised models of care.

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Podcast episode 20: vicarious trauma, mental illness and burnout on the frontlines of social work- a conversation with social worker, Kristen Holzapfel

podcts whit text psdMy guest on this podcast is Kristen Holzapfel, and the subject of our conversation is a book she wrote entitled Selfless.
It is a story of Kristen’s work on the frontlines of social work- particularly in child protection.

After several years in a relentlessly fast paced environment she developed symptoms of vicarious trauma, which quickly led to the development of anorexia nervosa.
Kristen did her social work degree at ACU in Canberra, and one of her teachers and former Head of the School of Social Work, Kandie Allen-Kelly wrote the foreword to Kristen’s book.
In the foreword Kandie writes,

I met Kristen when she was a twenty-three-year-old social work student, she struck me as bright, lovely, idealistic, optimistic, warm, friendly and kind young woman… the quality of her writing and the honesty of her reflections, drew me into a world where I felt afraid, alone and angry that the profession had so badly let down one of our own…. Front line agencies not only deal with the toughest of societal issues and the worst cases of poverty abuse and violence. They are also subjected to high media scrutiny and repeated reviews and enquiries, all of which contribute to high levels of burnout, staff turnover and repeated failure to provide appropriate levels of professional supervision…
Selfless takes us in and out of Kristen’s recovery, reminding us that it is not a linear process, but one where survivors often revisit stresses and automatic behaviours which lead to downward spirals, and then back to new or different recovery paths. We come to understand or be reminded that vicarious trauma is “a process of change resulting from empathic engagement with trauma survivors” (Perlman 1999) and that shame – that deep sense of worthlessness and inadequacy – is deeply rooted within the development of such trauma. Kristen reminds us that vicarious trauma can be processed and worked through, but if we add another layer of stress (like workplace bullying or administrative ignorance) before it has been processed, psychological outcomes can become very shaky indeed.

For listeners who want to know more, or buy Kristen’s book, you can go to her website.

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