Four people sit on rainbow stairs smiling at the camera

Podcasting pioneers: how the power of audio is making social workers visible

Podcasting pioneers: how the power of audio is making social workers visible

Associate Professor Mim Fox and Lis Murphy shine a light on the unseen work of those in helping professions

Social work is a profession grounded in speaking and listening. At someone’s darkest hour it’s often a social worker providing a glimmer of light, offering gentle words of reassurance, and holding space for someone at an acute time of need. So discreet is their role in times of crises, that it’s not uncommon for social workers to remain unseen.

It was the desire to reveal the important but invisible role of social workers, that led to the creation of the Social Work Stories podcast in 2018 by University of Wollongong (UOW) Associate Professor Mim Fox and her colleagues, Dr Ben Joseph (Western Sydney University), and social work practitioners Ms Lis Murphy and Mr Justin Stech. The podcast has been so successful that the team behind it have now started the podcast production platform Social Work Media.

Social Work Media is a podcast production collective that makes podcasts that educate and develop social work practitioners and the wider helping professions.

Social Work Media have two home podcasts, Social Work Stories and Social Work Discoveries, and in 2024 are launching a third home podcast, Social Work Teach. 

In the beginning Associate Professor Fox said Social Work Stories was born out of a desire to allow social workers an anonymous platform to share their stories and reflect on challenging moments in their job. All stories shared by social workers are de-identified to protect the identities of both the clients and the practitioners.

“We wanted to share the inner workings of the social worker, how they struggle with their everyday dilemmas with how to put their ethics, morals, skills into practice and why they do what they do,” Associate Professor Fox, from the UOW’s School of Health and Society, said.

“Social workers are constrained every day, by the organisations they’re working with, the laws and policies they’re working within, the professional rules about how we are with clients and each other,” Associate Professor Fox said.

“It can be so restrictive that sometimes it’s hard for social workers to be honest.”

The team quickly realised there was an appetite for social work content podcasts and that’s when Social Work Media was born. They’re now developing educational resources and producing podcasts for those in the helping professions including social workers, health, welfare and community services, industry groups, and people working in tertiary education.

One of Social Work Media’s most recent successes is a podcast they produced with the NSW  Agency for Clinical Innovation’s Violence, Abuse and Neglect Network. Making Visible: Preventing and Responding to Violence, Abuse and Neglect is hosted by Associate Professor Fox and Lis Murphy, and supports healthcare professionals to prevent and respond to family and domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and neglect.

The podcast highlights best practice care for social workers, psychologists and other healthcare professionals.

“When the Agency for Clinical Innovation reached out for us to produce their podcast we jumped at the chance. This was an important opportunity to support practitioners across NSW with inspiring stories of practice which helps them develop their knowledge and skills”.

After launching the successful Making Visible series, production is now underway for a podcast series that explores Aboriginal practice approaches and interventions. This podcast series will be created in partnership with Aboriginal communities and practitioners, representing the many incredible Aboriginal practitioners across NSW working in the violence, abuse and neglect sector.

Podcasting in the social work profession isn’t slowing down. To date there are around 45 existing social work content podcasts available for practitioners, students and the curious general public to stream. Associate Professor Fox attributes the growing popularity of social work podcasting for industry to the pandemic.

“The pandemic is where we noticed some big changes and industry really embraced podcasts as a way to communicate information to staff, provide training and skill development, provide support and outreach and unique networking opportunities,” Associate Professor Fox said.

“Increasingly now podcasting is built into the communications and workforce plans for government departments and NGOs due to its reach and low costs.

“It’s such an exciting time and we’re delighted to be a big part of helping the space grow and making this important work visible.”