Social Workers Anonymous

This is a guest post by Bex Amos, social worker.

My name is Bex and I am a social worker. I first noticed my addiction to social working when I started experiencing the common symptoms of irritability, low mood, intrusive thoughts and insomnia. My diagnosis was indisputable when I started using risk-analysis assessments to measure the ability of parents to care for their own tamariki.  I now like to call myself a recovering social worker, but the road to sobriety is a long and painful journey.

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Recentring Pride on the rainbow community

This is a guest post by Eileen Joy, a doctoral student at the University of Auckland.

Two years ago I wrote this piece about why Social Work Needs Pride . A lot has happened since then. Last year, and rightfully so, a significant portion of the rainbow community challenged the idea that the NZ Police should be able to march in the Auckland Pride Parade in uniform ( Sarah Murphy,The Spinoff, 2018 ). I won’t go into the history of that time here, suffice to say that the police were allowed to march, just not in uniform. They didn’t like this, said that they had to march in uniform. A moot point given events not much later that showed them wearing ‘civvies’ to other important events.

It is however important to note exactly why the Pride Parade – the very one I and my children loved – was problematic. We need to remember that the Rainbow community was hunted and persecuted by the police for many, many years. We also need to note that this concern about police being at Pride parades is definitely not a New Zealand only phenomenon . And whilst we don’t have specific statistics on rainbow incarceration rates (because the NZ Police don’t collect this data – something that is problematic) we can be pretty certain that given the rates of incarceration of tangata whenua  (some of whom will also be rainbow whānau), those of the rainbow community would not lag too far behind.

This is where it’s important to remember that, as Audre Lorde said, “there is no such thing as a single issue struggle because we do not lead single issue lives” (p. 138) – a point reiterated by Emilie Rākete in discussing the Auckland Pride Parade.  Let’s also not forget that the NZ Police stopped diversity training for rainbow issues years ago, explaining that instead they are focusing on police values and all people in all communities. This sounds a little like saying ‘all lives matter’ – which of course they do, but that’s not the point when your house is burning down and the neighbours is not, but the firefighters insist on pouring water on the neighbour’s house because ‘all houses matter’  .

This is not something that anything like a ‘rainbow tick’ can erase. This persecution especially impacts those whose identities don’t so easily fit into little single category boxes. For our trans whānau, our takātapui, tāhine and tangata ira tāne people, their rainbow journey is complex . Our trans whānau are still waiting for our seemingly progressive government to take action on basic human rights. Something Kendra Cox and I highlighted last year. For those in our community who are tangata whenua it is not so easy (nigh on impossible) for them to lay aside almost two hundred years of colonisation on top of persecution specific to their sexual/gender identities to cater to the police. And nor should they have to. In moments like this, it’s important to reflect on who has power and who does not and ask yourself where social work should stand in that.

I was thinking about all of this as I stood with my family waiting for Our March to kick off the other day. I thought about the horrific statistics for trans and non-binary people in New Zealand from the Counting Ourselves report that came out late last year . I thought about the aforementioned lack of action on basic human rights for trans people in New Zealand. I was thinking, as I often do, about how many social workers are ignorant of all of these things, yet they work with our community whether they know it or not. I thought of the commitment social work educators need to make to throw some rainbow glitter throughout their courses. I thought of how I often fear for the life of my children, both of them fierce and glowing with rainbow pride.

But mostly, mostly I reflected on the joyous beautiful rainbows that were there in front of me. Life, bursting at the seams, wanting to be free, to be celebrated, to colour outside the lines, inside the lines, with no lines. This new march, borne out of the sacrifices of so many people in our community making their stand and not giving an inch, is something to be truly celebrated. Gone are the corporate floats, the businesses parading around seeking cookies saying, look at us we are so diverse, and by the way, we would love to have your ‘pink dollar’. In this march, rather than standing on the sidelines I got to march. I didn’t have to pin my flag to a particular cause or business to participate, I could just be me. My kids could be who they are, and WE, the community, were the centre of attention – not capitalism.

With special thanks to Kendra Cox for helping with some of the information I needed for this piece.

References:

Lorde, A. (2007). Sister outsider: Essays and speeches by Audre Lorde. New York, United States: Crossing Press.

photo @CaitlinSnark

Australia is burning for change

It is no exaggeration to describe the images emerging from the south-east Australian bushfires over the New Year as apocalyptic: blood red skies, falling ash and fearful families huddling on the foreshore to escape ferocious fiery winds turning their homes into dust. The facts are hard to absorb: an estimated 3 million hectares of land on fire, hundreds of homes destroyed, a mounting number of humans and half a billion animals killed. Yet summer has just begun.

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New Year Messages: hopes, imaginings and provocations

Kia ora koutou katoa

Another year slips by. In this post our RSW collective reflect individually on some of the social challenges that lie ahead – for social work, for Aotearoa and in the struggle for a just world across the globe. Questions are being asked about why we live as we do – what is sustainable, what can and must be changed? In much of the old world we have seen a shift to the political right amid a climate of fear and insecurity. The parallel threat which industrial production for private profit poses to our fragile biosphere hangs over us all. It has been a tumultuous year in Aotearoa: the horror of the mosque murders, the rising of spirit and solidarity seen at Ihumātao and the deep questioning (for social work) sparked by the OT uplift and its aftermath. There is an opportunity for progressive change in all of this: for a politics which embraces a vision of distributive justice and social equality. 

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Where there’s smoke there’s fire: The issue of cannabis reform in Aotearoa

A guest post by Suzette Jackson, a Master of Social Work student at the University of Auckland.

The issue of cannabis reform in Aotearoa is incredibly important for us as social workers. It is an issue I have a personal stake in due to my life experience, current studies and place of work. I am an addict and alcoholic in recovery, a Master of Social Work student, a drug and alcohol counsellor, a university tutor, a mother and a grandmother. While I am not an expert on this issue, I am committed to learning about the options we will be asked to vote on in next year’s referendum. Here is my take.

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The Expert Witness as cultural oppressor

This blog is a guest blog by Peter W Choate, PhD (Associate Professor, Social Work, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Canada – pchoate@mtroyal.ca)

Peter’s work involves sustained critical discussions of the roles of parental capacity assessments and expert witnesses in the machinations that result in the disproportionate representation of Indigenous Canadian children in the Canadian child welfare system. Here, he discusses the powerful role of the ‘expert witness’ in court proceedings.

 

Today I made an appearance downtown

I am an expert witness because I say I am

And I said, ‘Gentleman..and I use the word loosely…

I will testify for you

I’m a gun for hire, I’m a saint, I’m a liar

Because there are no facts, there is no truth

Just a data to be manipulated

I can get any result you like

What’s it worth to ya?

The Garden of Allah Lyrics – Don Henly. Glenn Frey, Eagles

These words from the America band, The Eagles, is a stark reminder of the power of expert witnesses in courts. In the realm of child protection, mental health experts perform a variety of assessments that influence decisions about the future of children. This work can be in the area of addictions, mental health, domestic violence often wrapped up in the Parenting Capacity Assessment (PCA). A wander through the decisions and research literature in many Euro-centric countries shows that the PCA is a frequently used tool to guide courts in determining the best interests of the child (Choate, 2009).

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Why I support “School Strike 4 Climate”

A guest blog post by Ai Sumihira. Ai is a registered social worker who works in the health sector. She is also a life long climate activist.

I support School Strike 4 Climate because fighting against climate change is the right thing to do. We all know that climate change is not only an issue of the planet heating up, but also a social justice issue. This is the time to act to change and repair the damage we have caused, at least we should stop making it worse for the generations to come.  I can imagine that the future may look dooms and glooms from where young people stand, and this may be anxiety provoking.  Young people are right. We have to make a radical move for climate now before the earth becomes uninhabitable. Climate is changing, and so should we.

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Hōkai Rangi: Cultural solutions to material problems.

This guest blog post is by Kendra Cox (Te Ure o Uenukukōpako, Te Whakatōhea, Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou), National Advocacy Co-Coordinator for People Against Prisons Aotearoa and BSW (Hons) student at the University of Auckland.

A fortnight ago, the Department of Corrections proudly released their new Māori strategy, Hōkai Rangi. The strategy was created with the aspiration to reduce the proportion of Māori in prison from the current 52% to 16%, reflecting the make-up of the general population. Corrections aims to do this by focusing on six key domains outlined in the report: partnership between the Crown and Māori; humanising and healing; involvement of whānau; incorporating te ao Māori; supporting whakapapa and relational identity; and participation in society on release. With Hōkai Rangi, Corrections rightly identifies that the current prison system is failing in its supposedly rehabilitative and reintegrative aims. The strategy notes that reimprisonment rates are unacceptably high: 35% of tauiwi people return to prison within two years of release, and this is much higher for Māori at around 50%. However, the plans presented by this strategy, which centre largely around supporting whānau connection and tikanga Māori-based rehabilitation, are totally incapable of achieving the desired outcome.

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Caring for the ‘highest university’: a commentary on the Whanau Ora Māori Inquiry hui

 

By Kerri Cleaver (Ngai Tahu, PhD candidate University of Otago, Social Worker).

Sitting in the Whanau Ora Māori Inquiry hui there was a lot to take in. I had never before been in a room with so many of our diverse Māori leaders; activists, MPs, academics, doctors, Iwi and community leaders. All there for one purpose, to work together in unity, with all our multiple lived experiences.  The clear focus of the day was to look forward and to plan what the Inquiry might look like, to think about our Māori aspirations and dreams for solving the complex situation of child and whanau safety.  Important and unanimous korero was given by the panel of Dames and Knights as they clearly articulated a shared vision of a Māori owned, led and delivered future system, challenging the current system and repeatedly highlighting Puao-te-ata-tu, the dawn that never came.

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