New Year’s revolutions

Kia ora koutou katoa

The following reflections from each and all of us at the RSW Collective are offered at the turn of a challenging and energising year for social work in Aotearoa New Zealand. We don’t pretend to speak for anyone else, but we do encourage critical imagination and action – together we can help shape a progressive future.

The social profession seeks to do more than bandage the victims of an unequal society; it needs to be a voice for social change. Critical social workers need to have a powerful voice in practice development, policy analysis and in wider politics. We have something to say about the genesis of social suffering and this involves more than administering evidence-based treatment to the poor.

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Children’s wellbeing or perpetuating handmaids?

A guest post by Eileen Joy 

From the moment Jacinda Ardern took office she made it clear that the wellbeing of children was one of her key priorities.  Ardern established the Ministry for Child Poverty Reduction and underscored its importance by naming herself as the Minister responsible. One of the key tasks of this Ministry, alongside the Ministry for Children, was to create a ‘Child Wellbeing Strategy’. A strategy that is described as “an opportunity to significantly improve the lives of New Zealand’s children” and it aims to do this by “set[ting] out the actions the Government intends to take to improve the wellbeing of all New Zealand children.” All of this sounds like ‘common sense’, surely no one would argue with the idea that we need to reduce the numbers of children living in poverty and that we need to improve the wellbeing of the nation’s children?

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Inquiring into institutional abuses

Guest post by Carole Adamson

I am writing this blog post to assist my own comprehension of the current debates over the extension of the inquiry into the abuse of children in state care into the realm of those abused whilst in the care of faith-based organisations.

To all those abused in state care, I acknowledge you and the truth of your experiences

To all those abused in faith-based care, I acknowledge the lifting of the silences that have added to the damage done

To all of us with a history of abuse, may we continue on a journey of healing

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Reclaiming social work with soul

A guest blog post by David Kenkel, Senior Lecturer in Social Practice at UNITEC.

We work in a social work environment where our instinct and education tell us that the problems people face are structural, but the push of practice is often towards individualising both problems and solutions. Resolving this contradiction at the practice level is one of the great challenges that social work must engage with over the next few decades if it is to rehabilitate its social justice soul.

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Let’s do this…. Eventually?

A guest post by John Darroch, PhD student , University of Auckland

This week the current Labour Government unveiled their first budget. The budget was a lot better than it could have been, and it’s a welcome relief to have a government which actually cares about people and demonstrates this in its spending. Despite this there have been some glaring omissions in the budget. I believe that we can, and should, do better.

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An opportunity missed? A failure to listen? And whose advice was privileged?

Beehive, NZ government building.

A guest blog post by Kieran O’Donoghue, Associate Professor in Social Work, Massey University.


Tena Koutou Katoa,

The Social and Community Services Select Committee report published on 13 April 2018, is an example of an opportunity missed in regard to protecting the public and enhancing the professionalism of social work.  It is also an example of the Committee failing to listen to the majority of submitters, whilst at the same time raising questions about whose advice was privileged and why?

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Celebrating diversity! Umm? and why the question – kei hea te putea? is more important than ever.

 A  guest post by David Kenkel

Fraser and Honneth (2003) suggest that one useful way to slice up politics is to distinguish between the politics of recognition and the politics of redistribution. You could also talk about identity politics (Gergen, 1995) versus the politics of class. Whatever it is named, this type of political critique looks at the difference between the social struggles of diverse groups for recognition and fair treatment versus the basic question of how a society allocates resources. Arguably, during the rise of neoliberalism the politics of recognition has played a more centre-stage role. Distribution is portrayed as a question better answered by the marketplace than political will or the desires of an electorate.

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Professionals against prisons Aotearoa

A guest blog post by Kendra Cox (BSW student, University of Auckland and organiser with People Against Prisons Aotearoa. Iwi affiliations Te Ure o Uenukukōpako, Te Whakatōhea, Ngāi Tuhoe and Ngāti Porou)

A few weeks ago the recently elected Labour-led government announced that they are considering taking up the torch for the proposed Waikeria prison expansion floated under the National party in 2016 (Department of Corrections, 2016). The prospective expansion to the Waikato facility, just south of Te Awamutu, has ballooned from an extra capacity of 1500 to 3000 in the last eighteen months (Fisher, 2018a; Otorohanga District Council, 2017). The newest figures would raise the capacity of Waikeria Prison from 778 to nearly 3800, a higher number than our three largest correctional facilities combined. This ‘mega-prison’ has been celebrated by some, who are keen to see the influx of cash and jobs to the rural Waikato (Biddle, 2017). But the rapidly increasing prison population, which exceeded 10,000 last year and is now nearly 10,700 (Fisher, 2018a), has to be measured in more than just economic stimulation for the regions. Mass incarceration in Aotearoa should be measured instead by the human cost of families and communities ripped apart, of lives destroyed, and of social problems that continue to find a foothold and flourish in an increasingly unequal society.

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The problem with checklists in child protection work

A guest post by Eileen Joy, PhD candidate, University of Auckland

In the United Kingdom, ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) have been getting a lot of government attention recently – largely due to a government committee announcing, in October 2017, that it was going to “examine the strength of the evidence linking adverse childhood experiences with long-term negative outcomes, he evidence base for related interventions, whether evidence is being used effectively in policy-making, and the support and oversight for research into this area”.  Here in New Zealand the conversation about ACEs has been less official, but has still permeated government departments and local social media, with exhortations to watch Nadine Burke Harris’ ‘Ted Talk’ about them.

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