World Day of Social Justice


As the professional body of social workers in Australia, the AASW’s vision is working together for professional excellence and social justice.

This year’s theme for World Day of Social Justice, which is marked on 20 February, is “if you want peace and development, work for social justice”.

AASW National President Christine Craik said, “Social workers are social justice warriors; it’s what we do, day in, day out. We work with people and communities to be their best selves, and at the same time, we advocate for societal, systemic and attitudinal change where we see that being the cause of the injustice.

“This year’s theme applies in so many areas of social work. For example, asylum seekers and refugees are entitled to the same human rights as the rest of us and should be able to access medical care when needed. It’s that simple.

“Social justice is acknowledging that seeking asylum is a human right and that human beings should be able to live a full life without fear of persecution and advocating for this to happen. The current policies of leaving adults and children stranded indefinitely, five years and counting, does not reflect those human rights.  The social justice work of many social workers in this space that has put the pressure on for the change in legislation, is to be applauded.  I have been working at this for many years myself, and most recently as an Ambassador for the #KidsOffNauru campaign.

“We know that addressing human rights in this area means that those seeking asylum should have full access to education, medical treatment and the ability to participate in the life of communities. Not be wrongly demonised as violent criminals.”

Other social justice issues the Association has campaigned on include advocating for a national strategy on homelessness, improved access to mental health services and reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as well as addressing family violence and violence against women and children. The Association is also campaigning to address the dire situation of people on Newstart.

Ms Craik said, “We are seeking to Raise the Rate of income support in this country, particularly Newstart allowance, which has not seen a real-term increase since 1994.

“Basic common sense will tell you that it is impossible to look for a job, run a car or use public transport, pay rent and feed yourself on $267.80 a week in Australia. And that is if you are not subjected to activity test breaches, where income is reduced or not paid at all.

“We have seen that these are poverty traps that set people up to fail, and then make them feel as if they are to blame for this failure.

“On World Social Justice Day, we want Australians to ask themselves – is this the society that I want to live in?  How do we treat our most vulnerable citizens?”

Social work works to address injustices in many areas, including family and gendered violence, mental health, health and wellbeing, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, aged care, children and young people, disability, housing, among others.

The social work approach to these issues is always based on human dignity and social justice.

Ms Craik said, “If you want a peaceful, just and developed society, you must approach social and economic issues based from a standpoint of human dignity and social justice. It is the only way to address complex problems with lasting solutions.”