UNE tackles regional social worker shortage

Published 16 March 2009

socialworkThe Chancellor of the University of New England, Richard Torbay, has welcomed the introduction of a Bachelor of Social Work degree at UNE to meet the shortage of professionals, particularly in rural and regional areas.

The NSW Minister for Regional Development, Phillip Costa, an alumnus of Armidale Teachers’ College, was on campus today to officially launch the new four-year degree program. The first intake includes 22 internal and 41 external students, almost all from non- metropolitan regions.

“This degree is the first to specialise in social work practice in rural and regional areas, where geographic and professional isolation are significant factors,” Mr Torbay said. “There is a huge shortage of social workers in NSW, with more than 400 vacancies in regional areas alone at present.

“Dr Myfanwy Maple and her colleagues who put this degree together have shown great initiative in harnessing existing University expertise and facilities and adding the necessary extra components to establish this course.”

The Chancellor said that the new degree was in line with the establishment of UNE’s School of Rural Medicine, which, as part of the Joint Medical Program in collaboration with the University of Newcastle, was now in its second year on the UNE campus.

“The University is taking a leading role in addressing shortages of skilled professionals outside the major cities,” he said.  “It is well established that students who study in regional areas are more likely to stay and work in regional areas.”

The Vice-Chancellor of UNE, Professor Alan Pettigrew, said that students in the new degree program would be able to take advantage of existing expertise within UNE’s two Faculties to complement their training. “UNE has outstanding expertise in rural medicine, psychology, sociology, criminology and nursing,” Professor Pettigrew said. “Students will be able to draw on all of these collaborating disciplines to help them shape their professional development and apply it in the workplace.”

The Bachelor of Social Work degree was launched on the eve of World Social Work Day, which this year, with the theme “Social Work and Social Development: The Agenda”, aims to approach social issues and challenges collectively throughout communities.

THE IMAGE displayed here expands to show Susan Gould, Head of Hunter New England Health’s Social Work Discipline, speaking at today’s event. In introducing her,  Professor Victor Minichiello, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of UNE’s Faculty of The Professions, emphasised the University’s close collaboration with the social work profession in planning the degree program. Ms Gould welcomed the new degree, while Mr Costa said: “Graduates in Social Work from this university will deliver the level of service in social work that our regional communities deserve.”