15 thoughts on “Where has my radicalism gone? Revisited

  1. Ahh Lauren, the funding rounds and NGO protection requirements in the governmentality-at -arms-length foxtrot……surely it should e part of Social Work Political Awareness Paper 101? (OK Paper 301 then).

    Can I contact you to bounce around some activism ideas about equity and visibility (not to mention unionism and strike activism) for that other MOSTLY FEMALE and highly underpaid and often invisible – but often very excellent and professionally qualified group of practitioners – Counsellors? Where would teens and employee’s (EAP), ACC abuse recovery and family violence recovery be, without them?
    Please call me to help me plan a revolution.

  2. Dear Lauren,
    Thanks for sharing your story. Whoa, I am sorry to hear that you had such a rough ride as a first-year practitioner!! Mine was awful too, but, unlike your experience, I was terrible at my job as a new-grad social worker! I was so anxious and nervous about everything working in the health sector in South Auckland, and even to make things worse, several clients of mine said “I don’t want to talk to Asian” (no one really wants to talk to a person who is very nervous anyway!), so I literally didn’t know what to do. I paid a lot of money to study four years to get this qualification. As a migrant, I didn’t have any family to rely on in New Zealand, so I had to do something to survive. Literally I couldn’t afford to leave the job (although I was sure that my boss wanted to fire me few times). Basically, I needed to learn how to make people talk to me! Luckily, I had the best supervisor who was Cook Island Maori. She was so smart, funny and loving. She made a space and time for me to be able to be “me” (I was only Asian staff in the team at that time), and able to ask questions/ for support without hesitation. I learned real sense of whakawhanaungatanga from her, and it was an awakening moment to me.
    It took few years, but eventually I managed to get better at my job, and I had an opportunity to run the project with Respiratory service. Then I started to focus on listening to and understating clients’ stories and journeys with respiratory illness, instead of focusing on fixing the problems. To cut long story short, in the end of program in 2016, our smoking cessation rate was ranked as number one in New Zealand. Who’d ever thought that we could achieve this?! (statistics show that Maori and Pacific islanders have three times higher rate getting respiratory diseases than other ethnicity). All the teams as well as all the clients under Respiratory service made this happen and I felt so ecstatic. This community that I work with never given up on me, and I feel that I was raised to be a critical thinker by this community. Power of working collectively! So I had thought a lot about “pedagogy of oppressed” working here. As a person of colour, I witness that there are a lot of negative narratives around us all the time. We tend to confine ourselves within those existing negative talks. We definitely need to reverse that, in order to come up with real self-determination.

    Thanks for reading.

  3. Hi. Thankyou for that! We/you just outed the elephant (in t5he room)! I was told about these gagging clauses by my child’s lawyer. I was ‘lucky’- I couldn’t have had a better team to work with on my journey. BUT along the way I came in contact with other less than open situations.
    Gagging clauses, or working in environments which have the same effect, in one form have been hanging around social services since its conception.
    One thing that has never happened before is the advent of the internet. The technology alone has empowered far more people at the bottom than it has at the top to find a voice.

  4. Kia ora Lauren and thanks for an excellent and thought provoking piece. Should be a must read for graduating students..in fact all of us I reckon! My experience of ‘gagging clauses’ in both the NGO and statutory sector is that they’re often based on pretty spurious legal grounds and always worth checking in with your union. Especially for state funded NGOs, the state services commission has some clear guidelines about political neutrality. I get why agencies (and individuals) are scared but actually if we don’t push this line we are silenced and caught in an unbearable tension between our professional ethical codes and mandates as social workers and our day jobs. That’s why our professional association needs to be a strong voice and we all need to support the work of our union. Re your experience of sexual harrassment, your act of sharing this publicly serves as a good reminder to all of us, particularly educators, to raise these issues as realities as students go out to placements. A gender analysis of how women are oppressed, as women – must be part of all our work. Thanks again for your honest reflections. Ngā mihi mō tō mahi.

    1. Kia ora Jude, I appreciate your feedback! Good point about using the union for the gag clauses, I hadn’t thought of that! I’ve just been elected the delegate, so I’ll definitely be asking those questions! Ngā mihi.

    2. Kia ora Jude
      Yes I strongly endorse your comment about the role of our professional association, ANZASW, as a systemic advocacy voice on behalf of social workers who may be silenced in their employment situations. Our new Advocacy and Communications Coordinator Emanuel (voice@anzasw.nz) has been significantly increasing our activity in this role. I encourage all social workers to join the association if you haven’t already, and be active in communicating issues that you are concerned about with the association.

  5. Lauren your post has caused me to stop and think on my journey through social work practice where people ‘receiving’ social work services experience further oppression; and how standing up for social justice can draw negative comments from colleagues; pressure from employers to ‘hold’ a prescribed agency protocol that misses accountability to justice, equality & rights.

    Your writing will cause me to stop and think – ‘where is this going’, ‘is this action aimed at social justice’.

    I admire your bravery

  6. Well said Lauren. I love your honesty and vulnerability. One dimension you didnt mention is the spiritual. This too is often siloed and also marginalised as part of our common human and social functioning. This part of us all needs to be intergrated as we seeek to address individual, social and strictiral injustices.
    I wonder as you’re looking for wholistic ways to support wahine, tamariki and whanau this dimension, alongside the others you mention will also be helpful.
    Kia kaha

    1. Kia ora Andrew, I agree – spirituality is not something we usually consider when thinking about marginalisation and inequality. A great reminder, thank you!

  7. A great read, and you certainly made important points for us to keep in the forefront of our minds.
    In regard to NGOs (in particular) being silenced in a way which is similar to the experiences of many of our clients, I wonder (I spend a lot of time wondering) whether there might be a way of using the collective voices of social workers and clients to raise awareness.
    I’m not sure whether I can accurately convey what my brain has done, but the thought process went:
    The social workers should be able to stand up for what is right.
    But that could put their positions in jeopardy with their employer because of contracts.
    But how would the clients feel knowing that the agencies and social workers which are there to support them (and do support them) are being gagged?
    Would the clients be willing (if, in the spirit of transparency they were told – plainly, without blaming) to join social workers in e.g. protesting gagging clauses, petitioning government?
    If so, what would the government’s response be?

    Anyway, you’ve given me food for thought 🙂

    And I was disgusted by what your colleague put you through. There is no way you should have experienced it in the first place, let alone then been blamed for what he did. I hope that you no longer have to be around him, and that one day he realises the effect of his actions on others and makes better choices.

    1. Kia ora Sean, thanks for your feedback and encouragement! Awesome idea about the collective voices of social workers and whānau, definitely something to think about!

    2. Kia ora Sean,
      Thanks for your comments, totally agree. As noted in another reply ANZASW has been increasing our activity in getting social work’s voice out there, but collaboration with people we serve certainly needs exploration. This has been happening in the UK with BASW, with Guy Shennan taking a particular leadership role. Former IFSW President Ruth Stark is also particularly promoting this.

  8. Excellent, well said. On the earlier part about contracting etc, one senior cabinet minister was a keynote speaker at our community development conference at Unitec a couple of years ago, while still in Opposition, and made a comment that the gagging clauses in MSD and other government NGO funding contracts need to be replaced with free speech clauses. We need to hold the Government to that.

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