Shining a light on social work

Posted on Thursday, March 12, 2020

Social workers play a crucial role in aged care and disability support. They help people look at ways they can improve their personal wellbeing, in turn helping them maintain a better quality of life.

To celebrate World Social Work Day on March 17, we spoke to two of our social workers to learn more about this important discipline.

Meet Margaret Donald

Originally from Scotland, Margaret has been with Brightwater for over eight years. Since 1998, she has worked with a number of organisations in both aged care and disability support.

I’ve had a passion for caring for others since I was young. When I was 13, I met an older lady while in hospital, who was socially isolated as her family did not live in Glasgow. She was a retired nurse and I learned a lot about working in health from her. She developed dementia when I was around 17.

Margaret currently divides her time between three of our aged care homes – The Village in Inglewood, Oxford Gardens in Joondalup and Onslow Gardens in Subiaco.

“I love my work and would not want to do anything else. I am so glad I chose the right career,” said Margaret.

Meet Desirée de Graaf

Originally from the Netherlands, Desirée completed her Bachelor of Social Work in 2000. “Social work seemed a good fit for me – I see myself as a social butterfly and love to connect with people,” said Desirée.

After completing her degree, Desirée looked to gain some ‘life experience’ and went backpacking in Australia and New Zealand. “It was the best year of my life!” she said.

Desirée migrated to Australia, with her husband, in 2007. The couple now have two beautiful daughters, aged eight and five. After spending time with a number of organisations, Desirée came on board with Brightwater in 2018, and currently works at our transition care home in Kingsley and our residential aged care home in Madeley.

“I have a real passion for aged care,” she said.

A day in the life of a social worker

Using their knowledge of family, social networks, disability and mental health, social workers help connect people with the support they need to address issues in their lives.

In aged care and disability support, social workers assist clients with advocacy, decision-making and financial or legal matters. They help clients navigate systems like MyAgedCare or the NDIS, and also provide referrals for community-based services.

What I love most about my job is the feeling of ‘being meaningful’ in supporting clients through challenging times. The aged care system can be overwhelming and the opportunity to support clients and their families practically and emotionally is a rewarding experience,” said Desirée.

Social workers also play a fundamental role in providing emotional support around relationships and grief, helping families maintain relationships and adjust to new circumstances.

“What I find most rewarding is working with people, sometimes at their most despairing time, and being able to help them see that other humans do care about their situation and want to help”, said Margaret.

This year’s theme is promoting the importance of human relationships

As defined by the Australian Association of Social Workers, “promoting the importance of human relationships means recognising the rights and dignity of fellow human beings and treating them and their ways of knowing, with respect and compassion.”

We asked both Desirée and Margaret what this means to them.

“Connectivity with the elderly is, in my view, a key factor in developing human relationships. Listen to them patiently and show compassion. Have a laugh, have a cry and care for them so that they experience a greater sense of wellbeing,” said Desirée.

Margaret shares a similar sentiment. “It’s what makes me come to work each day. It’s what makes my role so rewarding. I get to hold someone’s hand, put an arm around them… sometimes it doesn’t take words for someone to know you care.”

Click here to learn more about the role of social work in Australia.