Reviewing the benefits and challenges of overseas practice: Reflections upon coming home

Liz Beddoe and Allen Bartley, University of Auckland, New Zealand

We’ve published a new article from our  ten year old programme of research on migrant social work professionals. Read more on our blog at : Crossing Borders.

Given the diversity of practice and understanding of social work across the globe and its distinctive shape in specific national settings, practitioners working in a new country encounter different community, professional and workplace cultures which may pose challenges. The study reported here was  part of to a larger programme of work undertaken to address the transnational nature of the social work profession in Aotearoa New Zealand and elsewhere. In this article we explored the experiences of Aotearoa New Zealand qualified social workers who have practised in another country and have returned home.

We recruited participants to an online survey  via an invitation to all members of Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers. The questionnaire was designed to obtain broad data about the experiences of social workers in their overseas employment and perceptions on their return home.

What we found:

Many participants had layers of transnational experience, having practised as social workers in multiple countries. Participants reported overall satisfaction with overseas experiences which had provided professional opportunities for learning and development, and better pay and conditions. Coming home presented new challenges and interesting perceptions of social work in Aotearoa.

As reported in the growing literature on this topic (see Bartley & Beddoe, 2018) , transnational mobility of social workers increasingly provides for both in and outbound movements of social workers. Previous research (Beddoe & Fouché, 2014) found that Aotearoa New Zealand social workers enjoyed the opportunities short- or long-term social work employment overseas, while acknowledging the challenges.

Adjustment to new practice locations and, as shown in the small exploratory study reported here, adjustment to returning ‘home’ may include negative perceptions which are disruptive to professional perspectives. While overseas practice is enriching it carries with it both relocation benefits and costs.

We hope our study informs employers about the challenges of returning social workers. recognition of the enhanced skills they bring home may offset some of the dislocation experienced, as may the more active involvement of the professional bodies to which practitioners belong.

You can read the article here in the free open access journal Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work .


Bartley, A., & Beddoe , L. (Eds.). (2018). Transnational social work: Challenges and opportunities of a global profession.  Bristol: Policy Press. Publisher web page. Read a review here

Beddoe, L., & Fouché, C. B. (2014). ‘Kiwis on the Move’: New Zealand Social Workers’ Experience of Practising Abroad. British Journal of Social Work, 44(suppl 1), i193-i208. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcu049

Beddoe, L., & Bartley, A. (2019). Reviewing the benefits and challenges of overseas practice: Reflections upon coming home. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 31(1), 72-88. doi:10.11157/anzswj-vol31iss1id531 here.

About socialworknz

I'm a social work researcher in Aotearoa New Zealand
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