A desire to share the day to day reality of social workers has seen a podcasting production collective flourish.
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.
Associate Professor Mim Fox likens social work to the magic that happens behind the curtain.
“A social worker is like an invisible magician who’s standing there making it all happen, and yet in times of trauma you can guarantee a family would never even be able to remember that they saw a social worker,” Associate Professor Fox, from the University of Wollongong’s School of Health and Society, said.
It was the desire to reveal the magicians’ tricks, the important but invisible role of social workers, that led to the creation of the Social Work Stories podcast in 2018 by Associate Professor Fox and her colleagues, Dr Ben Joseph (Western Sydney University), and social work practitioners Ms Lis Murphy and Mr Justin Stech.
The team behind Social Work Media: Dr Ben Joseph, Lis Murphy, Justin Stech, Associate Professor Mim Fox
“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 said.
“It’s not an easy job and I think their stories are really important to get out there.”
Social Work Stories gets to the nitty gritty of people. It allows social workers to remain anonymous as they share their stories and reflect on challenging moments in their job. It provides the listener with rare insight into the complexity of being a social worker.
“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.”
From strength to strength
The success of Social Work Stories led the team behind it to create Social Work Media, a podcast production collective that makes podcasts that educate and develop social work practitioners and the wider helping professions. The team have two home podcasts, Social Work Stories and Social Work Discoveries, and in 2024 are launching a third home podcast, Social Work Teach. All client and practitioner stories discussed on the podcasts from Social Work Media are de-identified so as to protect the privacy of those involved.
View this post on Instagram
“It’s been a very busy five years,” Associate Professor Fox reflects.
“What started out as a way to share the story of what it means to be a social worker in the everyday has expanded to an amazing platform.
“We are 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 for education
The expansion of Social Work Media reflects the growing trend of using podcasting as a medium to both entertain and educate.
Associate Professor Fox said the benefit of podcasting in the social work profession is multifaceted.
“Most social work is invisible, or only seen by immediate colleagues and clients, the benefit of podcasting is that it allows us to make the work visible,” Associate Professor Fox said.
“Podcasts can support outreach and activism. They allow us to get the message out there and extend social work networks.
What is you favourite #SocialWorkStoriespodcast episode? The one you re-listen to or recommend to a friend/colleague? #socialwork— Social Work Stories Podcast (@SOWKStoriesPod) July 20, 2023
Thanks to https://t.co/eE8JMR7pUQ for these #BehindTheScenes shots of @drmimfox & Lis in a recording session with @benlukejoseph on the laptop pic.twitter.com/NFrMKiQTTz
In the education and teaching space Associate Professor Fox says digital delivery in teaching is now a requirement, rather than an option.
“Podcasts not only provide supplementary content, but they’re integrated into assessments and are also being co-produced with students for skill development.
“Students can be exposed to practice early via podcasts, rather than on placement when they have already invested years in their study.
Podcasting in the social work space 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.”