Dr Amanda Nickson, BSW, MSW, PhD, MAASW (Acc)
Reflecting on my career as a social worker so far has caused me to consider what a wonderful profession social work is and how diverse practice can be. I chose to do social work as a great way to express my strong Christian faith. Having worked for over 34 years as a social worker has seen me in a variety of roles. These have included those with government, non-government organisations, private practice and academia.
I have had the privilege of practicing in a range of fields – community development, individual and family work, group work, community education, for statutory and non-statutory agencies covering issues as diverse as child protection, juvenile justice, adoptions, health, defence, homelessness, domestic violence, finance and refugees. I have worked in rural and remote communities as well as metropolitan and regional cities.
Growing up in Sydney, I did my Bachelor of Social Work at University of New South Wales and graduated in 1983. I did a major in community work and a minor in group work. We did four placements in the course of the degree. I remember so well my first placement with the Indo-China Refugee Association in 1980 – at the height of the wave of Indo-Chinese refugees arriving by boat at the time. I wanted to do my placement with refugees and the university was able to match me with an agency. At the time, I could not articulate well why I wanted to do placement there, but know now, it was because I wanted to show compassion and make a difference to people who were marginalized and disadvantaged.
My first role on finishing my degree was as a Community Project Officer with local government in Western Sydney. After a couple of years, I moved interstate to remote Dysart, a mining town in Central Queensland where I started work as a Supervisor with Department of Children’s Services which combined child protection, juvenile justice and adoption work. I later moved to the Emerald office and covered a huge geographic area of rural Queensland which included Longreach, Winton, Jundah, Windorah, Barcaldine, Blackwater and was there for a few years. Then a move to Middlemount to a social work position with Community Health where health-related casework, community education and, group work were involved.
Some contract work as an Employee Assistance Program service provider for a mining company and many adoption assessments kept me in social work while caring for my first child before moving to Townsville at the end of 1992.
A part time contract with Child Safety with the children in long term care team and then I moved into the Alternative Care Position – recruiting, training and matching foster parents with children in need of care. After a locum with the Kirwan Women’s Hospital, next was the opportunity to join the Australian Defence Force in a community development position. I felt I had come full circle – back to community development. The role changed with the advent of Defence Community Organisation where more individual clients, families and group programs were developed and delivered. I did a short contract position with the Townsville Community Legal Service as a Community Educator. Soon after the AASW’s 50th Anniversary, I was on the AASW North Qld Branch Committee as Vice President, then President and as a Director on the national board. In 1999 I graduated with a Master of Social Work from James Cook University. I moved to a position as Senior Social Worker in Centrelink for the next six years, where opportunities to advocate for disadvantaged and often marginalized clients abounded. I had a number of training roles within the organization.
In 2005, I was offered a part time 6 month contract with James Cook University to do Field Education, and have been there as a lecturer ever since. After three years of temporary contracts, finally I was successful in gaining a full time permanent job. I have thrived being part of a research environment and am passionate about influencing social work students in the areas I teach, including Professional Values and Ethics, Rural Welfare, Human Rights and Social Justice, Field Education and the International Exchange subject involving student exchanges in Thailand. In 2016 I was conferred a PhD from James Cook University for my research on Exploring peer group supervision in virtual teams in rural and remote Australia.