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Social Workers and Disaster Management: An Aotearoa New Zealand Perspective

In many parts of the world, social workers have long supported disaster responses although in Aotearoa New Zealand, social work is not generally considered an essential component of disaster management. Promoting the development of safer, less vulnerable communities, is however a key activity for both social work and disaster management. The recent shift from a traditional focus on hazards to vulnerability and resilience consolidates the alignment and importance of social work within this field. This article reports the results of the first known survey of registered social workers in Aotearoa New Zealand and their involvement in disaster events. Additionally, the article highlights the perspectives of six disaster management professionals on the role of social workers in disaster management. The findings offer examples of social workers’ engagement in disaster work, the variable understanding of social work by disaster management personnel, and the importance of social work maintaining a positive public profile. Implications for future social work practice and education internationally as well as disaster management policy and practice are outlined.

Kathryn Hay, Katheryn Margaret Pascoe
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Journal article - open access