The 13th National Rural Remote Social Work Practice Conference, held in Albury NSW in July, united social workers from diverse cultural backgrounds with a purpose of sharing a rich array of ideas about rural practice, tackling community adversity and contributing to facilitating community resilience. This year’s theme Inspirational rural social work practice once again confirmed why this conference so richly contributes to rural social work practice.
Throughout the conference delegates heard from keynote speakers and in plenary sessions of the many contributions that rural social practitioners and academics are making to contemporary research and practice, and the roles of social work practitioners within rural communities. Topics ranged from networking to reflective practice, from ‘out of the box’ youth work to mobilising democratic engagement, from rural suicide to theatre as a powerful voice for challenging the stigma associated with mental illness. The workshops, keynote presentations and lively discussions across the two days of the conference are best described as being about engaging with local communities, as well as developing and considering multiple ways in sorting through complex issues while being innovators of practice.
Amanda Howard, Meaghan Katrak, Tamara Blakemore and Phillip Pallas’ book, Rural, regional and remote social work: practice research from Australia, was launched at the conference. The text will be a valuable addition to social work pedagogy.
Rural communities have a great capacity to share their strengths and overcome seemingly impossible obstacles while critically analysing solutions for developing more interactive services. Throughout the conference delegates learned that rural social work practice revolves around being prepared to share limited resources so the whole community benefits.
The consequence of rural communities and individual workers not working together across borders, across levels of government, and across service delivery systems can be that critically disadvantaged communities are ignored and barriers to building healthy dynamic communities are maintained.
The next Rural Social Work Practice Conference is to be held in Horsham, Victoria in 2019. The biennial conference is hosted by the Rural Social Work Action Practice Group of the Australian Association of Social Workers (https://www.aasw.asn.au/)