Sara Wylie, 21 February, 2022
Social work was the right fit for Sara Wylie’s passion for advocacy.
I am a social worker performing the role of Family Support Practitioner. This involves having a caseload of 12 families that I support in family-led plans, with a child-centred lens, to increase wellbeing, connection, parenting and safety.
This work is hard, but it feels purposeful, and every day I get to do something meaningful. There is an inherent power imbalance in being an “agency” and while families work voluntarily with us, it is important to be aware of this imbalance existing. One of my favourite parts of this job is being able to translate this power into advocacy for families and facilitating an outcome desired by the family I am working with. This involves building rapport and working alliances with families, collaboration and liaising with other organisations, services, and systems. My day is often filled with small wins and that helps you keep going.
I undertook an undergraduate Bachelor of Laws (Honours). Upon graduation and some time spent as a Law Clerk, I was unfulfilled. It did not quite fit. I felt my scope as a solicitor did not fit with the advocacy and scope I wished to work with in practice; I was limited to addressing the law. I knew the challenges women and children in particular face, while relevant, goes beyond the law. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
I researched ways to work with children and families in a different capacity and context aside from a court room that remained centred on advocacy. This pursuit led to social work.
I loved the Masters of Social Work course. I enjoyed study and the content. This degree was described to me as transformational learning in my first ever lecture given by Christine Morely; this was extremely accurate. Be prepared for some uncomfortable learning, learning a lot about yourself and what you carry with you; however find comfort in knowing it is worth the journey.
Placements, underpinned by strong social work theory, were crucial to learning practical skills and forming professional connections. My practical placement assisted in securing employment and making meaningful professional connections that I have today. My first placement was at the Brisbane North Intensive Family Support (BN IFS), the same service I now work in a paid capacity.
I developed my practice on placement and found that the work aligned with my desired career progression. More importantly, I was able to work with children and families in a scope that suited my values and practice framework. This allowed me to work with women, children and families holistically.
My scope of practice within social work was not limited to the application of the law; my work could include acknowledgment of the person’s life in its entirety, structural, social, formal and informal systems that marginalise, oppress and discriminate.
I finished my degree and upon graduation the opportunity arose to work once again with BN IFS but with Act for Kids. Act for Kids is an organisation that I feel is ethical, for the purpose of helping children and families heal from trauma and invest in their workers. I enjoyed the work I undertook on placement and was excited to start as a new practitioner.