Ten social work pioneers who laid the groundwork for improving lives in Singapore were honoured yesterday.
For their contributions in the last 30 years, they were presented with tokens of appreciation by Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin at the 10th annual Social Workers' Day yesterday.
More than 500 social service practitioners attended the event at Gardens by the Bay.
Speaking at the event, Mr Tan said: "They have set the foundation for social work in Singapore. They have made a difference to the lives of the people they reach out to, and have been a source of guidance and inspiration for all the very young social workers today as well."
Among the pioneers honoured was Professor Tan Ngoh Tiong, former dean of the School of Human Development and Social Services at SIM University, who decided to embark on a career in social work in 1975.
Prof Tan's contributions include serving as vice-president of the International Federation of Social Workers, and twice serving as president of the Singapore Association of Social Workers (SASW).
He said: "If you want to do good for as many people as you can, for as long as you can, you need to be a trained professional with a purpose, values as well as knowledge, and that's why I enrolled in social work."
Another pioneer, National University of Singapore senior lecturer Rosaleen Ow, said: "Society is increasingly having sub-groups popping up, people we didn't notice before. We can no longer put our heads in the sand and say that we don't want to work with people who are different.
The theme for this year's Social Workers' Day is "honouring diversity", SASW said in a statement.
Ms Agnes Chia, the president of SASW, which organises Social Workers' Day, said social workers should recognise and avoid judging the wide variety of marginalised groups, such as disabled people, single parents, prisoners or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
She said: "It is important to provide the fraternity of social workers with a platform to come together and discuss the core principles of social work, so as to continually guide our practice."
Social workers, of whom there were about 800 in Singapore in 2012, could also help change social structures and policies to ensure everyone has a share in the social and economic benefits of growth, the SASW statement said.