Creative social work

post by A Social Work Student 

It is without a doubt the topic of social work in the media has been biased. Even though it is one of the most passionate occupations in New Zealand, social work is constantly portrayed in the media as baby snatchers. This is a trend that also occurs in the UK. It has been reported that particular media outlets in England has again “misinterpreted the system that seeks to protect children” (Mason, 2018). According to Stanfield and Beddoe (2016), the relationship between social work and the media has been edgy and full of apprehension. They have also realized the importance of learning and engaging in social media which serves as a platform to influence and advocate for social justice and social change.

Surprisingly, in recent times, NZ Herald has given some positive exposure to social work (particularly to Oranga Tamariki)  in various articles: “Kiwi boy in Oranga Tamariki care brings his social worker to tears with heartwarming letter”; “’These kids just want to be the same’ – Oranga Tamariki CEO. This, I think, is a big achievement for social work which is changing the discourse of the profession in a positive light. How can we as a profession continue to present the pure discourse of social work? “Creativity involves a willingness to try new methods and techniques” (Dowrick, 1981 p.110).

To some extent social work fixation on developing the profession through research, education, and practice that equips practitioners to address the problems is done in a ‘superficial way’ (Travis Jr., 2017). Travis Jr. (2017) believes that we are forgetting the potency of creative arts in all levels of social work practice. I am not here to dismiss research and professionalization of our discipline but rather to remind us that creativity is a gift that all social works have access to, and it is good! I am also proposing that creative writing may be able to keep the true discourse of social work alive. Through “characterization and language choices that offer relevant and telling details, where skillful selection of detail can encourage readers to empathize with people presented in their authentic contexts” (Boxall et al., 2018)

To get the ball rolling I have taken advantage of this opportunity to include in my blog a poem which reflects the strenuous and complex struggles that social workers encounter on a daily basis but also highlighting the hope for new life and growth.  


 Social workers work the ground

The hard dirt scorched by the sun must be broken down.

Most of the time, the seasons we go through are rough and tough

But the rain will fall and turn into soil what we thought was the hardest stuff.

 Still, there is much work to be done

Case notes, endless meetings,

Processes and mandates

They are like rocks and rubble,

If you avoid them it will accumulate

Weeds and stubble is a lot of trouble,

Leave them alone and they will be doubled

Some are rooted deeply, others are difficult to be found

At the end of the day we can’t pull them all out

 Hurt people, hurt people, some are very deceitful

But healed people, heal people, we still remain hopeful

The people we meet may be like thistles and thorns

Leaf them alone, leaves them alone with bigger horns

 Don’t give up. Plant the seeds without missing a day

It will land in good soil, do not be dismayed

Protect them so they will not be taken away

Our reward is priceless it will never fade

No matter what the media says

 We will never be fazed


Boxall, K., McKenzie, V., Henderson, G., Aishath, S., & Mazza, D. (2018). Reimagining social work case studies: A social work—creative writing collaboration. Social Work Education, 1-14. DOI: 10.1080/02615479.2018.1458831

Dowrick, C. (1981). Creative social work by  David Brandon and Bill Jordan (eds.) Oxford, UK , Basil Blackwell,  (book review). 

Harris, S., (2018, April 18) These kids just want to be the same’ – Oranga Tamariki CEO. Retrieved from:

Stanfield, D., & Beddoe, L. (2016). Social work and social media in Aotearoa new Zealand: Educating social workers across shifting boundaries of social work identity. Social Work Education, 35(3), 284-296.

Stanley Mason. (2018, May 16). A warped view of social work in the media is unfair – and dangerous. Retrieved from:

Travis Jr, R. (2017). All awareness and no action: Can social work leverage creative arts’ potential? Research on Social Work Practice, DOI: 1049731517735178.


Author: socialworknz

I'm a social work researcher in Aotearoa New Zealand

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