The Social Work Regional Resource Centre of Oceania (SWRROC) initiated the Culturally Relevant Social Work in Oceania: Practice, Education and Research Symposium, held 18th – 19th February 2020, hosted at the University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji. The Australia Association of Social Workers co-sponsored the event along with the University of Wollongong, Australia, and Massey University, New Zealand. The symposium brought together around 70 social workers, welfare officers, community workers, academics and students from across Oceania. The purpose of this event was to discuss the engagement of indigenous knowledges and practices within the sector across Oceania, and the implications for social work education curricula. Two emerging fields of social work practice in Fiji and broader Oceania context were a focus on the first day: (1) Older people/Elders (2) Disaster management (3) child welfare. The second day explored possibilities for the professionalisation of social work in the region.
IASSW President, Prof Annamaria Campanini, was the guest of honour and offered a public lecture on indigenisation vs internationalisation of social work curricula. The first book on Pacific social work was launched, the writing of which was supported by IASSW project funding and the regional resource seed money. Reflecting the indigenous cultures of Oceania, the symposium included the sevusevu ceremony, a welcome to the land, acknowledging the President’s presence in Fiji.
The contributions of social work educators from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji advanced a discussion with government officials, international and regional humanitarian agencies, social workers and students on how local and indigenous approaches can be interfaced with international social work approaches. Dr Litea Meo-Sewabu, social work programme leader at USP, reflects, “This was pioneering, in the sense that students from a range of Pacific Island nations – including Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Tonga, Samoa, Niue, Kiribati, and Solomon Islands – will go back to their countries and influence the development of the profession there.
As part of Oceania’s “Pacific way”, the symposium included presentations through music, dance, poetry and talanoa (deep discussion) and contributes to grounding social work curriculum in local and Pacific-indigenous knowledges and ways through mutual exchange and the building of a dynamic community for social work education in Oceania.
If you are interested, you can view videos and photos from the symposium at the Social Work Regional Resource Centre of Oceania’s Facebook page by searching @pacificsocialwork. Or feel free to email the organisers at: Dr Tracie Mafile’o at [email protected], Dr Litea Meo-Sewabu at [email protected], Associate Professor Jioji Ravulo at [email protected].