Global social work defined at Joint World Conference

Some dogs in the Aboriginal communities of Australia are hairless and infected with scabies and ringworm, said Joyce Higashi, former executive director of NASW’s Washington, D.C., chapter. The dogs, in turn, can infect the children in the communities who keep them as pets, she said.

But a social worker came to the rescue, and hearing that story was one of the uplifting conversations Higashi said she had at the Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development, held this summer in Melbourne, Australia.

“This social worker, on her own, talked to the nurses in the Aboriginal communities and arranged to have the dogs vaccinated,” Higashi said. “I thought this was such a great story that speaks about social work. This was just a citizen who really wanted to do something.”

The conference, which was held July 9-12, brought together about 2,000 social work practitioners and scholars from across the globe to address the profession’s impact from multiple perspectives, said NASW President Darrell Wheeler.

“One important piece of the conference was understanding how essential social work is in solving human suffering,” Wheeler said. “It offered a perspective ... that yes, social workers across the globe are involved.”

Former NASW President Suzanne Dworak-Peck said some highlights of the conference include passing a new definition of what international social work means; developing a new social work agenda; and the presentation of a policy paper titled “Sexual Orientation and Gender Expression.”

The paper, which included work from former NASW President Jeane Anastas, serves as a global guideline for the issue it is written about, Dworak-Peck said.

“It’s kind of like how we use ‘Social Work Speaks,’” she said. “The general meetings at the conference approve the policy papers, and it serves as policy on that issue.”

Higashi said more than 100 topics were covered in the conference’s plenaries, presentations and breakout sessions, including domestic violence, child welfare, addictions, social work regulation, poverty, hospice and aging, refugee issues, international case studies, social work education, social work identity and disabilities.

“It was quite a spiritual experience, and some of the discussions were very meaningful,” Higashi said. “It gave you a feeling for humanity and feeling very connected to the rest of the world.”

The International Federation of Social Workers, the International Council on Social Welfare and the International Association of Schools of Social Work presented the conference.

IFSW is made up of 110 social work organizations around the world, of which NASW is one. Wheeler is the IFSW North America member-at-large.

The NASW International Committee published The Global Agenda — Linking Global Social Work to Regional and Local Practice. For more information: Social Workers Across Nations

The next Joint World Conference will be held in 2016 in Seoul, South Korea.

More information: Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development 2014.

Global Definition of Social Work

In July, the International Federation of Social Workers General Meeting and the International Association of Schools of Social Work General Assembly approved the Global Definition of Social Work.

“Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people.

Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work.

Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance well-being.

The above definition may be amplified at national and/or regional levels.”

For more information: Global Definition of Social Work.