Eight experienced social workers embarked on a collective journey retreating from the busyness, responsibility pressures, endless to-do lists and ‘the fight’ that goes on in everyday practice. They retreated to Alam Indah hotel in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, that provides a context of generous beauty, warmth and connection with nature and Balinese culture and community. In this space they were given a chance to breathe, reflect and connect to self and other, experiencing solidarity and collective care to inspire professional growth and sustenance. For some the retreat supported a reclaiming of ‘voice’, resetting of the ethical compass of social justice and possibilities of ways forward when finding oneself at a career crossroad.

As the retreat co-ordinator and group facilitator, I had the privilege of working alongside these passionate, committed women in creating a dynamic scaffold for the retreat experience. It was important to have a frame to provide a sense of predictability and safety necessary when being away from ‘home’ and stepping towards the unfamiliar and yet to be known. Equally important, however, is having enough flexibility to permit the ‘letting go’ necessary that is supported by the fluid nature of Balinese culture and relationship to time.

The program incorporated professional group reflections informed by Communities of Practice, Collaborative Auto-ethnography (CAE) research methodology and Narrative therapy outsider witnessing practice alongside Balinese cultural excursions (tour of local village, rice fields, temples, waterfalls) and relaxation activities such as yoga, massage, reiki and other spa experiences.

It was important to have meals together and fortunately from my many trips to Bali I have acquired useful knowledge about where to find high quality organic food and cafes and restaurants that make best use of the natural surroundings. At mealtimes participants shared stories of their work and other aspects of their lives as well as exchanging resources and ideas. I had learned through my experience of facilitating a similar retreat experience at home in the Snowy Valleys, NSW, Australia in April 2022 that participants find these informal experiences surprisingly enriching and inspiring.

On the strength of overwhelmingly positive early feedback about this retreat I am already planning to repeat the retreat experience in early July 2024. If you are interested in joining us and would like to discuss further please email me at : deannedale@gmail.com or call me on 0411150497.