Australian social work is teetering on a precarious tsunami of systemic change. We can choose to ride the crest of change, invigorating our profession as we do so, or get dumped and swamped in a sea of passivity. We have challenges ahead, but if we are to ride this wave, doing so requires an AASW that can lead us forward and support us. I think we are unprepared for this challenge.
Many social workers, members and non-members of the AASW are struggling to find a job, earn a decent living, be recognised as a professional of value or even for that matter identify as being a social worker. Some are leaving the profession, whilst students struggle to find decent placements. New graduates have increasing difficulty finding work. Those entering the private sector may find themselves unprepared and overwhelmed, coping in a free market that does not always appreciate social work knowledge and skills.
I make these statements from my perspective as a social worker in the field who is witnessing all the above; someone who is deeply committed to social work. I can truly say that I have never been more concerned, but at the same time more hopeful about our future.
My views are based on having spent the last 37 years working at the pointy end of service provision, firstly in the public health sector, and for the last 11 years running my own business in the private domain. I have advocated strongly for social workers over many years, but it seems that as a mere member my voice is rarely heard. I want this to change for all social workers and by being on the National Board I am determined to make that happen.
So how do I intend to do this? Certainly not by myself. The #Members First team, to which I am aligned, have a vision for the way forward, and it involves YOU. The only way our profession can become strong again is if you and every member gains more value from AASW membership.
These are some of our ideas.
- We need to make the AASW very relevant and accessible to all social workers. Creating the infrastructure to give you the opportunity to say what YOU want from this association must be a top priority. You need to be heard. Assessing your needs will be where we begin.
- A focus on raising the profile and status of social work is a high priority. This is multifactorial. After talking to many members, these are some of the ideas we have heard repeatedly.
- A targeted national marketing strategy & campaign to help employers and the general community know what we do and why they need US.
- Social work research & development of innovative practice across all sectors to be strongly supported & linked closely to our universities. Currently there is a disconnect.
- Credentialing of specialist practice to differentiate our expertise in both the free market and public sector enabling clear role differentiation & strong professional identity.
- Stronger resourcing of advocacy functions of the AASW to look out for social work interests.
- Let’s harness the skills/talents/interests of our members for the benefit of both members and our clients.
- Make greater use of technology to bring practice/interest groups together linking & creating communities to enable support, advocacy and a whole lot more.
- Provide a mentoring system to new graduates & those transitioning into new sectors.
- Ensure transparency of how members fees are spent.
- Develop a CPD system that is relevant, enables career development and is attuned to industry needs.
Although I have been strongly advocating for private social workers over many years my support is for all social workers as together we face the same challenges and need to be united.
Social workers are such a passionate group. Our voice for social justice is strong and needs to remain so. Our world needs a future generation of social workers that can lead the way however before we can do this we need to save ourselves.
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