ANZASW Webinar – Social Work Encounters with Interspecies Homelessness

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Date(s) - 04/12/2019
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm


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Social work encounters with interspecies homelessness: Resistance as companion animal-inclusive practice.

Melissa Laing is a critical social worker, doctoral candidate and sessional academic at RMIT University, situated on Wurundjeri land (Melbourne, Australia). Her PhD project is a mixed methods study that investigates the nature of companion animal-inclusive practice in the Victorian Family Violence and Homelessness sectors. She is particularly interested in the use of resistance as a way of creatively navigating anthropocentrism in social work and the all-too-human services. Melissa is passionate about bringing companion animals and awareness of the nonhuman world into social work practice and education at any opportunity. She is also completely besotted with her two resident felines, and this love inspires her research and nonhuman animal advocacy.

Carole Adamson is currently a Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Auckland. She’s particularly interested in how social work practice adapts to current realities and intersectionalities. She has a practice, teaching and research focus on stress, trauma, resilience and mental health. With her first language being Labrador, the subject of animal-inclusive social work is dear to her heart, seeing animal rights in close relationship to human rights, and arguing that a focus on animals in relationship with humans in situations of crisis and trauma can assist both human and animal wellbeing.


The human-nonhuman bond is strong in interspecies families, such as those comprised of women experiencing, or at risk of homelessness with a companion animal. In Australia and New Zealand, there is an emerging companion animal turn in mainstream discourse, and we are becoming more and more critical about the exclusion of nonhuman interspecies family members from many aspects of society. Despite this shift, social work as a profession has been slow to respond. Given that the all-too-human services are not structurally set up to care for more-than-human families, any attempts to do so are acts of resistance. Examples from an Australian PhD study of companion animal-inclusive practices of resistance undertaken by social workers are discussed.

Learning Outcomes:

In this session, you will learn about:

  • The bond between women and companion animals who are at risk of, or experiencing homelessness
  • Why this is an important consideration for social workers employed in family violence or homelessness service provision


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