Australian College of Applied Psychology Social Work student Emily James won the inaugural Royal Rehab Alex Ommanney Prize for her reflections on social inclusion in practice. Emily received her award at the organisation’s World Social Work Day celebrations on 21 March.
Royal Rehab established the $1,000 annual prize as a tribute to its dedicated employee, social worker Alex Ommanney, who passed away in 2017. The award honours Alex’s commitment and contribution to the profession and to the spinal cord injured community he passionately served by rewarding disability advocates following in his path.
Candidates for the prize submitted essays demonstrating alignment with Royal Rehab’s mission and values in world-class lifestyle support, rehabilitation, education and research. A panel of four judged Emily’s essay as the winning entry.
“I applied for the Royal Rehab Alex Ommanney Prize because I felt as if my vision to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities aligned with those of Alex and Royal Rehab,” said Emily.
“I feel extremely honoured to have won and hope that I can honour Alex’s memory by continuing the pursuit of social justice and equality, not only for people with disabilities, but all people.”
Emily’s interest in social work developed after she sustained a spinal cord injury in a snowboarding accident.
“I was introduced to a community of people with disabilities. I discovered that there is great strength and ability within the community, however, individuals often do not have access to, or have only restricted access, to resources that could assist them in becoming active members of the community,” she said.
In Emily’s role as Peer and Social Support Coordinator with Spinal Cord Injuries Australia, she works closely with social workers in spinal rehabilitation units around Sydney.
“My job is to support individuals following a spinal cord injury (SCI) by offering emotional support to clients and their families while also providing education on life after SCI,” she said.
“I find my job extremely rewarding and hope to continue in this arena as a social worker after graduating from ACAP at the end of 2018. My aim is to help clients access the resources and services they need to achieve their goals while also promoting empowerment and self-esteem. I want to break down the barriers faced by people with disabilities so they and their families can discover and develop their strengths and optimise their abilities.”
Emily chose ACAP for her Social Work postgraduate degree as she was looking for a practical course that closely examined contemporary social affairs.
“I have particularly enjoyed critically discussing social issues in class and feel that studying a Master of Social Work (Qualifying) has given me the tools and knowledge base on which to build a rich practice framework incorporating theories of anti-oppressive practice, human rights, social inclusion, and strength-based approaches,” she said.
“My aim is to incorporate these theories into my practice framework to most effectively break down barriers, tackle the oppression people with disabilities face and empower them to achieve their goals.”
Professor Sharon Moore, Associate Dean of Social Work at ACAP, praised Emily for her dedication to the field.
“Emily is an outstanding advocate and a great social work student,” said Professor Moore.
“We are delighted she is completing and contributing to our program at ACAP. We join with Royal Rehab in celebrating her contribution to World Social Work Day. Bravo Emily!”
Social Work study options
ACAP offers three provisionally accredited Social Work degrees at its Sydney CBD campus. Royal Rehab supports ACAP Social Work students by offering work placements at its Putney premises, near Ryde in Sydney. Read about Royal Rehab’s specialist rehabilitation and disability services for people who have acquired a disability or impairment through trauma, accident or illness.