Spotlight on AJ Williams-Tchen: Social work’s highest honour

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Prominent Aboriginal social worker AJ Williams-Tchen finally had the chance to celebrate being the inaugural Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Social Worker of the Year Award for his innovative social work practice, including educating communities on cultural awareness, trauma-informed approaches, all underpinned by his commitment to Reconciliation.

When the Award was given in November last year, it was during Melbourne’s extended lockdown during the Delta COVID-19 wave. The Award ceremony was held online as part of the 26th Asia-Pacific Regional Social Work Conference 2021 on 13 November 2021.

The Australian Association of Social Workers hosted a celebratory lunch for all winners on Friday, 8 April 2022, where AJ was congratulated in person as it is now safe to do so.

Mr Williams-Tchen said, “Winning this award means that I have been recognised by my peers for the work that I do in mental health, Reconciliation, mentoring and research. I want to be seen as a role model for other Indigenous social workers and I want to use my platform to highlight the issues that Aboriginal people face in terms of health, education and employment.

“For example, Australians need to know that our history is not as far back as it is often seen. The Stolen Generations were not hundreds of years ago, but only acknowledged and apologised for in the last 15 years. There is transgenerational trauma and it still affects people today because the gaps that it causes is in the present.

Mr Williams-Tchen said he wanted to shine a light on true history.

He said, “We need to listen to and bring together people’s lived experiences, understanding true histories and narratives in order to create harmony within families, communities and cultures. Every country has a rich history that involves an Indigenous narrative. We need to hear these narratives, spoken through an Indigenous lens and ensure we create futures where no one is left behind.”

AASW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Board Director Professor Sue Green said, “We are proud to be able to present AJ with the prestigious award of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Social Worker of the Year and to congratulate him in person last Friday.

“He is a most deserving winner as an advocate for the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community and for Indigenous social work. Congratulations AJ, on your initiative, innovation and self-appointed leadership.”

Originally published in First Nations Telegraph.