Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW): Working to Create a Better Australia [transcript][audio]

Guest: Cindy Smith

Presenter: Tabetha Moreto

Guest Bio: Cindy Smith is the CEO of Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW). She has over 15 years’ experience as a social worker in direct practice and senior management roles. She has held a range of positions including housing worker, generalist counsellor in community health, team leader for community service organisations in out-of-home-care, program manager of a counselling team, and branch manager and general manager of a child, youth and family directorate in community health. She is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Fellow of the Australasian College of Health Services Management, and an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker. She is also Secretary of Project Respect, a not-for-profit organisation that supports women in the sex industry and women trafficked, and Secretary of the Yan Yean Cemetery Trust. Before becoming the AASW’s Deputy CEO in 2016, Cindy was the National Vice President of the AASW for five years. She is a passionate advocate for human rights, social justice and a more inclusive Australia.

Segment Overview: In today’s interview, Cindy Smith, CEO of the Australian Association of Social Workers joins the program to promote her organization. The AASW is the professional representative body of social workers in Australia, with more than 10,000 members. It promotes and advocates for the profession of social work. They work for be a strong voice for social justice in Australia. She also clarifies some common misconceptions regarding her profession.


Tabetha Moreto: Hello everyone, welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host for the day, Tabetha Moreto. Our guest today is Cindy Smith, CEO of the Australian Association of Social Workers. She is a passionate advocate for human rights, social justice and a more inclusive Australia. Today we’re going to talk about her organisation and her different advocacies. Without further ado, welcome to the show Cindy. It’s so nice to have you here.

Cindy Smith: Thank you Tabetha. I really appreciate the opportunity.

T: Yes, my pleasure. Cindy, please tell the audience more about your organisation.

C: The Australian Association of Social Workers is a professional body of Social Workers located in Australia with more than 10,000 members. Social workers in Australia provide supports to vulnerable individuals, families and community, they work in a wide range of areas including mental health, family violence, child protection, aged care, disability, housing, drug and alcohol, social policy and in doing so, attend to try to advocate for a fairer society. As the Professional Association of Social Workers, we promote professional excellence and social justice. We’re a member also of the International Federation of Social Workers as many social work associations across the world and this year’s theme as promoting community and environmental sustainability. World Social Work Day is the third Tuesday of March, so this year is Tuesday the 20th of the March and this day is marked to celebrate and recognised the work of social workers globally.

T: That’s fantastic. Can you tell us, who does it benefit?

C: Who does it benefit? The Australian Social Workers was established originally to assist social workers with their work in helping and ultimately empowering people in community. We also regulate the profession by setting standards on social work education, accrediting social workers and professional development program. We set also the code of ethics for social workers too, which gives the public some assurance about the standard of care that they can expect from social workers who are members of the Australian Association of Social Workers. We nurture the future of the profession which supports particularly to social works students and social work graduates. Members of business association can influence the very heart of government decision making and social policy, public and economic policy. We do this by advocating for to government and trying to be at the set of the table that make decisions. We actively engage with our membership to represent the sector thru policy submissions, collectivise our members to help us develop policies and the strategies and hearings to promote social justice and well being particularly for the most disadvantaged in our community. People can get involved in joining our association and this policy submission. We regularly do call outs to members that have particular skills in disability and mental health to support in our policy development. Members can get involved in this by visiting our website

T: Wonderful. Can you tell us what’s going on in your organisation? What is your biggest event or topic that you would like to discuss?

C: As I just said, the third Tuesday of every March is Social Work Day. This year being Tuesday, the 20th of the month and we’re using this occasion to raise awareness of significant and vital social work that social workers do in Australia and promoting the theme, “Community and Environmental Sustainability.” We want listeners to join us in celebrating and recognising the contribution of Australian social workers on World Social Work Day and we have run a social media campaign for World Social Work Day, the #socialworkdayau is used to raise awareness and to recognise social workers’ vital work of social workers now. We encourage listeners to share one and tag us on Twitter and Facebook. When we talk about the environment, it’s also not just about the physical and the natural environment, it’s also about the social, cultural and political environment. Social workers are right of the heart of this kind of environment to this kind of sustainability. Each year we host an award called the Mary Moylan Award in the Northern territory of Australia which recognises an outstanding social worker as part of World Social Work Day festivities. Mary Moylan was the first social worker to work with remote indigenous communities at the top end of Australia. Part of the indigenous resilience is the connection to their land on which we live, we all live and work. Mary Moylan was involved in disaster recovery efforts of the Katherine floods and also the East Timor emergency. This is an example of social worker working within the strength and challenges of different cultural, physical and political environments. Our latest Australian social work journal also contains an article written by our member, Susan Bailey, about ‘eco social work in action,’ a place for community gardens which is about social work facilitating and building of trust and cooperation between people of all backgrounds and in communities working together to grow healthy foods, care for the environment and challenge unsustainability. It’s available to members through our website if people are interested in looking at that, recently we had the Secretary general, Dr. Rory Truell come to Australia and interview one of our National President Christine Craik earlier this year about how she used her skills as a social worker during one of our big bushfires in Victoria in 2014. So social workers are at the call face of environmental disasters as well as the other emergency providers.

T: That’s wonderful to know. Cindy, let’s talk about misconceptions. Are there any misconceptions regarding your profession that drives you crazy that keeps you up at night?

C: Yes, there are. People maybe surprised to know the social workers, the diverse range of skills of social workers practice in Tabetha which includes areas of mental health and family violence and child protection, aged care disability, homelessness and many others. We also are at the call face of the social policy development, we’re located in all variations of employment or workforces whether with government and federal government, state government, local government in schools, you name it, with social workers are there. We have a very broad range of skill set. The biggest misconception also probably about the people that uses our services is that, some are seen as deserving and some are seen as undeserving within the broader public eye we see this is a the theme played out in social policy all the time. We seek the change that call for environment that entrenches poverty, strike for racism and patriarchal which damaging individuals and society. Social work is very skilled and complex work as people know, with its own body of research and practice. That’s why we campaign in Australia, we don’t have formal registration of social workers in Australia. We already have a credential existing in place where our members with the use of collective trademarks and accreditations. We can accept referrals for GP’s such as similar to psychologists and psychiatrists and a range of other service providers and can be reimburse to our medicare system. Not many people know that but it is a service that social workers offer alongside the other health professionals. Do you know 10,000 members strong body also give us a collective voice, a loud collective voice and a professional identity which is constantly and instantly recognisable with the public, government and other health professionals. We believe that the community directly benefit from this strength as a loud and large collective voice.

T: That’s wonderful to know. Thank you so much Cindy for clarifying those misconceptions regarding your profession.

C: Thank you.

T: Cindy, I would love to talk to you more but we’re running out of time. But before we go Cindy, what is your main takeaway message to all of our listeners out there? What would you like to tell them?

C: We’d like to tell them that social workers are at the call face of trying to change the system that entrench individuals and families and communities unfairly into systems of poverty. This is what social workers do everyday to try and make a more just and fairer community.

T: Wonderful message. Lastly can you tell us for those who want to contact your organisation, how can they do that?

C: Yes, thank you. People that want to contact our organisation can visit our website or call our membership line on 1800-630 124. Thank you Tabetha.

T: Thank you too Cindy. It was a pleasure having you.

C: Thank you, my pleasure.

T: That was Cindy Smith, CEO of the Australian Association of Social Workers. We’ve just been talking about her organisation which promotes professional excellence and social justice. If you like this interview, transcript and archives are available at We’re on all social media platforms, don’t forget to follow, like and subscribe. Show us some love by subscribing HPR YouTube channel. We’re also available for download on SoundCloud and iTunes. I’m Tabetha Moreto and you’re listening to Health Professional Radio.

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