Veritable is seeking to define the best of remote social work practice.
There are many challenging aspects to practice in remote Australia, from effective cross-cultural work, to ‘dual relationships’ (when you see your client at the local shops and your children play on the same team), to the tyranny of distance, to underfunded or non-existent services.
Cutting through all of this however is a single practice imperative: relationality. The most effective tool for remote social work practice is placing relationships at the centre of all that we do. From building trust across cultures and languages with our client, to getting to know those around them in service to the client, to building up networks of supportive professionals with common values and beliefs.
Relationships will sustain you when the complexity of the work overwhelms you. While social work textbooks may tell you to establish professional boundaries as tools for effective practice, remote social work asks you to critically analyse those boundaries.
Are these boundaries getting in the way of building a (professional, but still authentically personal) relationship with the client? Are these boundaries artificial, when your professional and personal world are interconnected?
Western culture is fundamentally individualist and transactional. In a professional sense, this translates to your professional ‘role’ being the ticket to engagement.
In remote Australia, who you are as a person is your ticket to engagement. You are not your role. The first place to start is who and how you are with the person and the people you serve.
The work, just as in everyday life, starts at the fundamental level of relationship. It speak to a truth of society, which comes into stark relief in small communities: no person stands alone. When you start from here, then the work can start.