In the yarning chair on ‘Talk the Walk’ this week is Emma Searle, a senior social worker at the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney. Emma works within a continuity of care model of maternal health social work, where Aboriginal women can meet the same group of midwives from pregnancy to follow up post-natal care.
There is more to this interview than just reflecting on the daily challenges of working with vulnerable Indigenous women. Emma invites us to enter into a conversation about the uncomfortable realities of being a non-Indigenous social worker, in a world where Indigenous child removal is high and white professionals make the decisions about what is best for Indigenous families. Working within a system with a history of oppression and racism, Emma set out to investigate how other countries were doing culturally competent practice.
On episode 25 of ‘Talk the Walk’ we explore:
- The incredibly busy role of a social worker in a maternal and infant health service
- The factors that impact on the likelihood of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women reaching out for support, where they have Child Protection closely scrutinising them
- The stigma that comes with being a social worker; the challenge this poses for engaging vulnerable Aboriginal women; and how Emma overcomes these hurdles
- Addressing the over representation of non-Indigenous health and welfare professionals making decisions about Indigenous people’s lives and the alarming rate of children removal
- Emma’s key findings from her Churchill Fellowship exploring the needs and experiences of Indigenous women in Canada, the USA and New Zealand
- What a difference it can make to Aboriginal families by acknowledging and celebrating language and culture
- Best practice success stories in maternal social work overseas including ‘bicultural practice’ in New Zealand
- How Emma is using her learnings to improve services for Aboriginal women here in Australia
- The essential skill of being able to have ‘difficult conversations’
- Visiting the early influences on Emma’s life and the values and beliefs that she connected with in the profession of social work
- What Emma’s thinks is the superpower unique to social work
- The people and movements that have shaped Emma’s social work practice
- Emma’s sparkling moments in maternal health social work since returning to Australia
- Emma’s interest in Brene Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability
- An invitation to join the conversation on culturally competent practice
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Things to follow up after the episode
Emma’s report downloadable from the Churchill Trust website – ‘Culturally competent ways of engaging pregnant Indigenous women with identified child protection issues within an urban hospital environment – New Zealand, USA, Canada’
Read another great story about the Malabar Midwives service as featured in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Bi-cultural practice as it relates to Social Work – A summary by the ANZASW
Emma’s favourite video from Reconciliation Australia that references our shared story and the importance of acknowledging the past as part of building a future together.
Brene Brown – TED talks, books and writings