Social work disaster practice

Enhancing skills, community connections, and external relationships




Natural disaster, social capital, skills, knowledge, social work, community resilience


INTRODUCTION: Natural and human-made disasters, including climate change, pandemics, and other hazards such as earthquake and flooding can have considerable negative impact on all communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. This article uses a case study approach to describe the experiences and reflections of social workers in relation to disaster practice.

METHODS: This phase of the research project included semi-structured interviews with 11 registered social workers who had been involved in disaster management in Aotearoa New Zealand. The case studies were examined using thematic analysis to identify key themes. This article draws on four of the 11 interviews grouped together after thematic analysis, enabling detailed exploration of experiences.

FINDINGS: Analysis of the interviews identified that the transferable skills and knowledge of social workers are important for disaster practice; social workers are effective in connecting with individuals and communities; and improved professional relationships, systems, and processes are required so that the community is better supported following future disaster events.

IMPLICATIONS: Social workers practise locally but are situated within an international context that is underpinned by global definitions, agendas, and goals. These, and local codes and standards, offer a rationale and framework for effective social work disaster practice. Stronger connection between the social work profession and the national emergency management organisation in Aotearoa New Zealand will build social capital and signal the profession’s commitment to community resilience in the context of disaster practice.


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How to Cite

Hay, K., Pascoe, K. M., Henley, L., Knight, F., Stewart, K., & Radak, G. (2023). Social work disaster practice: Enhancing skills, community connections, and external relationships. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 35(1), 60–70.



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