Social Workers Union and Thunderbird Partnership Foundation international knowledge exchange trip

Social Workers Union (SWU) - Thunderbird Partnership Foundation

Funded by the BASW International Development Fund, this SWU trip took place from 16th – 21st October 2023 in London, Ontario, Canada.

This knowledge exchange was a unique opportunity for UK social workers to learn about the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation’s strength-based, holistic, trauma informed approach to social work practices that values culture, respect, community, and compassion. Thunderbird’s “two-eyed seeing” approach of combining Indigenous knowledge and western knowledge has produced a wealth of frameworks, tools, and programs – many of which are highlighted in this report.

The Social Workers Union (SWU) delegation for this knowledge exchange trip to Canada included John McGowan, Dave Callow, Dr Shawn Major, Anna Collins, Rebecca Austin, and Dominic Watters.

Thank you to our generous hosts at the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation who shared Indigenous knowledge and culture, social work practices, reflections, organised site visits, and provided us with nourishing food each day. We thank the Lenape (Delaware), Anishinabe, and Haudenosaunee Nations and the Southern First Nations Secretariat who host the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation where we spent much of our time learning. Thank you as well to the staff of the Nimkee NupiGawagan Healing Centre, Native Horizons Treatment Centre, and Atlohsa Family Healing Services for welcoming our visits and for the thoughtful and educational discussions.

SWU General Secretary John McGowan said:

“I feel privileged to have been on the recent SWU trip hosted by the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation in London, Ontario which is home to one of highest population of Indigenous peoples in Ontario. It has such a diverse urban Indigenous community with people from all over Turtle Island or what we call ‘North America’.

“Such an opportunity to meet and spend time with local people, Thunderbird’s staff and a range of social work / community organisations. Everyone we met was generous and proud to show off their life, their culture and their confidence and positivity in the future.

“The trip was varied, insightful and a lot of knowledge was shared. From spending time learning about Thunderbird Partnership’s approach to social work practices to site visits to learn about Indigenous specific treatment at an adult centre and a youth centre, harm reduction at a youth centre and meeting with groups to share positive practice.  

“In particular, the impressive Indigenous Wellness Framework (IWF) is a foundational framework that was developed by First Nation Elders and Knowledge Keepers who shared their understanding of what wellness is from an Indigenous point of view.”