As with many disciplines there are various social worker associations that exist for social workers. Membership with such associations comes with a number of benefits that makes your career easier and provides you with many opportunities to expand your horizons. In Australia the main association is known as the Australian Association of Social Workers and it has a large number of members.
About The Australian Association Of Social Workers
As the professional body that regulates social workers in Australia, the Australian Association of Social Workers is an extremely important force in the social work industry in this country. At present it has around 7000 members who are based all across Australia. The Australian Association of Social Workers has been in existence for no less than 65 years, having been founded in 1947. According to the association’s website the following can be said for the AASW: with its “nine branches and vibrant community of national committees and practice groups, further supporting the work of the Association, the AASW aims to cater for the professional needs and interests of the growing membership base with their varied working fields, employment and locations”. For social workers working within Australia, it is almost essential to belong to this association as it is extremely difficult to advance your career and in many cases even to seek employment in the sectors that you would prefer if you do not have membership with the AASW.
Mission Of The Australian Association Of Social Workers
The mission of the AASW is quite clearly stated in more than one location of its website. They aim to:
- Promote the profession of social work – this involves ensuring that the profession is kept alive and that it is awarded the respect within the professional community that it deserves.
- Establish, monitor and improve practice and ethical standards.
- Contribute to the development of social work knowledge and research.
- Develop, review and accredit the education standards for social workers – this is a primary responsibility of the association and results in the maintenance of high standards within the industry of social work within Australia’s borders.
- Advocate for the pursuit of social justice and changes to social structures and policies in order to promote social inclusion and redress social disadvantage.
- Promote and facilitate members’ professional development and life-long learning.
- Represent and advocate for the interests of members as a group – without the input of associations such as these the voices of social workers would go unheard.
Membership With The Australian Association Of Social Workers
- Have an AASW approved social work qualification from an Australian tertiary institution, or
- Have qualifications from overseas that have been recognized by the AASW
Applying for membership can be done online or by downloading the application form, filling it in, and posting it. In addition you can apply telephonically by calling 1800 630 124.
There are a number of benefits offered by the AASW. For example, if you earn an income that is below a low income threshold ($40,000.00) you will be allowed to maintain your membership with the association at a reduced fee. This will not affect the rights that you have as a member or the services that you will have access to through the AASW. In addition you can also receive a reduced membership fee for a time if you are a new graduate, which includes anyone who graduated within the last three years. Discounts are also available for social workers who are fully retired from the profession.
The main purpose of an organization such as this one is to adequately represent its members and the sector of the professional world that it focuses on in such a way that all needs are met adequately. There are a number of features that are characteristic of this organization that are worth noting:
- The AASW is an incorporated organization
- The AASW has 7,000 members
- The AASW has a constitution
- The AASW is comprised of elected board members and judicial councils
- The AASW conducts social work public recognition programs
- The AASW conducts professional research
- The AASW conducts social worker education development
Although it is the main representative body in Australia, it is not the only one that social worker can turn to. For example there is also the AIWCW which is an Australian organization that represents the interests of welfare and community workers at both state and national levels. Through this organization members come from commercial and industrial sectors, government units, non-government social welfare agencies and other social groups.
There are a number of codes and ethical norms that the Australian Association of Social Workers adheres to. These codes are useful in the following:
- Ethical decision-making
- Legal dispute clarification
- Evaluation of complaints against a social worker’s conduct
Associations such as this one are required to have a code of ethics by which they operate. This code of ethics is there for the protection of the association. However it also serves a very important function for the special workers who belong to the association in that it protects them in legal disputes and ensures that they are well informed regarding their ethical duties. In addition this code of ethics serves a protective function for the patients and clients of social workers as they will be able to complain through relevant channels in cases where they believe the conduct of a social worker to be unethical. It protects them from any harm that may be caused if a social worker engages in malpractice.
Values And Principles
The following are the basic ideas contained in the Australian Association of Social Workers’ code of ethics:
- There is a strong focus on human dignity
- There is a strong focus on dealing with social injustice and the problems that arise from it
- There is a strong focus on integrity
- There is a strong focus on work competence
- Service to humanity
- The code supports the right of social workers to optimize their potential in the field regardless of their background
- The code require social workers to safeguard and promote human value and potentials
As you can see form these basic idea the association aims to safeguard the reputation of the entire profession of social work while at the same time ensuring that the best interests of both the social workers who belong to it as well as the clients that those social workers serve are also protected. Governing associations such as this one therefore serve very important roles and functions in terms of professionalism.
Responsibilities To Clients
In terms of their responsibility to their clients, social workers need to keep the following basic things in mind:
- Social workers must prioritize their client’s best interests.
- Social workers must treat clients with respect.
- Social workers must protect the privacy of their clients.
- Social workers must accept that their actions and decisions are accountable to their employers and clients.
- Social workers must keep confidential any information with regard to the client and related social assistance.
- Social workers must remain unbiased and accurate in making and sharing client reports to other concerned agencies.
In addition there are other responsibilities that social workers must also be sure to fulfill:
- Social workers must share their knowledge and support
- Social workers must respect their colleagues’ abilities
- Social workers should address issues and concerns regarding their colleagues’ unprofessional conduct
- Social workers must refer unresolved concerns to proper ethical bodies
- Social workers should strive to meet the objectives of their employing organization
- Social workers must not exploit the employer’s resources
- Social workers must use appropriate consultation channels to resolve issues and misunderstandings
The main function of the Australian Association of Social Workers is to ensure that social workers are able to follow the above guidelines. A big part of this involves educating social workers on the ethical aspect of their job as well as making it clear why those ethical structures are in place. The Australian Association of Social Workers also serves as a place where social workers in Australia can find information regarding what the ethical curse of action may be in cases where they are uncertain about how to move forward with a particular aspect of their job.
For social workers based in Australia membership with the Australian Association of Social Workers is one of the best career moves they could make, especially when the benefits of belonging to the association are taken carefully into consideration. In addition you will have the opportunity to become actively involved in the management structure within the association if you have the right drive and meet the necessary requirements which will allow you to market yourself as someone with management and leadership skills. The number f ways in which an association like this can benefit your career are many.