Champions for Children: Meet Jack Southwell

Meet Jack Southwell, our latest Champion for Children! 

Jack has been a social worker at the RCH since 2018, and spends his days working with families on the wards. As it’s Child Protection Week, we sat down with Jack to find out more about his role and what this year’s theme means to him. 

Tell us about yourself and your role at the RCH.
I’ve been a social worker at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) since 2018. I started working in the Complex Care Hub and am now working in General Medicine and Rheumatology. My role varies but most of my day is spent with families on the wards, liaising with external organisations like Child Protection and brainstorming ways to support families once they go home.  

What do you enjoy most about being a social worker?
I enjoy working with the rest of the RCH team to come up with creative ways to support families and keep children safe. I also love getting to know families and walking alongside them through challenging life events. My favourite thing to do is support new parents to get to know their babies and get ready for discharge home.     

Why did you choose to work at the RCH?
I was born and raised in Tasmania and had been working in Child Protection for a couple of years in Hobart and was ready for a change. I applied to the RCH on a whim, it has a great reputation interstate and have always been interested in paediatric social work. I was lucky to get the job, packed up my life and moved to Melbourne six weeks later!  

Why is it so important to have social workers embedded in hospital services?
One of the perceptions of social work is that our role is to “check in” with families who are having tough times in hospital – and while we love getting to know families and offering emotional support, we are also specialists in navigating psycho/social/legal systems such as family violence, child protection, grief and trauma and enjoy sinking our teeth into the nitty gritty of family dynamics. Social workers are critical members of the multidisciplinary team, we help to promote the patient and families’ voices as well as offering expert knowledge in social vulnerability.  

The theme for this year’s National Child Protection Week is “Every child, in every community, needs a fair go”, how can we all make sure we are creating a safe and supportive environment for the children and young people in our lives to thrive?
Keeping children safe is everybody’s business, especially in a hospital. For me, the theme means acknowledging diversity and working hard to promote equality for all children. It is important that we listen to children and their families and respect their background and experiences. We have to speak up when we are worried about a child’s safety or wellbeing and ask for help (from social work!) if we aren’t sure what to do.  

Where would you like the social work profession go in the future? 
I’d love to see more men join the social work profession! 


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