National Excellence Award Winners

The AASW congratulates our previous National Excellence Awards winners for their outstanding contributions to Social Work.

AASW National Excellence Award Winners 2022

AASW Social Worker of the Year 2022

Mary Jo McVeigh

At the present time Mary Jo continues to operate as the CEO of Cara House and CaraCare. Mary Jo is also a lecturer at the social work department at the University of Sydney, where she specialises in domestic and family violence and death and dying. Mary Jo intends to complete her PhD research in December 2023 and is also currently involved in a nation-wide research project known the DICE project. Mary Jo regularly consults to child protection agencies across Australia and internationally. She provides individual and group supervision to several organisations and develops and facilitates training and workshops across the field of child protection.

AASW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Worker of the Year 2022

Brenda McDermott

Brenda McDermott is a proud Palawa woman from the Manegin Community, Tarkine Nation in Lutruwita (Tasmania). Brenda is currently living on Gunaikurnai Country and is the Senior Aboriginal Engagement Adviser of the Marguk-bulok koolin-ik Aboriginal Outreach, Policy and Strategy Team, Births, Deaths and Marriages and Adoption Services at the Department of Justice and Community Safety of Victoria. Her focus is to advance and represent Aboriginal perspectives in all aspects of life and work; that include truth telling, self-determination, human rights, leadership, and education. Brenda works with the Victorian Aboriginal community to build strong partnerships and is passionate about Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing, cultural safety, social justice and the elimination of racism.

AASW Social Work Student of the Year 2022

Claire Perkins

Claire is a Master of Social Work student at Griffith University and has been an exceptional asset to the Griffith Health Clinics student led social work clinic. She has participated and led numerous client engagements, been proactive in the promoting of the service, showed commitment to LGBTIQAP+ inclusivity, as well as excelling her skills in the multi-disciplinary team (MDT) environment. Claire has taken an active role in being a student leader and participated in growing the MDT team space within the clinic. From this, she has become an instrumental team member in assisting with the development of MDT case conference online modules for new clinic students to access. Claire demonstrated outstanding efforts in the application of social work practice values to achieve effective collaboration and advance the standing of social work in an allied health context.

AASW National Excellence Award Winners 2021

Social Worker of the Year: Mark Silver

Mark Silver MSW has been a social worker in aged care and disability for over 40 years with a keen interest in the use of narrative, reminiscence and stories in his work. He has been co-directing the Swinburne University Wellbeing Clinic for Older Adults for the past 10 years; advocating strongly for a greater presence of mental health professionals, working as a team within age care settings as well as for improved practicum training programs for students and practitioners alike. He has also recognised the importance of developing intergenerational programs which foster better relationships, communication and understanding between the generations.

Mark’s idea to restart a National AASW Social Work in Aged Care special interest group is gaining support; as the need for networking and collaboration is becoming more and more important. Mark is always looking for ways of including social work students and has recently proposed (and has secured via RMIT), a student placement to take the Wellbeing Clinic further into rural and remote areas.

Social Work Researcher of the Year: Wilma Peter

Wilma Peters is a research clinician with over 20 years of social work and corporate experience. Wilma’s clinical and research interests lie in trauma-informed care and early interventions for PTSD, anxiety, depression and substance use in young people impacted by interpersonal trauma. As such she has gained experience in the use of trauma informed care to further outcomes for traumatised youths within headspace, National Youth Foundation. Ms Peters is currently undertaking a PhD in Psychological Interventions for posttraumatic stress, anxiety and substance use in young people exposed to interpersonal trauma, which will be completed in early 2022.

Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Social Worker of the Year: AJ Williams-Tchen

AJ Williams-Tchen is an Aboriginal man of Wiradjuri / Wotjobulak background. He graduated with the BSW(Hons) in 1997 from Victoria University, and with his MSW (MelbUni) in 2002. He is a an AASW Mental Health Social Worker who works in private practice (Girraway Ganyi Ganyi Consultancy) delivering counselling services, mentoring programs (for workplaces + schools), mental health literacy programs and cultural awareness workshops. With 30 years experience in health & community services, AJ continues to provide advocacy and social work practice in ways to increase the voices of those that have been historically silenced, and shares his experiences of issues of Stolen Generations, Aboriginal issues, trans-generational trauma and mental health in ways that allow social work colleagues and the profession, strategies and pathways alleviate disadvantage.

Social Work Student of the Year: Chloe Span

Chloe Span is currently a second year student in the Master of Social Work degree at the University of Melbourne. She has been actively involved in drug policy advocacy since 2016, establishing Students for Sensible Drug Policy Australia as their founding Secretary. Chloe is passionate about the human rights of people who use drugs and hopes to pursue research into accessible peer support and harm reduction programs for students and young people. She currently works at Family Drug Support as their Victorian Project Officer, is a Board Member of Harm Reduction Australia and a Member of the AASW.