Aotearoa New Zealand is currently grappling with an outbreak of the Delta variant of Covid-19. Since a recent returnee from Australia tested positive for Delta in mid-August 2021, we have been under public health emergency measures, with Tāmaki Makaurau, our largest city, in Level 3 and 4 lockdowns for 88 days (at 13 November). The Delta outbreak has resulted in 5371 cases so far. There are so many cases now that those of us in Tāmaki (and probably in Waikato and Tai Tokerau) have to assume that there are Covid-19 cases in our neighbourhoods. We scan the vaccination statistics every day to see if we are getting closer to that magic number of 90% of our eligible population double-vaccinated, at which point some restrictions can be lifted.
Those of us involved in the movement for Palestinian rights are very used to the twists and turns of the Israeli state and its accomplices abroad. They act together to silence and smear the movement for the liberation of Palestine. The Israelis refer to this as hasbara or advocacy for Israel. In reality, hasbara consists of well-funded campaigns of misinformation that work to delegitimise and demonise any criticism of the seemingly endless military occupation of Palestinian land. Israel even has an army of social media trolls that can be mustered at a moments notice to intervene in any social media critique of the Israeli state. False allegations of antisemitism are usually enough to chill the debate.
A guest post by Ai Sumihira
It has been a while since alert level 4 was declared in August 2021. Yes, it is extremely worrying to be in lockdown for such a long period, with annoyingly infectious variant of disease. – Just trying to breathe and to look for something positive. On the quiet road during the alert level 4, I could hear birds. I saw small children riding bike. Footpaths in busy suburbs were full of people. And Yes, life with less traffic noise is somewhat tranquil.
This week I have had the good fortune to participate in the US-based (Denver-Colorado) Kempe Centre International Virtual Conference: A CALL TO CHANGE CHILD WELFARE. The theme of the conference was generated by the challenges facing child protection systems globally, and specifically across the English-speaking / Anglophone ‘world’.
I read the Ministerial Advisory Board Report on Oranga Tamariki – Kahu Aroha – yesterday. The report is a mixed bag. It does not go as far in terms of devolution to Māori as it might have done and much of the detail remains unclear. It walks the line between two commitments which is likely to generate ongoing tension: strengthening the authority and capacity of ‘Māori collectives and communities’ on the one hand and re-centering social work within the OT bureaucracy on the other. I will consider the relationship between these two initiatives and discuss some of the challenges and opportunities of each in turn.
This is a guest post from Lauren Bartley
Over the last few years, I have contributed a couple of blogs to Reimagining Social Work, reflecting on the grief I felt at losing my sense of radicalism once I started working as a social worker. You can read those blogs here and here, but a quick rehash: throughout my degree, I became pretty disillusioned by how little focus contemporary social work placed on social justice. It seemed that social work was more about putting plasters on people, and adjusting people to their circumstances, rather than trying to change those circumstances. I had created a name for myself as a bit of a radical and got pretty fired up in my classes and assignments about what social workers should really be doing. And then I got my first social work job, and reality hit. Workload, time constraints, and organisational suppression of anything remotely political meant that I was really restrained in what I could do, and I quickly felt my sense of radicalism slipping away.
Anita Gibbs (Associate Professor, University of Otago) is a longstanding social worker, teacher, researcher and advocate for young people with FASD and their families. In 2020 she received the Universities New Zealand ‘Critic and Conscience of Society’ award for her outstanding work in this area. Anita is currently undertaking research with caregivers and stakeholders on the topic of living well with FASD across the lifespan.
This blog post is extracted from a recent editorial of the journal Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work written by Neil Ballantyne and Liz Beddoe. The editorial extract refers to a commentary in the journal by Genevieve Smith and Joanna Appleby.
In their commentary on the “Social work practice implications of upcoming mental health reforms”, Genevieve Smith and Joanna Appleby offer an informative account of the key challenges for mental health services and for people experiencing mental distress in Aotearoa New Zealand. They contextualise their discussion with reference to the impact of four decades of neoliberal reforms on our people and on our health and social services—reforms that have fostered deep economic inequality, racism, precarity and despair in the lives of the many (see, also, the review of Ferguson, 2017 in this issue). These reforms have devastated mental health services through underfunding, service rationing and managerial business models that alienate service users, pressurise frontline workers and fracture service provision. Smith and Appleby explore four challenges faced by those who would reform mental health services: the steady growth in demand for services along with the severity of presenting problems, the failure to maintain or increase the supply of services leading to issues with service accessibility, the postcode lottery of service variability between the 20 District Health Boards, and staff retention and burnout (partly a product of the first two challenges).
This is a guest post from Bex Rillstone. Bex graduated the MSW(P) Programme, University of Auckland, in 2018. She has worked as a housing social worker in South Auckland and as a Family Start social worker with a kaupapa Māori NGO. Bex now works in a male prison, delivering rehabilitation programmes. She also sits on the Labour Party Justice Policy Committee, advocating for changes within the Justice and Corrections systems.
I have been working in a men’s prison for almost two years now. There is something unsettling about working within a Justice system that remains so fundamentally unjust. Many people have asked me why I choose this line of work. The answer is that I purposely chose to move towards my fear rather than away from it. I already knew, from international research and national recidivism rates, that the prison system doesn’t work – for perpetrators or for victims.
As many others will be doing at this uncertain time, I am hunkering down and wondering about the state of the play in the world as I know it. On a global scale the hypocrisy and ultimate futility of the US project in Afghanistan is gobsmacking. On a bigger scale still, the growing evidence of a planet pushed to breaking point by the extractive profit driven commodification of all things is chilling. Closer to home we have a virus to surround and conquer. It does seem that our politicians and public health specialists are close to being on the same page and we can have some confidence that this outbreak will be isolated and extinguished. We also have winds of change blowing through the bureaucracy of our state child protection system in Aotearoa. In this blog post I want to touch on the indirect connections – the conjuncture – between some of these things.