‘Ongoing commitment to human rights and dignity’: WSLHD celebrates World Social Work Day

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) recently hosted an inspiring event to celebrate World Social Work Day 2024, acknowledging the dedication of social workers across the district in caring for the western Sydney community.

With a focus on transformative change and collective care, the event at Westmead Hospital highlighted the crucial role of social workers in promoting wellbeing and driving positive change.

“This year’s theme pays respect to our core values of inclusion, mutual understanding, and our ongoing commitment to human rights and dignity,” Theodora Bikou, Social Work Advisor and Westmead Hospital Head of Department said.

“As social workers, we play a critical role in health by removing barriers through advocacy, delivering therapeutic services that generate engagement, creating sustainable change that leads to improved wellbeing for the lives of those who enter our health services, and keeping those most at risk and vulnerable safe from harm, to enable them to flourish and live their best life.”

The event began with a heartfelt Acknowledgement of Country delivered by Narelle Holden, Westmead Hospital Aboriginal Liaison Officer, followed by a keynote address presented by Dr Aniqa Farwa, Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the Australian Catholic University.

Aniqa eloquently spoke about the concept of collective care, emphasising the need for organisations and practitioners to share the responsibility of wellbeing.

“Change wasn’t previously happening at the pace it started happening in past few years, but the pandemic created a society where change is constant,” she said.

“We need to work with people, not for people and protect children and vulnerable people.”

Aniqa also spoke compassionately about the role of social workers in societies of the future, and how to care for others while also demonstrating self care.

“The work we do cause acute secondary traumatic stress, compassion, fatigue and burnout,” she said.

“It is important to consider this and reflect on how the world changes us.

“It is also important to remember that as social workers you are also a resource for healing. We hear that all the time that you cannot refill from an empty cup, so self care is the key.”

Following this, Luke Taylor, WSLHD Acting Director of Allied Health emphasised the importance of social work in modern healthcare and society.

“On behalf of the WSLHD executive, thank you very much for your contribution to safe and effective care to individuals and our communities,” Luke said.

“We are so fortunate to have such a highly skilled and compassionate workforce who really embodies our values.”

A panel discussion was held consisting of social workers from diverse specialisations, including Courtney Hobson from Acute and Rehab Mental Health, Darshna Rama from Perinatal, Child, and Youth Mental Health, Dennis Chan, Clinical Senior Counsellor, Child and Family Health, Mount Druitt Hospital, and Katrina Anwar, Head of Department for Social Work Blacktown and Mount Druitt Hospitals (BMDH).

Panellists shared insights into their daily roles, challenges they face, and transformative moments in their practise.

The audience, a large group of social workers from across the district, listened to their peers, appreciating the platform provided to open discussion about the importance of their work, and how they can best support each other.

“It’s all about the people that I work with. The district is full of amazing, compassionate, selfless people who want to make sure that you’re able to support them in the work that they’re doing and supporting others,” Katrina said.

Throughout the event, there was a strong emphasis on recognising the efforts and contributions of social workers to the wellbeing of individuals and communities.