IAHA Member Kate Thompson on 2023 World Social Work Day – Respecting diversity through joint social action

This year’s World Social Work Day theme is Respecting Diversity Through Joint Social Action. This is an important theme for the social work profession to reflect on and engage with given its original grounding in whiteness and the need for it to develop intersectionality as a field of study and practice. provides an opportunity to acknowledge how communities can make powerful actions that lead to inclusive social transformation.

This year’s theme makes me reflect on World Social Work Day I reflect on the impact the social work profession has had historically and contemporarily. Especially for the purpose of truth telling about the profession’s role in the devastating impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, families, and communities but also for the times of solidarity in our efforts of self-determination. The theme this year is important for the social work profession as it encourages us to reflect on and engage with its entrenchment in whiteness as a field of study. This is why my place in social work is grounded in a dual tension as a Gooreng Gooreng and Yuggerah woman. On the one hand, I see the damage it has done and can do to my community. On the other hand, I see the opportunities it has for development and the social workers who have worked in genuine partnership with us. 

I came to the social work profession unintentionally as When I am asked about why I chose to study Social Work, I always struggle to answer. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure what I wanted else to study. I liked the idea of teaching, though my sisters twin sister and older sister were both already studying education, so I thought I would be different and try something else. I considered nursing for a split second and very quickly decided against it (I am not great with bodily fluids). For all my critiques of the social work profession, I am glad that I decided to go down this path. While I learned about social justice first and foremost from my family and community, being a social worker has given me a platform to elevate this to another level. I guess I stumbled into social work, and I am very glad I did.

Throughout my Bachelor degree I learnt more and more about the profession and many different fields of social work. I became passionate about community development and education and how we as social workers can work with communities to develop capacity and strengths in ways that communities want to do so. Since graduating from my Bachelor degree I had the opportunity to support foster and kinship carers who were caring for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the out-of-home care system. My practice framework, which is based on Indigenous rights, strengths-based practice, self-determination, and healing aware trauma informed practice. I am continuously working toward decolonising my practice. My ultimate goal as a social worker is to work myself out of a job. I want those I work with to be confident, capable and empowered. 

While the social work profession still has a ways to go in decolonising as a field, I believe social work is important as an allied health profession because of the values of social justice, respect and integrity. 

I see my responsibility as a social worker to continuously asking the critical questions and working towards dismantling the systems that are creating and exacerbating the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities, including the child protection and youth justice systems. I see it as my responsibility to continually develop my practice framework which is based on intersectionality, Indigenous rights, decolonisation, strengths-based practice, self-determination, and healing aware trauma informed practice.

To finish, I will say what is said about many events like this one, which is that this theme should not be limited to one day or one event. I encourage social workers to consider how they are going beyond “respecting” diversity and ask what joint actions they are doing today and everyday. I would hope that emerging social workers are being taught a critical intersectional lens that in part focuses on our sovereignty, rights and self-determination. Maybe next year or in many years to come, if I’m asked to write again, I hope that the tension we as First Nations social workers hold lessens as we develop as a profession with our core values front and centre: social justice, respect and integrity. 

March 21, 2023


Posted by: Renae Kilmister