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First Nations and Allies - Social Work

The AASW Queensland Branch, First Nations and Allies Sub- Committee contributes to relevant AASW responses to First Nations issues, develops policies and organising events throughout the year to celebrate First Nations people within Queensland. 

Meet the Qld Branch First Nations and Allies Sub-Committee

Yaleela Torrens is a proud Gooreng Gooreng & Bundjalung woman and Social Worker who currently lives and works on her ancestral lands of the Gladstone region. Yaleela has worked across a variety of Social Work fields including the specialisation of Child-Centered Play Therapy. Currently Yaleela is employed as the Senior Social Worker at Nhulundu Health Services where her duties include, providing culturally sensitive counselling, case management and advocacy. Yaleela is a Board member of the Play Therapy Practitioners Association and a current BMC Member and Co-convenor of the First Nations and Allies Sub-Committee within the Qld Branch of the AASW.

Karina Maxwell is a proud Ngugi woman from the Quandamooka nation whose family originates from Mulgumpin (Moreton Island), and currently works and resides on Turrbul land.  She has worked in a number of areas with First Nations people and also in mainstream government and community organisations. Karina is the former Deputy Chair of the Murri School Board and works on a casual basis tutoring with UQ in the Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work school as well as with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander unit.  Currently working in a non-Indigenous organisation in mental health supporting workers with a psychological injury due to the workplace.  Karina is also a current BMC Member, Co-convener of the First Nations and Allies Sub-Committee and a member of the Social Policy & Advocacy Sub-Committee within the Qld Branch of the AASW.

Beni McKenzie's cultural background is Anglo-Celtic and he grew up in Kallangur near the confluence of the Pine Rivers on Turrbal land. Beni tries to learn and listen to the land he is on and the stories and deep history of this vast continent. Beni offers himself as an ally for First Nations peoples and communities.



In Solidarity with Koori social workers in Victoria

From the First Nations and Allies Sub-Committee Queensland, we send our thoughts to our Koori social workers in Victoria around the current lockdown situation, especially in this, a very important week for our mob being National Reconciliation week. Stay safe and take care. Yours in solidarity.


More than a word. Reconciliation Takes Action - #NRW2021 #MoreThanAWord

Articles by Qld Branch First Nations Sub-Committee Members, Yaleela Torrens and Karina Maxwell

Yaleela Torrens - First Nations and Allies Sub-Committee Member & Qld Branch BMC Member
'This year marks 20 years for Reconciliation Australia and its theme reflects a call to action between First Nations Australia and those who now call Australia home; ‘More than a word. Reconciliation Takes Action.’. This year’s theme calls for a more concerted effort to addressing the inequalities, systematic racism and discrimination continually experienced by First Nations’ people. Over the past 12 months there has been considerable input into the efforts directed at highlighting injustices within the health systems, the child protection systems and most notably the criminal justice systems – where our mobs are more often than not grossly over-represented. The rising consciousness around racial inequity and racial violence, highlighted through the Black Lives Matter movement, shun light on our own perpetrations of Black Deaths in Custody. For me, Reconciliation means nothing if equity is not first acknowledged as a basic human right, and, there is First Nation’s representation at every table, in every sector and at every level. True Reconciliation will be proceeded by not just the allocation of budgetary resources, but by First Nation’s human and social capital that is determined on our terms, executed in our ways. It is not just enough for entities to create and perform to their Reconciliation Action Plans, reconciliation requires a reconciliation mindset where equality and equity are centre of our practice and interactions. I call for all Social Work practitioners to use this week to remember and reflect on the work that has been done and the work that is yet to be done to ensure that our profession empowers a more equitable and just society for our clients, our co-workers and communities.'

#NRW2021 #MoreThanAWord

Karina Maxwell - First Nations and Allies Sub-Committee Member, Social Policy & Advocacy Sub-Committee Member & Qld Branch BMC Member

Karina Maxwell, proud Ngugi woman from the Quandamooka nation, also of English and Scottish heritage, and social worker.

What does reconciliation mean to me?

'Growing up, I was also taught to accept people as they are and not to judge. As a fair skinned Aboriginal person, I did not experience the horrific racism as much as others. I remember one day while at Uni with my friends of all shades (of which I did not see), looking around at other passers by and being horrified by the expressions of surprise and almost fearful looks. I mentioned this to my friends later, and they brushed it off saying they were “used to it” and its just how it is. But it shouldn’t be! No-one should be judged on their appearance!

To me, reconciliation should not be tokenistic, it is not developing a Reconciliation Action Plan that then gathers dust in the corner as some organisations do. Reconciliation should be about utilising the amazing community development principles that as social workers we should all know and practice to develop and encourage a community and society that is inclusive and supportive of all. These principles include empowerment, human rights, inclusion, social justice, self-determination and collective action.

Reconciliation is about acknowledgement, acceptance, understanding, inclusion, equality, being integrous, and respectful. It is also about moving forward positively together and strengthening the relationship between First Nations people and non-Indigenous people. It makes perfect sense that us as social workers encourage reconciliation as it encompasses our AASW code of ethics that states our three core principles as respect for persons, social justice, and professional integrity. I really hope that one day, reconciliation and community development work go hand in hand for this beautiful land of ours and the people in it, to get to the point of true reconciliation.'

#NRW2021 #MoreThanAWord

How to join the Sub-Committee

If you would like to be a part of the First Nations and Allies Sub-Committee, please make contact with Yaleela Torrens - or Karina Maxwell - for a yarn.

Alternatively you can contact

Survey - National Reconciliation Week

The following survey was sent to identified Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander members, in the hope to share with your consent to the full Qld Branch Membership.

We would still love to hear from you, so if you have time, the sub-committee would like to ask questions in relation to you, the past 12 months, Reconciliation, your community and overall experience of Social Work.

Survey Link >

AASW Reconciliation Action Plan - 2020 - 2022

Our new Reconciliation Action Plan contains detailed actions that are ambitious and achievable. We want to increase our membership of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander social workers, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander access to services, employment, our procurement with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander-owned businesses and staff participation in training and days of cultural significance.

AASW - National - National Reconciliation Week 2021 page

Contact us

National Office
Level 7, 14-20 Blackwood Street

PO Box 2008

Queensland Branch
03 9320 1000 or 1800 630 124 (toll free alternative)

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Monday to Friday 9.30am - 4.00pm

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AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers