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Our Profession. My Association: member stories

Our Profession. My Association is why social workers are renewing their membership of the Association. Renew your membership for 2019-2020 and read why members are proud to be part of the Australian Association of Social Workers.

We will add to these stories in the coming weeks.

Our Profession. My Association

MichalaMichala, member for three years

Why did you become a social worker?

I was living and working in South Korea and while I was co-hosting a human rights event, someone commented that I must be a social worker back home. I had no idea what a social worker was. Luckily, the first site I stumbled upon was the Australian Association of Social Workers. With a background in psychology and a history of engagement in human rights and social justice activism, it was unsurprising that the definition of social work resonated with me to my core. So much so, that six months later, I was in Australia studying a Master of Social Work (Qualifying).

What is the greatest advice you have for the future generation of social workers?

The temptation to do it all yourself is real and so is burnout. Strong boundaries and some non-negotiable self-care practices will ensure that you’ve positioned yourself the best you can, to be the best social worker you can. Professional supervision, or a trusted mentor, can help define, and keep you accountable, to these.

What is the greatest impact your career has had on your community?

So far, it has been the opportunity to work alongside some champions of change within the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages (BDM) Victoria in the development of the Coolamon Strategy. The Coolamon Strategy is a living document and aims to make the services offered by BDM more accessible to members of Victoria’s Koori community. The impact of this in my current role in education and employment has been the ability to support young people to obtain a birth certificate, a key document for major life steps including enrolling in education and starting employment.

What is the biggest challenge for you as a social worker – how does AASW support you?

I have been the only social worker at my place of work; which can be quite isolating. The AASW, through its organised events, publications and highlighting of professional development opportunities greatly assists me in helping me feel connected to the greater social work collective, and our shared ethics and values.

How has AASW networking formed your career?

AASW networking was instrumental in forming my views on social work as a career. Through these meetings, I was able to develop a greater understanding of what social work looked like outside of the university space. At one particularly memorable network meeting, I spoke to social workers who worked in International Aid, as a counsellor in a community centre and at a not-for-profit. This greatly broadened the roles that I looked for when I graduated.

Jacqueline, member for two yearsJacqueline, member for two years

Why did you decide to become a social worker?

I came to study social work as a mature aged student after a career as a Producer/Director at the ABC. I made the decision to change my career because I wanted to pursue a profession that was more in line with my own personal values and ethics, a career that helps people and contributes positively to society. The real catalyst for me came about from volunteer work that I had been doing at a women’s refuge in King’s Cross. While volunteering I witnessed and was inspired by the social workers whose support of women’s empowerment was helping to change lives.

Why is social work invaluable/life-changing to a client and their family?

I see social work as invaluable to clients as it offers help without judgement or discrimination. Social work takes the time to listen to a client’s story. It motivates and encourages clients, and gives them the tools to construct their own lives. Social work treats all people with dignity, giving hope, inspiring and lifting the spirits of the disadvantaged, that can have far-reaching and lasting positive impact on their lives.

How do you define success as a social worker/as a profession?

Success for the profession of social work, would be recognition as a powerful movement, that is leading the transformation of our society towards a fairer and more equitable place for every citizen.

What is the biggest challenge for you as a social worker?

My biggest challenge as a mature aged social work graduate at the moment is finding employment. Even though I have extensive work experience, I face the same challenges as many graduates, in that most positions require two years’ experience in social work.

How has AASW networking formed your career?

I have joined the Association’s Environmental Social Work Practice Group, finding it a great opportunity to familiarise myself with the workings of the AASW. I have found the staff there very helpful and it is also a great opportunity to meet social workers from all different practice areas.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers