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AASW Conference was fantastic but where were the child protection workers?

Congratulations to the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) for conducting a well-organised, entertaining and highly informative Biennial Conference. Held in Townsville from 4th to 6th November, the Conference was incredibly well-attended and featured a range of high calibre keynote and session speakers.

PeakCare Queensland was pleased to sponsor the Conference’s Welcome Cocktail Reception and feature a trade display that attracted a high level of patronage that enabled our networks to be extended with universities and other individuals and groups expressing an active interest in partnering with PeakCare on some joint endeavours.

PeakCare Queensland Inc., One of the major sponsors of this year’s event

Amidst the range of contemporary issues presented and discussed at the Conference that were of enormous significance to child protection theory and practice, the disappointing note to the Conference concerned the notable absence of Child Protection Workers from both Government and non-Government sectors. I’ve no doubt that the reasons for this may be many and varied and are, at least in part, symptomatic of a decline in the proportion of the child protection workforce who are qualified Social Workers.

Representing Griffith University: Professor Lesley Chenoweth, Head of Campus (Logan), Deputy Vice Chancellor & Provost; Associate Professor Donna McAuliffe, Academic Staff, School of Human Services & Social Work; Professor Patrick O’Leary, Head of School, Administration, School of Human Services & Social Work

Pleasingly, I had the opportunity to raise this as an issue of concern during an impromptu speech delivered during the Welcome Cocktail Reception and, if the rousing cheers that came from the audience in response to my call for a return of the Social Work profession to the child protection field is anything to go by, I am hopeful that the 2013 AASW Conference will see far greater numbers of Child Protection Workers in attendance.

Child Protection cannot afford to rely solely on the academics to continue to wave the Child Protection flag, notwithstanding the fact that they did so admirably throughout the Conference. Managers, practitioners and policy-makers from both Government and non-Government sectors must also play their part in ensuring that the rich and valued contribution of the Social Work profession to child protection service delivery is maintained and built upon. This is not intended to diminish the valued contribution of other professional and para-professional disciplines. There are however some difficult questions that may need to be asked and answered about why Social Work as a profession with such a long history of involvement in shaping child protection theory and practice has retreated from this particular field of work.

Lindsay Wegener, Executive Director, PeakCare Queensland Inc., & Toni Cash, Team Leader – Sexual Abuse Counselling Services, Child Safety (one of the two representatives from the Department of Communities)

To compensate, at least in part, for the notable absence of Child Protection Workers during the AASW Conference, PeakCare intends making use of blog posts and our E-News over oncoming weeks to highlight, with the permission of the presenters, some of the matters addressed during the Conference. This may not be quite as good as having been there, but will, at least, enable some very important information to be aired and considered.

Vanessa Walker, PeakCare Queensland Inc., & Donna McAuliffe, Academic Staff, School of Human Services & Social Work

From PeakCare’s perspective, the biggest message to come from the 2011 AASW Biennial Conference is, “Bring on the 2013 Conference and let’s make sure that Child Protection Workers are represented in force!”

Lindsay Wegener, Executive Director, PeakCare Queensland

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. vanessabwalker #

    Another great post Lindsay!! The speakers at the conference were really inspiring and renewed my passion for my profession as a social worker and challenged me to continue to work towards improving my practice and my awareness of the context within which we all work. As you note, the key note speakers and presenters spoke about a range of topics that are relevant to child protection, including mental health, refugee’s, social media, young people leaving care, ethics, neo-liberalism, critical practice, supervision, homelessness, supervision, children of parent’s in prison, human rights and the ongoing disadvantages faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, young people families and communities.

    All the key note speakers and presenters were amazing, but some of the speakers that I found most inspiring included Reeny Jurczyszyn, who spoke about the ‘rite to higher and further education for those who have been in care’, A/Professor Gracelyn Smallwood’s key note address on ‘First Australian’s wellbeing and human rights’ , A/Professor Donna McAuliffe’s key note address on the review of the AASW Code of Ethics and her and Dr Jennifer Boddy’s talk on exploring the experiences and responses to university students who disclose mental illness…. actually there are just too many favourites to list!! However, I cannot finish this list without including Lindsay Wegener’s inspirational speech at the Welcome Cocktail Reception, in particular his comments about the lack of social work professionals in the child protection sector and the over representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the child protection system (37% and rising!).

    I am so excited to hear that some of the matters dicussed at the conference will be represented in PeakCare’s blog posts and E-News. This will mean that people that were unable to attend the conference will benefit from the research, expertise and knowledge presented at the conference and allow for important discussions and debate!!

    Lindsay as you so eloquently put it; the only thing missing from the conference was the practitioners, Managers, out-of-home care staff and policy makers who make up the rich texture of child protection. I really do wonder…..where are all the social workers? Are they out there hidden under huge workloads? Are they really leaving child protection, if so, why are they leaving?

    I cannot wait for the 2013 conference and the response that comes when you (Lindsay) ask for a show of hands of the number of people who work in child protection – let’s hope that the ‘rousing cheer’ will represent the presence of these people!

    November 10, 2011
  2. Lorraine #

    There was at least 1 child protection worker there, not sure if they were at the cocktail party.
    What is interesting is that they did not identify themselves. I only found out by a chance meeting.

    November 16, 2011
  3. Michelle #

    My true fear is that if social workers aren’t in the department doing this work and shaping child protection interventions, then who is??

    November 29, 2011

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