Courage and Convictions

The exemplary work of anti-racist researcher and children’s rights activist Dr Oliver Sutherland and his associates in ACORD (Auckland Committee on Racism and Discrimination) documents a deeply disturbing history of abusive state care in the 1970s and 80s. The following discussion draws on a witness statement, dated October 4th, 2019, which Dr Sutherland presented to the current Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in State Care and the Care of Faith Based Institutions.

The aim of this post is to encourage some reflection on the role of advocacy organisations in bringing hidden injustice and suffering to light. None of this happened very long ago and it  happened here in Aotearoa; at the hands, or at least under the noses, of state social workers. There are some lessons in here for us all in my humble opinion.

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Social justice and child protection – here comes the future!

We are still at the cross-roads with child welfare and the wider movement for social justice but the momentum for radical change is building. I have seen bits and pieces from the Kempe Center Virtual International Conference: A Call to Action to Change Child Welfare. It is challenging and refreshing to see workers from other countries wrestling with the burning need for child protection reform. Child abuse is a social problem that is entwined with wider issues. The current risk-saturated, procedure-driven, surveillance-orientated child protection paradigm delivers unequal outcomes, in Aotearoa and everywhere else where this system is administered. Why wouldn’t it?  *And what is to be done?

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Tough times

We have talked about the big picture : small picture stuff on this blog for some time. This is because it is THE question for social work – the key issue that we wrestle with in theory and practice. As suggested, these disturbing times are bringing out the best and worst of the human condition. The mounting social disruption and economic fall-out from the pandemic is severely troubling a world already severely troubled by the cumulative fall-out from global warming. The future as we have understood it in the main-stream Western narrative of progressive development no longer makes sustained sense – unless, perhaps, to the hyper-wealthy.

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Advocating for individual need and structural change: Can we do both?

A guest post by Sophie, final year BSW student

As I reach the end of a 4-year Bachelor of Social Work degree, I am left asking myself how social workers can work to serve individual need whilst promoting social change? Can we be agents of change; do we further perpetuate oppression through practice? Or do we unknowingly do both? I have come to understand that what is really needed is the continuation and increase in support for individuals and families, however this alone will not alleviate social problems such as child poverty. Recently, several news articles have highlighted the faulty systems that social work has operated within for far too long. These demonstrate a heavy reliance on Western ideologies and a lack of understanding of Te Ao Māori by putting forth tokenistic gestures as a means of ticking boxes.

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Improving equitable outcomes in child protection: Messages from inequalities and decision-making research

Issues of equity in the child protection system are currently writ large in light of the recent Office of the Children’s Commissioner reports into baby removal practices for Māori, the Whānau Ora Report, and the Waitangi Tribunal hearing into Oranga Tamariki. These reports draw attention to the persistent inequalities for Māori in the child protection system. In addition to this inequity are other intersecting social determinants, and other sources of variable outcomes for families and whānau in system contact.

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Natural justice and child protection: justice for the powerful only?

A guest post by Luke Fitzmaurice.

Tracey Martin would like us to think about natural justice. If only that had been the priority in the first place.

Last week’s damning investigation by Newsroom was the latest in a series of reports on Oranga Tamariki highlighting deep-rooted, fundamental problems within the agency. Among other things, the story described significant problems within the culture of the organisation, concerns about the lack of social work expertise within the leadership team, an insufficient commitment to te ao Māori and allegations that caseload numbers were being manipulated to reflect better on the organisation.

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Child protection: time to talk devolution

Kia ora koutou

The ‘devolution’of state social work, particularly child protection work, to Māori is the bone to be picked. It is a challenging debate and we are potentially at a critical turning point. For a start there are the “What is an old Pākeha man engaging with this issue for?” – “Isn’t it a topic for Māori to somehow resolve themselves?” kinds of questions to contend with. I’ll get to that part in the following paragraphs. We need to be talking about devolution – again – and we need to get it right this time.  

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