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World Social Work Day

21 March 2017

Heather Moore and Jenny Stanger in from of Parliament House, Canberra

Caption: Heather Moore and Jenny Stanger at Parliament House in Canberra

Today is World Social Work Day, a day to recognise and celebrate the unique and significant contributions of the social work profession.

At The Freedom Partnership we are truly privileged to have an amazing and diverse group of social workers that make up our team.

One such staff member is Heather Moore, who works in Canberra as our National Policy and Advocacy Coordinator. Through her role, Heather is responsible for developing and implementing the Freedom Partnership’s national advocacy strategy, as well as our state government engagement and domestic workers campaign. Many people are often surprised to learn that Heather does all of this through her profession as a social worker. There exists a common misconception that being a social worker only involves one-on-one type casework for individuals in need.

With this in mind, World Social Work Day seemed like the perfect opportunity to interview Heather and spotlight her important work.

Heather, could you tell us why are you passionate about social work?

I think social work is a unique profession because it requires the professional to reflect on their own beliefs and biases; to acknowledge their own power and privilege so they are more self aware and more empathic to the experiences and perspectives of others. I am drawn to the profession because it requires us to go “upstream” and fight for change at the structural and systemic levels.

And why are you passionate about working in the anti-slavery space?

I am humbled by the resilience and courage of survivors who teach me new things about life and living and not taking anything for granted.

I feel like this profession found me and that in some way, it’s what I’m supposed to be doing in the world. I am also surrounded by inspiring and passionate colleagues who support me and help me grow.

How does your role at The Salvation Army's Freedom Partnership relate to being a social worker?

A lot of people think social work only involves client work, but this simply isn’t true. The foundations of the profession were built on people working together in the community to address the root causes of social problems. My role is concentrated on macro-social work practice, in which I apply the knowledge I gained from working directly with clients for many years to advocate for better policies. I also work alongside survivors to facilitate opportunities for them to speak out for themselves in a supported and self-determined way.

What has been a highlight of your time working for the Freedom Partnership?

Dr Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but only comes through continuous struggle.”

Advocacy is long-term work and big victories don’t come too often, so you have to recognise the little wins along the way.

In my time at The Freedom Partnership, I think of one our greatest achievements has been securing more opportunities for survivors to speak to government directly. We successfully advocated to have survivors attend the National Roundtable on Human Trafficking as observers, and we have accompanied survivors to meet with federal politicians and to brief senior departmental officials, including the Ambassador for People Smuggling and Trafficking. In the long run, the aim is for them to have a seat at the table.

Another highlight for me is getting the issue of modern slavery onto the radar of state and territory governments. There are four state/territory governments now that have either adopted policies on modern slavery or are looking to do so. The long term aim of The Freedom Partnership is to build a national movement, decentralise the anti-slavery response, and engage a much more diverse range of stakeholders at the grassroots level to take action. We are doing a lot of other things, but this in particular is really exciting work. It’s really a privilege to come to work everyday.

Heather holds a Masters of Social Work and International Social Welfare from Columbia University in New York. Her expertise is built on 15 years of antislavery work, which started when she established the first shelter for trafficked women in the United States. Since then, Heather has worked as a service provider, trainer, community organiser, consultant and advocate, fighting for the rights of individuals impacted by modern slavery.

By Sydney Hirt

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