AASW Election 2016: the case for change

Those of you who read my previous post analyzing the progress of the AASW strategic plan will see that I am less than impressed with how we are travelling.

The current AASW Board has done much that is praiseworthy, including building financial reserves, developing SWOT, recruiting student members with a low cost introductory fee, promoting contemporary advanced practice via the revamped National Bulletin, as well as strong social justice advocacy particularly around asylum seekers

And yet there is a lot missing, both in how things could and should be done, as well as what needs to be achieved.

Beginning with how, there is no easy way for members who share interests to have an online conversation. Consequently some members have set up closed Facebook groups for this purpose. See for example Australian Social Work Changemakers https://www.facebook.com/groups/1486334714924119/

The AASW should be offering this kind of facility to all members on the AASW website.

Related to this deficit, are the flawed consultative processes within the AASW. Submissions are not routinely published, nor are there online forums where members can critically engage with each other around submissions, be they policy papers or reviews. The recent constitutional and governance changes and the ASWEAS review are cases in point.

Segments of members that are looking for a stronger voice within the AASW (eg, students and private practitioners) are being dealt with in silos; again because there are no forums where the rest of us can engage in the conversation.

The Board changed the voting system for AASW elections last year from first past the post to preferential, and this year promptly changed it back again. The membership was not consulted about either change. Worse –the preferential system is generally acknowledged as being fairer, through honoring diversity and minority opinion.

This is the road to a more disengaged and passive membership.

Turning to the what- a key element of the AASW vision is collaborative relationships with educational institutions, industry, government, client associations and the community.

This is an area of serious concern. We need to see a strong body of ringing endorsements and partnerships around shared concerns with any and all of these groups. So lets get serious. We must:

  • Start self-regulating now, with or without government subsidy. Include the counseling associations as well as NASRHP under the self help umbrella,
  • Reassess our futile attempts to gain registration through COAG, and be straight with the membership about the chances of ever achieving registration
  • target inequality in our social justice campaigns and the toxic effects of unfettered free markets on the poor, via pay day lending and the deregulation of gambling and alcohol sales,
  • do our bit for the global environment by making sure that the AASW divests any assets it may have in fossil fuels
  • Support a treaty for our first peoples
  • Lead a national summit of educators, employers, professional associations and community groups in our sector to develop an integrated vision of how to support and maintain quality social care

And if we want to improve internal membership engagement we should:

  • implement a national voluntary and comprehensive mentorship program available to all members. This would give our junior and student members access to the rich knowledge and wisdom of our older members,
  • Share power and responsibility with the Branches. This can be done through a funding model that funds programs and areas of responsibility, rather than our outdated capitation model.

There is so much to be done!

The incumbent candidates for the Board are resting on their track records and offering more of the same!

If you agree with my analysis -vote for the independent candidates in this election- including Marie-Claire Cheron Sauer, Jeanne Loraine and Mark Wilder.

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