Social work students have a much higher incidence of various forms of childhood trauma than students of other disciplines. A 1993 US study found 22% of social work students reported childhood sexual abuse compared to 2% of business students.
Many people who gain criminal convictions have also experienced childhood or adult trauma and associated self-medication using illicit drugs. One study of women in prison in New South Wales found 70% had been victims of childhood sexual abuse. Of these, 98% reported they were drug users (mostly heroin) and that their engagement with the criminal justice system was closely tied to drug use.
As this trend of excluding people with a range of criminal convictions from studying social work continues, Australia will inevitably have fewer social work graduates with lived experience of trauma and addiction.
This is a problem because studies have found lived experiences to be helpful in a range of social work fields. These include addiction-treatment programs, mental health, domestic and family violence, and working with sex workers.