31 December 2017

Hogmanay Message from President IFSW

Message from President Ruth Stark:

The last day of the year in Scotland is Hogmanay. It is our most significant public holiday. All bills paid, all cleaned up for the start of the year, myself and my neighbours will see the New Year in with the Bells, a singing of Auld Lang Syne, and immediately start first footing our neighbours with salt, coal, black bun and whisky. The hospitality shared is the omen of good luck that will take us through the night and through the rest of the year. We will return home sometime in the morning or afternoon and sleep……. Then we will get back to work!

In all countries and cultures we have festivals that bring us together in our communities. They provide time for us to stop and reflect, to be thankful for what we have done and received, to learn from our mistakes and to look forward positively. As time goes on and our communities develop and change so do some of our traditions and our cultures.

Such traditions help communities sustain themselves. During the Highland Clearances in the C18th and C19th many Scots were forced to leave their homes and were transported to North America, New Zealand, Australia or were forced into the armed forces and were sent to other parts of the British Empire. The enclosure of common lands by the rich took communal land into private estates, to breed sheep and hunt stags.

Many of our traditions have travelled with those emigrants and flourish through that Scottish diaspora. These traditions will have changed and adapted to the new communities, the new ways of life. There is not much use for a piece of coal in Brisbane!  However new traditions are developed to bring communities together – community gardens, community projects, recycling all provide that social element that promotes social interdependency.

There is great debate about the reason that Hogmanay is so significant in Scotland, unlike our English neighbours who prefer Christmas…. Some say it is Norse or Pict in its origins, some that it is Celtic or French… some that it was reinforced by the Calvinist derision of anything Papal. Whatever its origin it serves a purpose of reinforcing the importance of members of the local community supporting each other. The importance of the human relationships we have with each other – the final theme of our current Global Agenda, which will launch at the World Conference in Dublin in July 2018.

Over the past few years the number of people moving around the world through forced or chosen migration has dominated much of our political and economic agendas. We know that for our communities to adapt healthily to all this change there needs to be coordination in investment in supporting social cohesion.  The failure to do so results in tensions, fear, division and repression in society, leading to conflict and civil unrest.

Poverty and the abuse of power and control are in the day to day work of all social workers, preventing it when we can, but more often dealing with the consequences. It is a tough job in and increasingly complex world. However, we have a great deal of skills, knowledge and expertise to share with our neighbours.

Listening to the seasonal messages from some of our political leaders at the end of this year many of us will be deeply concerned about the adversarial rhetoric that spells out lack of trust in other people and the displays of the too ready abuse of power and control. The world needs us to work in our neighbourhoods and communities, with our governments and international institutions to avert people from conflict and oppression. On World Social Work Day this year we realised we have a movement of over 3 million people in 127 countries united in the task of establishing social justice as the norm with our fellow citizens. How will we build on this throughout 2018 and beyond? Empowerment comes from within and is strengthened by working together. In IFSW we are creating opportunities to fulfil that ambition of every social worker – to make a difference.

Your good health and happiness for the New Year – Slàinte

(Scots Gaelic – wishing you good health, pronounced  –  Slainge!!)