International award for forensic social work academic | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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International award for forensic social work academic

Dimitra 'Dimi' Lattas is an associate lecturer and doctoral student based at the University of the Sunshine Coast's Fraser Coast campus. She's just won an international award through the National Organisation of Forensic Social Work (NOFSW) for her work on 'forensic social work simulation', in collaboration with the University of Tennessee.

Her prize is the opportunity to travel to New Orleans to present her work at the NOFSW Annual Conference.

We asked Dimi to share a little about the field of forensic social work, and tell us what this international collaboration and recognition means to her.

Q: Can you explain what forensic social work is? 


Forensic social work is the intersection between the criminal justice system and social work practice. We support vulnerable persons engaged with the justice system.

My research is interested in how we teach forensic social work and develop educational practices that support student learning and professional expectations. This includes curriculum design, simulation, and technology.

Q: Your work on forensic social work simulation has won an award. What is the 'simulation' aspect about, and why is it important? 


Forensic social work simulation provides students with realistic and authentic scenarios which they may encounter in practice.

This can include mock courtrooms, interviewing a prisoner, or doing a risk assessment. It's important because it helps social workers build skills and confidence to handle complex situations, like helping clients navigate the legal system or working with legal professionals and law enforcement.

Q: How did your collaboration with the University of Tennessee come about? What can we learn from the work in this space happening overseas (or vice versa)? 


Our collaboration with the University of Tennessee came about through mutual interests in forensic social work. They are conducting a wider project into unconscious bias, and we learnt a lot from each other's experiences and approaches.

The United States has a much more defined model of forensic social work education in comparison to Australia. They have specialist studies and licencing structures. My research suggests that we could better prepare students for the realities of practice with this model.

Q: What does it mean to you to have this opportunity to travel to New Orleans and present at the NOFSW Annual Conference?


Having the opportunity to travel to New Orleans and present at the NOFSW Annual Conference is incredibly meaningful. I am a new mum with a toddler, so this will be my first time abroad without him.

Professionally, it is an amazing opportunity to share insights, learn from others in the field, and contribute to the advancement of forensic social work. Plus, it's always exciting to connect with colleagues from around the world and exchange ideas that can ultimately benefit the communities we serve.

Associate Lecturer Dimitra Lattas

Bachelor of Social Work

Bachelor of Social Work, Program Information, Program Summary, Program Structure, Career Opportunities

Master of Social Work (Qualifying)

Advance your skills and knowledge to create a more just world. This professionally accredited, post-qualifying degree builds on your prior knowledge and experience, and gives you the advanced knowledge and skills you need to work with people – both individually and collectively – to effect social change.

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