Racheal's awesome work for tamariki

Published: September 22, 2021

‘Hard yakka but awesome’ is how Levin social worker and mother of three girls under four Racheal Eru modestly describes her job.

Photo of Racheal Eru
Levin social worker, Racheal Eru.

Racheal came to social work via teaching and nursing – all professions with caring at their core. After eight years in the job her work includes some of the hardest yakka of all: child witness interviews.

Providing reassurance

Racheal has developed ways of reassuring tamariki who’ve been through sometimes unimaginable hurt so they can tell their stories to the Police.

‘They have so much trauma and stress. I use humour a lot and I’m very transparent about what’s going to happen and the sort of questions I’m going to ask. It helps them, though it’s still a really difficult process’.

Satisfaction on the job

She says one of the most satisfying things about social work is seeing changes in the lives of the people she works with: returning tamariki to their whānau and setting them up for success, seeing parents getting jobs and gaining self-respect, being greeted by young people in the street (‘Levin is a small place!’).

Racheal is strongly in favour of Oranga Tamariki’s new direction of giving more resources and authority to whānau, iwi and communities and believes it will improve the lives of tamariki: ‘They’re the experts in their own lives, they’re the best placed to do that.’

Combining motherhood and social work

She believes being a mother helps in her work: ‘I think I’m a better social worker because I’ve had kids. I sit in meetings with mums who have lots of kids talking about how hard it is and can relate.’

But how on earth does she cope with two-year-old twins and a three-year-old on top of such a demanding job?

‘Everyone asks me that and I never really have the answer. You just do it!

‘It has some challenging hard days and it has some great days. My kids need me, my work needs me, so you just find a way to prioritise things.

‘I couldn’t imagine it if you didn’t have a really supportive workplace.’

Advice to would-be social workers

Oranga Tamariki social workers have come under a lot of fire in recent times, so on national Social Workers’ Day what advice would she give to anyone thinking of taking up the profession?

‘I’d encourage people to come and try it. Seeing children and whānau succeed and be proud of what they’re doing is actually a really big deal.’