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Published: 10 February 2021

The Australian Association of Social Workers, NSW Branch President, Jack Whitney is calling on the New South Wales Government to reject the Education Legislation Amendment (Parental Rights) Bill 2020, as it undermines the professional service delivery of social workers in schools and will put vulnerable students at risk.

Mr Whitney said the Bill’s intent to silence the professional practice social workers in schools, is undermining the mental wellbeing of students and their families.

“Having social workers in schools is a well-established specialist area of social work practice and an example of the unique contribution that social work can make to the mental wellbeing of young people. Social workers have been employed in Australian schools for more than 65 years and in UK and US schools for more than a century.”

“Our members have told us that students who are struggling with their sexuality and gender identities often seek counselling services at school and are referred to specialist services if required. This service model plays a key component in reducing the soaring youth suicidal rate in NSW and is recommended by the recent publication of Productivity Commission’s report ‘The Social and Economic Benefits of Improving Mental Health’.”

“If the Bill is passed, this jeopardises the professional practice of social workers in schools and further marginalises LGBTIQ students and families,” he said.

Mr Whitney said that among mental health professions, the person-in-environment approach of social workers in schools is unique.

“The person-in-environment approach maintains a dual focus on the student and on the school environment, in order to facilitate successful learning outcomes through the relief of distress, the removal of barriers or inequities, and the development of a safe and inclusive school and community.”

“We are concerned that the passage of this Bill can create public health concerns, considering that LGBTIQ students are more vulnerable to youth suicide. Therefore, we highly recommend the legislation be rejected,” he said.

The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) is the professional body representing more than 13,000 social workers throughout Australia. The AASW sets the benchmark for professional education and practice in social work and have a strong voice on matters of social inclusion, social justice, and human rights and issues that impact on the quality of life of all Australians.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers