Social work[er] responses to terrorism: reflections from East Timor and Western Australia

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis



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“I would encourage social work students to search their hearts and minds to form a working relationship with terrorism1.”

Searching hearts and minds is a complex business at the best of times; in combination with a subject matter like terrorism it becomes fraught with complexity and contradiction. This thesis charts a pathway through this complexity and contradiction by seeking out the thoughts and feelings of experienced social work practitioners from a variety of settings. These practitioners tell rich and powerful narratives that are marked by despair, joy, hope and death. They are all inspiring and convoluted journeys that provide important revelations about the future direction of social work knowledge and practice.

This qualitative research project, which seeks to understand how social workers are responding to terrorism, begins with a series of unstructured interviews with social workers in the suburbs of Western Australia and social/community workers in Dili, the capital of Timor Lesté. Over the same time period a thematic analysis of discursive practices and artefacts was undertaken. From these researches, six social work discourses were identified including; the International, Crisis, Community, Human Rights, Risk, and Ecological. The research then turns to gently interrogate each of the six discourses, using a post structural analysis called a critical “social dialogue” (Falzon, 1998).

The research concludes by highlighting examples where practitioners have drawn upon new ways of thinking and feeling about social work practice that both challenge and expand more normative approaches. These are gathered together in a framework for practice that acknowledges the complexities and challenges of the contemporary international context. For social work students who are beginning to search their hearts and minds, it offers unique insights and understandings that have emerged directly from experienced practitioners.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
StateUnpublished - 2010

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