Annerie Tomkinson’s decision to pursue a career in social work was motivated by an early desire to advocate for the wellbeing of people through social and emotional support.
Growing up in South Africa, Annerie saw the barriers preventing people from achieving quality of life and wanted to help those who were suffering.
“On a daily basis we were confronted with people – newborns to adults – who lived without the basic necessities of life such as shelter, food and clean water, education, safety and access to any healthcare,” Annerie said.
“I have a genuine heart for people and from a young age I always knew that one day I wanted to be in a role where I could help others and be in a position where I could facilitate change.”
That passion for helping vulnerable people only grew stronger when she arrived with her family in Australia 13 years ago and saw her brother start his career in health as a clinical measurement scientist.
She said her personal experiences with family receiving healthcare sparked her desire to specialise in hospital social work.
“There was such a focus on patient-centre care that involved many clinicians and healthcare workers. I knew one day I wanted to be on the other end supporting other families.
“Studying at university, I completed my first placement at Mackay Base Hospital and found I was attracted to the variety and many challenges each day brought.
“It really pushed me out of my comfort zone to encourage personal growth and professional development.”
A typical day for Annerie sees her work across all specialty areas of the hospital to support children, adults and families.
“We’re part of a multidisciplinary team addressing the social and emotional issues that are impacting on the patient and their family or carer’s health, wellbeing, adjustment and recovery,” she said.
“Services can include counselling and mediation, crisis interventions, advocacy, case management or providing specialist clinical expertise in addressing complex psychosocial issues such as abuse or grief.
“We may feel like we’re being pulled in many different directions but it’s nothing compared to the struggles or trauma our patients and families may be experiencing.”
Today (16 March) is World Social Work Day bringing an opportunity to acknowledge the important role social workers play in the lives of families and communities and celebrate their achievements.