Having made a career out of being curious, Dr Kate Seymour is determined to break down social hierarchies and structural inequalities. Kate tells us about her unusual path to social work academia, and why she thinks being a trouble maker gives her an advantage.
What is your role and what does your work focus on?
I’m a senior lecturer in social work in a balanced role (teaching and research) and teach mainly in the postgraduate courses. As an active researcher, I’m a member of the Social Work Innovation Research Living Space (SWIRLS) – a Flinders University Research Centre and the only centre dedicated to social work research in Australia.
What journey brought you to this point in your career?
Before coming to Flinders (and social work academia), I had another life, at another university, as a criminologist. While this might seem like an unusual combination, there is actually a lot of overlap between social work and criminology and I continue to identify with both fields. I’d love to see more collaboration – in both teaching and research – between these two disciplines.
Outside of academia, I practiced as a social worker for several years and across fields including housing and homelessness, child protection and adult offending. It was my work with adult offenders – both within the prison system and in the community – that led me to a career in academia, initially for a research degree and, subsequently, a lectureship in Criminology. I then transitioned to social work education after moving from NSW to SA in 2012/13.
What made you get into your field?
Through my direct practice experience, I’ve worked in really challenging areas and with complex issues which have, in a range of ways, upended my sense of the world. What I’ve found most confronting is not only the depth of injustice and inequality built into society, but also our collective willingness to dismiss this in favour of a comfortable – but false – focus on the ‘bad/mad/weak’ person. Then, as now, it is this acute awareness of the unspoken, unacknowledged and unjust that drives me, and also the things that ‘we’ (as social workers, and as a society) seem to be making little-to-no headway with. Like many other people, I came into academia naïve and dewy-eyed, thinking that universities were some utopian, democratic space. In short, I’ve always been curious (and a born trouble-maker).
What do you love most about your work?
I’ve made a career out of my curiosity! I get to meet and learn from some truly incredible people – both colleagues and students. I also love the Bedford Park campus and consider myself very lucky to be here.
What do you do with your spare time?
When I’m not working or spending time with my family, I like being able to do things for myself – going for walks, reading a good book, getting into the garden, cuddling the cat, or just gazing out the window!