An (interrupted) social work project in Vanuatu: A podcast with Julie Peake

Julie Peake is a social worker whose career spans many roles primarily within the field of child protection in Aotearoa. Most recently she was appointed as child protection technical assistant in Vanuatu, a role developed collaboratively by Volunteer Services Abroad (VSA) and UNICEF, and which saw Julie working alongside a local team to develop their child protection systems. She arrived in Vanuatu in February 2020 after many months of preparation and consultation, only to return to Aotearoa when the pandemic necessitated closing of international borders. In this podcast Julie reflects on the task she was invited to undertake, and her learning from this post, albeit brief, about what it meant to be a New Zealand social worker in Vanuatu, how she carried her child protection experience into this small Pacific nation, and some initial thoughts about what the global Covid crisis might mean for social work.

Resources referred to by Julie in the podcast

Family Violence Death Review Committee. (2020). Sixth report: Men who use violence | Te Pūrongo tuaono: Ngā tāne ka whakamahi i te whakarekereke.  Wellington, NZ.

Ravulo, J., Mafile’o, T., & Yates, D. B. (Eds.). (2019). Pacific Social Work: Navigating Practice, Policy and Research: Routledge.

Photo credit: Bruce Tuten

The social work home office: Behind the screens

A social work colleague posted on social media a photo of her new home office.  Her table and chair, laptop, a cat, some flowers and picture on the wall. I loved seeing this – especially in contrast to what I imagined to be her usual office – a vast grey room full of computers, generic desks and big unopenable windows. This portrait of her new space reflected who I know her to be, a woman committed to respectful, creative work with whānau.

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Thirty years of the Family Group Conference: In conversation with Raewyn Nordstrom

Raewyn Nordstrom describes herself as a Creative Native Disruptor. In this podcast she reflects with Deb Stanfield on her work as a Family Group Conference (FGC) Coordinator for Oranga Tamariki, Aotearoa New Zealand’s child protection service – work which began with facilitation of the first FGC to be held in Aotearoa, (and in the world), and ended with her retirement in early 2019.

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Abortion law reform in Aotearoa New Zealand: In search of human rights, autonomy and empathy

At the end of October this year, the New Zealand Law Commission released a briefing paper: Alternative Approaches to Abortion Law. This paper provides three alternative legal models to existing abortion legislation, all of which recommend that abortion be repealed from the Crimes Act 1961 and the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977, and be treated as a health issue. Liz Beddoe is Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. Liz has been deeply and actively interested in the abortion debate for decades, and in this podcast with Deb Stanfield she shares her analysis of the briefing paper and explores problems with the current law – how it contravenes basic human rights for example, and creates unnecessary complexity for women seeking abortions. Dr Beddoe explains in plain language why social workers should care about this issue, what we should know, and how we can prepare ourselves for the coming months of debate.

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Gender pay equity for social workers in Aotearoa New Zealand

Amy Ross is national organiser for Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest union, the Public Service Association (PSA) Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi. She is also founder and organiser of the Social Work Action Network (SWAN), which is a network within the PSA that aims to unify and advocate for social workers in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In this podcast Amy Ross shares her experience of what she describes as the remarkable strategic victory of bringing about the first step in gender pay equity to social workers in this country. In conversation with Deb Stanfield she celebrates the courage of the original claimants, and the genuine partnership between the union and Oranga Tamariki (Aotearoa New Zealand’s child protection agency). Amy applies a critical lens to this significant historic event for women and for the profession of social work – an event she describes as taking us to a ‘whole new level of discourse.’

The politics of saying sorry: Making good on intentions

In Aotearoa’s sister nation of Canada, there is a government appointed body called The Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was set up in 2008 to document the experiences of children who lived in residential schools in Canada between 1883 and 1996. Its mandate was to fully report the truth of what happened to the 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children who attended these schools – to tell of the abuse inflicted upon many of them at the hands of the state and the church.

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The sudden importance of social media to social workers in New Zealand

In just two months the New Zealand social work profession has undergone a transformation, or at the very least has risen, shaken itself off and shown a renewed confidence in the value of its own opinion. Over these two months, since Minister Tolley’s CYF Review announcement at the beginning of April, there has been an intense succession of disturbing new social policies, funding crises, service delivery disasters and heartbreaking news stories all related to the services provided (or not) to New Zealand’s most vulnerable. There has been no rest for the wicked problems which when not regularly bubbling to the surface of the cauldron, have been happily stewing away at the bottom, preparing to rise again. And no rest for many social workers, who found themselves compelled to respond in ways that surprised even themselves.

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“Big brains” and the modernisation of Child, Youth and Family

Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills was asked by National Radio last week to respond to Minister Anne Tolley’s proposed CYF modernization project. An even, calm and suitably critical Mr Wills offered himself as an ally for child protection social workers and for the children they work alongside on a daily basis. It is very simply in his words “hard work,” and he couldn’t have agreed more with Nine to Noon interviewer Kathryn Ryan who described the size of social work caseloads as “unfathomable when you consider the complexity of the work.” To have this challenge acknowledged is largely satisfying and affirming for social workers and few would disagree with Dr Wills’ stated support for the application of “big brains” to the task of modernizing our child protection system to better meet the needs of children and young people.

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