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AASW (Southern Queensland) is In the Spotlight

by PeakCare Qld on 10th August 2016

Home -> Articles -> 2016 -> August -> AASW (Southern Queensland) is In the Spotlight

The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) is the key professional body representing approximately 10,000 social workers throughout Australia. Social work is the profession noted for its commitment to social justice, the enhancement of quality of life and the development of the full potential of each individual, family, group and community in society. Arguably, this professional discipline is most immersed in the areas of knowledge that are essential for quality relationship based and holistic child protection practice. As a result, Social Workers are recognised throughout the world as a core professional group in child protection policy, management and practice.

AASW (Southern Queensland) represents over 1,800 members. They service Social Workers from the southern border north to Rockhampton. The Branch is managed by a voluntary Branch Management Committee (BMC) elected by the membership. It is staffed by Branch Manager Mere Vitale and Administration Officer Rachel Austin. Branch Manager Mere Vitale is clear about the capacity of the Southern Queensland AASW, its vitality and that of its members: “People are often surprised to learn that the branch sits in a sub-basement level of a house in residential Paddington with 1.5 full time equivalent staff and a small core of volunteers who deliver much of the branch’s output. As a vibrant branch representing a diverse profession and working in communities with complex needs, our vision will invariably exceed our resources. I’m perpetually impressed by the willingness of busy social work professionals to lend their time and wisdom to the branch so we can maximise the impact we have. We’ve kicked some significant goals in the recent past, particularly in terms of our expanded practice group networks and positioning the Association to be a sought after voice in state level Government Inquiries. It’s often an eleventh hour slog for staff and volunteers to meet these opportunities but we’re really starting to see the pay-offs and that’s really rewarding.”

AASW (Southern Queensland) has various practice groups operating that work on key issues pertaining to social work. The AASW/PeakCare Child Protection Practitioners’ Group is one example amongst nine other groups. Membership consists of social workers, human services and social science practitioners who are employed in government, non-government and private services who work with children and families who have involvement with the continuum of child protection and family support services. This includes employees of government, non-government and for profit organisations as well as professionals in private practice.

The purpose of the practice group is to provide a forum for discussing child protection policy and practice from a social work/social sciences and human services perspective. A key objective is to provide advice to AASW and PeakCare about trends, issues, needs and solutions from practice, policy and systemic perspectives relevant to child protection and child and family practice in government, non-government organisations or private practice.

Other practice groups include: the Clinical and Mental Health Practice Group, the Private Practitioners’ Practice Group, the Disability Practice Group, the Gold Coast Social Worker’s Practice Group, the Gympie Social Work Practice Group, the Toowoomba Social Work Practice Group, the Bundaberg Social Work Practice Group and the Student and New Graduate Network.

These groups provide Social Workers and practitioners with opportunities to connect with their social work peers which is particularly important to counter professional isolation. They also develop practice skills and knowledge and the capacity to feed into policy level initiatives undertaken by the branch. One case in point is the significant work the Child Protection Practice Group achieved throughout and following the Carmody Commission of Inquiry. Amongst a suite of recommendations, the group has actively lobbied for more holistic and comprehensive supports for families at the outset of concerns being raised around the capacity of families to stay together safely, the primacy of children and young people’s voices across all stages of the child protection process and meaningful family contact being entrenched in case plans. The richness in practice group submissions lay both in the inherent expertise of the contributors and in the group’s ability to bring the broader principles and concepts to a practice level using case studies to illustrate the real-life implications of legislation and policy.

On the 25th and 26th November, 2016, the AASW North and South Queensland branches will be joining together to offer a Social Work Conference pitched to professionals at a local, state, national and international level. This conference is focused on the profession of Social Work, the communities involved and the challenges workers face in achieving social justice.

In an event that expects to bring together the largest gathering of social work professionals this year, the program aims to attract clinicians, academics, research and policy makers and students whilst providing a broad range of engaging presentations, panel discussion and networking opportunities. The theme of the conference is: Doing the Ordinary and Extraordinary - Conquering challenges and positioning the profession for the future.

The key sub-themes to be discussed throughout the conference program include:

  • Practice based Skills and Knowledge

  • Social Justice and Advocacy

  • Research and Evaluation

  • Social Work Education

A keynote speaker at the conference is Dr Munjed Al Muderis. He is an Australian Associate Professor in orthopaedic surgery, author and human rights activist. He is the co-author of Walking Free which captures his extraordinary account of fleeing the brutality of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. His journey includes details of his time spent in a detention centre before being released to pursue his career as a pioneering surgeon.

Mere Vitale is really enthusiastic about this conference: “We’re incredibly excited to be working alongside our North Queensland colleagues to deliver this learning and networking opportunity. With the generosity of our host, the University of Queensland and sponsors such as Slater & Gordon and the Office of the Public Guardian, we’ve been able to set the conference pricing well below market value so it’s much more accessible as a learning experience. We’ve locked in some quality keynotes who I think will challenge and inspire in equal measure and I’m excited about the presentations being submitted for our concurrent sessions. They’re striking a really promising balance of research, policy and practice. Above all else, in a really fraught time of challenge facing our global and local communities, I sense the Conference will be a much needed platform to engage in discussions about how the profession can effectively impact positive change, while taking pause to celebrate the ‘wins’ we’re already involved in.”

Join AASW QLD on their Branch Facebook page to keep up to date with the latest news, events and opportunities to connect with local professionals.

For more information, go to: AASW/QLD.

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