Report of the Inaugural Conference, Auckland, 1964.

Today the ANZASW digital history project releases the  NZASW Incorporated Report of Inaugural Conference, a report published following the four-day event in Auckland from 4th to 7th of February 1964. The look and feel of this handsome report is a fitting tribute to the gravity of the event it was published to mark.  The foreword tells us something about the work that was undertaken to prepare for it:

…an interim steering committee was elected, comprising Mr M. W. Hancock (convenor), Major Thelma Smith, the Reverend A. M. Elliffe, and Messrs T. H. J. Austin, V. de V. Dudgeon and D. F. MacKenzie.  Specific tasks were assigned to the provincial Associations officially represented at Dunedin.  Auckland was given responsibility for organising the Conference itself; Central Districts was to draft a Constitution for the new Association; Canterbury was to prepare a scheme for training of social workers; and Otago was asked to draft a Code of Ethics. The results of these assignments occupy many of the pages which follow. (p. 1)

The historical detective work of Mary Nash and Barbara Staniforth (Staniforth & Nash, 2012) reveals the commitment of many individual social workers to the task of building the association.  They cite a personal communication from June Kendrick:

Actually, I had my daughter, my third child was born just three weeks before that and I remember sitting up in bed and [a colleague] came, she was working as a social worker, she was on the organising committee. I remember her coming in and sitting on my bed at National Women’s allocating people rooms for the conference, so that conference I always remember rushing home to the baby all the time (J. Kendrick, personal correspondence, 10/11/1999). (p. 31)

Over 160 people attended the inaugural conference and the proceedings included an official opening address by the Minister of Social Welfare (the Honourable D.N. McKay MP) and a Mayoral reception.  During his keynote address, John McCreary (Deputy Head, School of Social Science, Victoria University) identified clearly the professional project that underpinned the work of the conference:

If I were asked in a single sentence to express what I think to be the keynote of this conference, I would say, it is an attempt on the part of social workers to increase the self-conscious awareness of themselves as professional people and as members of a profession. (p. 3)

The report includes contributions on the training needs of social workers and professional standards for social work practice. The whole report (including the commentary on the constitution) will reward careful reading and reflection.   However, I draw your attention in particular to the commendably succinct Interim Code of Ethics on page 30 (even although this does not yet reflect anything approaching a bicultural sensibility), and Merv Hancock’s comment on The NZASW and the Future on page 35.

We can only imagine how Merv must have felt being elected to be first President of the association he had worked so hard to achieve. Mary Nash tells us that he:

…delivered a rousing speech in which he thanked the Association for honouring him by electing him as its first President. He went on to refer to the recognition of social work as a unified profession despite its many fields of practice “I am sure that l say this for you all, that social work is a whole and our unity far transcends our differences”. (p. 14).

Report of the Inaugural Conference, 1964
Report of the Inaugural Conference, 1964.

This document, and others within the ANZASW digital history project, offers researchers access to primary sources for tracing the history of the ANZASW.  They also offer social work educators excellent materials for work with students on the continuities and changes in the discourse of social work in Aotearoa New Zealand.

On a final historical note, I mentioned that the document was a handsomely crafted one. This is not perfectly conveyed by the digital copy, but is very evident in the actual document.  The clue to its provenance is on the bottom of the penultimate page of the report where the name of the printer appears: the Pelorus Press Ltd, 38 Airedale Street, Auckland. It turns out that the Pelorus Press is itself a noteworthy New Zealand institution.

Click on the report cover above or the link below to download the report (this file is optimised for web delivery but still comes in at 8MB, so patience and broadband is recommended):


Nash, M. (1998). “That terrible title, social worker”: A time of transition in social work history 1949-73. Social Work Review, 10(1), 12–18.

New Zealand Association of Social Workers (1964). Report of Inaugural Conference: Auckland 4 to 7 February, 1964. Auckland: NZASW.

Staniforth, B., & Nash, M. (2012). Bringing a myriad of gifts: June Kendrick. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work Review, 24(27-36).