|dc.description.abstract||Evolutionary journeys: International practice experiences of Australian social
Social work is an international profession. Built on the foundations of social justice, human rights, and guided by evidence-based ethical practice, social work works with people and communities in many jurisdictions and organisational roles. As social work developed as a professional project in major Western countries, social workers sought to engage with the developing world where people faced many problems – poverty, wars, oppression, natural disasters, lack of education options and major health problems. The desire of Western social work to reach out and embark on international projects has been a contested project and the topic of social work research and scholarship. Yet little is known about what those social workers engaging in international practice, actually experience. What were their motivations? How did they prepare for the work? What were the challenges and what guided their practice during the period of international work?
This research explores the experiences of Australian social work practitioners who have worked in international practice contexts. It specifically seeks to determine:
What are the practice experiences of Australian social workers, working internationally? What ‘guides’ Australian social workers’ practice, in an international context, predominately Asian, Pacific, Middle Eastern and African countries?
The aim of the research is to examine how Australian social workers understand and can ‘better understand’ the nature of their international practice. As more social workers embark on working in social development, (South), there is an increasing need to understand the nature of that practice for western trained social workers (North), as they become immersed in totally different contexts. Questions of accountability, ethical practice, and the dilemmas of working cross culturally, arise. This research aims to build upon our current knowledge about Australian social work practitioners working in these international contexts.
Adopting a constructionist theoretical approach and based on Trevithick’s framework for knowledge use in practice, the exploratory qualitative study was undertaken using semi structured interviews with 17 Australian qualified social workers. The study identified several influences on participants’ motivations for entry into international practice, how prepared they were for the work and what they looked for to guide their practice. Participants drew on a range of knowledge sources and were significantly guided by personal and professional values. The study found that international
practice is a highly complex and difficult context and requires preparation, extensive practice experience, content/context knowledge and professional insight.
Implications for social work education, practitioner preparation and support and the general running of international programs are discussed and a new conceptual model for international practice proposed.||