Crossing Borders: Migrant Social Workers as Global Professionals

Social work is becoming a more mobile profession. A group of researchers in the School of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work at the University of Auckland decided to find out about social workers practising in New Zealand who had gained their social work qualifications elsewhere. The ‘Crossing Borders’ team of Christa Fouché, Liz Beddoe, Allen Bartley and Phil Harington developed a mixed method study.

We wanted to explore the experiences of social workers who were qualified overseas and the key professional issues they faced practising in New Zealand.  In a three-phase project we first examined information about the 234 registered social workers in New Zealand with an overseas social work qualification; this was reported locally (Bartley et al., 2011). At that time about 10% of registered social workers in New Zealand gained their social work qualification overseas. This was followed by a series of key informant focus groups with 18 overseas-qualified social workers recruited through personal and professional networks. Our analysis highlighted eleven themes in the experiences of overseas qualified social workers in New Zealand. The third phase was an online survey of 294 migrant social workers, derived from the themes of the focus group data.

Core themes emerged from the survey related to the challenges practitioners faced in a new country and conflicts arising from previous experiences of practising social work, many of which resonated with the international literature. Prominent and inter-related themes included perceptions of the local context of social work, professional roles and public recognition of social work, the need for induction and on-going support for migrant professionals, cultural differences and experience of discrimination and the need for better utilisation of the strengths of migrant social workers.

We want to support better orientation and support for globally mobile  social workers and recognise the skills and experience they bring to their new environment when they are on the move.

Contact us : Liz Beddoe


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