Australia is burning for change

It is no exaggeration to describe the images emerging from the south-east Australian bushfires over the New Year as apocalyptic: blood red skies, falling ash and fearful families huddling on the foreshore to escape ferocious fiery winds turning their homes into dust. The facts are hard to absorb: an estimated 3 million hectares of land on fire, hundreds of homes destroyed, a mounting number of humans and half a billion animals killed. Yet summer has just begun.

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New Year Messages: hopes, imaginings and provocations

Kia ora koutou katoa

Another year slips by. In this post our RSW collective reflect individually on some of the social challenges that lie ahead – for social work, for Aotearoa and in the struggle for a just world across the globe. Questions are being asked about why we live as we do – what is sustainable, what can and must be changed? In much of the old world we have seen a shift to the political right amid a climate of fear and insecurity. The parallel threat which industrial production for private profit poses to our fragile biosphere hangs over us all. It has been a tumultuous year in Aotearoa: the horror of the mosque murders, the rising of spirit and solidarity seen at Ihumātao and the deep questioning (for social work) sparked by the OT uplift and its aftermath. There is an opportunity for progressive change in all of this: for a politics which embraces a vision of distributive justice and social equality. 

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Where there’s smoke there’s fire: The issue of cannabis reform in Aotearoa

A guest post by Suzette Jackson, a Master of Social Work student at the University of Auckland.

The issue of cannabis reform in Aotearoa is incredibly important for us as social workers. It is an issue I have a personal stake in due to my life experience, current studies and place of work. I am an addict and alcoholic in recovery, a Master of Social Work student, a drug and alcohol counsellor, a university tutor, a mother and a grandmother. While I am not an expert on this issue, I am committed to learning about the options we will be asked to vote on in next year’s referendum. Here is my take.

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The Expert Witness as cultural oppressor

This blog is a guest blog by Peter W Choate, PhD (Associate Professor, Social Work, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Canada – pchoate@mtroyal.ca)

Peter’s work involves sustained critical discussions of the roles of parental capacity assessments and expert witnesses in the machinations that result in the disproportionate representation of Indigenous Canadian children in the Canadian child welfare system. Here, he discusses the powerful role of the ‘expert witness’ in court proceedings.

 

Today I made an appearance downtown

I am an expert witness because I say I am

And I said, ‘Gentleman..and I use the word loosely…

I will testify for you

I’m a gun for hire, I’m a saint, I’m a liar

Because there are no facts, there is no truth

Just a data to be manipulated

I can get any result you like

What’s it worth to ya?

The Garden of Allah Lyrics – Don Henly. Glenn Frey, Eagles

These words from the America band, The Eagles, is a stark reminder of the power of expert witnesses in courts. In the realm of child protection, mental health experts perform a variety of assessments that influence decisions about the future of children. This work can be in the area of addictions, mental health, domestic violence often wrapped up in the Parenting Capacity Assessment (PCA). A wander through the decisions and research literature in many Euro-centric countries shows that the PCA is a frequently used tool to guide courts in determining the best interests of the child (Choate, 2009).

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Why I support “School Strike 4 Climate”

A guest blog post by Ai Sumihira. Ai is a registered social worker who works in the health sector. She is also a life long climate activist.

I support School Strike 4 Climate because fighting against climate change is the right thing to do. We all know that climate change is not only an issue of the planet heating up, but also a social justice issue. This is the time to act to change and repair the damage we have caused, at least we should stop making it worse for the generations to come.  I can imagine that the future may look dooms and glooms from where young people stand, and this may be anxiety provoking.  Young people are right. We have to make a radical move for climate now before the earth becomes uninhabitable. Climate is changing, and so should we.

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Hōkai Rangi: Cultural solutions to material problems.

This guest blog post is by Kendra Cox (Te Ure o Uenukukōpako, Te Whakatōhea, Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou), National Advocacy Co-Coordinator for People Against Prisons Aotearoa and BSW (Hons) student at the University of Auckland.

A fortnight ago, the Department of Corrections proudly released their new Māori strategy, Hōkai Rangi. The strategy was created with the aspiration to reduce the proportion of Māori in prison from the current 52% to 16%, reflecting the make-up of the general population. Corrections aims to do this by focusing on six key domains outlined in the report: partnership between the Crown and Māori; humanising and healing; involvement of whānau; incorporating te ao Māori; supporting whakapapa and relational identity; and participation in society on release. With Hōkai Rangi, Corrections rightly identifies that the current prison system is failing in its supposedly rehabilitative and reintegrative aims. The strategy notes that reimprisonment rates are unacceptably high: 35% of tauiwi people return to prison within two years of release, and this is much higher for Māori at around 50%. However, the plans presented by this strategy, which centre largely around supporting whānau connection and tikanga Māori-based rehabilitation, are totally incapable of achieving the desired outcome.

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Caring for the ‘highest university’: a commentary on the Whanau Ora Māori Inquiry hui

 

By Kerri Cleaver (Ngai Tahu, PhD candidate University of Otago, Social Worker).

Sitting in the Whanau Ora Māori Inquiry hui there was a lot to take in. I had never before been in a room with so many of our diverse Māori leaders; activists, MPs, academics, doctors, Iwi and community leaders. All there for one purpose, to work together in unity, with all our multiple lived experiences.  The clear focus of the day was to look forward and to plan what the Inquiry might look like, to think about our Māori aspirations and dreams for solving the complex situation of child and whanau safety.  Important and unanimous korero was given by the panel of Dames and Knights as they clearly articulated a shared vision of a Māori owned, led and delivered future system, challenging the current system and repeatedly highlighting Puao-te-ata-tu, the dawn that never came.

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Ihumātao

This guest blog post is by John Darroch, PhD student at the University of Auckland. All of the images, above and below, were taken by John.

As Pākehā it is incumbent upon us to work to right the harms of colonisation. This means dismantling the structures which continue to harm Māori and engaging in efforts to promote redress. These obligations are also part of social work ethics and our commitment to biculturalism. Our professions commitment to upholding the Treaty of Waitangi, and to bicultural practice, goes beyond behaviour. It means fundamentally redistributing power and resources so that Māori have rangatiratanga over land and people.

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Time to fess up

A guest post from David Kenkel :

Alongside the story of social work as a force for social good is a more terrible history of social work as a force for controlling populations in service to the interests of political regimes and dominant cultural groups. For instance, the 20th century saw social work actively complicit in the social control function of right-wing and fascist governments. It is perhaps past time for us to be open about these histories if we do not wish to repeat them.

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