A transnational student-led, rural-focussed inquiry: social work educational competency in disaster management

Publication Name

Social Work Education


Due to the impact of natural and human-caused disasters, for example, climate change, social workers are increasingly needed at the frontline of disaster management. However, some social workers feel unprepared for responding to the needs of vulnerable communities experiencing a disaster. Alongside this, many rural communities that experience disasters also live with social disadvantages, resulting in added layers of difficulty. In response to a gap in social work curricula, the authors residing in both Ireland and Australia decided to conduct a student-led, rural-focussed co-operative inquiry into the research question: How can social work curricula support emerging social workers in developing their competency for working in disaster-affected rural communities to enable resilience? In addressing this question, we propose that social work education include learning the four phases of disaster management (prevention, preparation, response and recovery) through the lens of social work ethics. We posit that social work students need to graduate with an awareness that disasters can exacerbate the issues of distance and social isolation, especially in rural communities. Further, students interested in rural practice would benefit from the cognizance of the factors that increase community vulnerability and the acquisition of strategies and skills associated with strengthening community resilience.

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