Social work services targeted on Gold Coast

An emerging geographical need for enhanced social work services on the Gold Coast and across its extended hinterland was highlighted at a Griffith University symposium today (Thursday).

The Australian Association of Social Work and Welfare Education (AASWWE) has brought academics and practitioners from the welfare sectors in Australia and New Zealand to the university’s Gold Coast campus for “an intellectual brainstorm”.

The symposium, running today and tomorrow, is titled ‘Footprints: Social Work and Welfare Education Making Its Mark’.

The challenges facing social work education in Australia will be presented, showcasing research and experiences from the United States and India, in addition to New Zealand and Australia.

The symposium also signals the development of Griffith University’s new social work undergraduate program on the Gold Coast.

The program, in addition to the Master of Social Work Qualifying, was launched at the start of 2011 and is expected to expand to meet the growing need for social work practitioners in the region.

“Strong population growth in the Brisbane and Gold Coast corridor and the global financial downturn is placing more pressure on the healthcare and other systems, including the demand on and for social workers,” senior lecturer and symposium organiser Dr Patricia Fronek said.

“There has been a ‘locational’ gap in terms of social work in the northern New South Wales and Gold Coast region.

“This symposium will help to establish social work at Griffith and engage agencies and the wider community.”

Social workers are highly skilled and value-based professionals who provide a range of psychosocial services that include assessment, counselling, and emotional and practical support to people in disadvantaged or traumatic circumstances, often brought on by diminished life opportunities, health problems, financial strains and major life changes.

“Social workers are a critical part of the health and welfare systems,” Dr Fronek said.

“They contribute to a healthier nation through psychosocial care, helping people achieve sustained social, emotional and physical wellbeing.”

Population growth in an area like the Gold Coast signals an imminent need for increased social work services for people of all ages in the community.

However, the Australian Bureau of Statistics projects that by 2051, 54 per cent of the Queensland population will be 50 years or older, raising a range of issues regarding meeting the needs of the community.

“Griffith has an outstanding reputation for social work. We are preparing students to fill a need in the welfare sector,” Dr Fronek said.

“Preparing future practitioners to be work-ready involves field placement experience in practice settings.

“We appreciate the support of the health and welfare sectors in providing field placement opportunities and we value collaborative relationships with the sector and community where we can contribute to the sectors in areas like research.”

The majority of the first-year students who enrolled at the social work program at the Gold Coast this year listed location and program quality as the leading influences on their decision to study at Griffith University.

The future of social work, how the profession will look in twenty years and education and training will be a central focus for the symposium, with a view to ensuring high quality social workers continue to graduate from Australian universities.