23rd March 2011
Critical Commentary by Suzy Atkin
In New Zealand we are taught that indigenous identities; tangata whenua are an important focus to our social work practice. Not only because they are the people of the land, but because they are the most oppressed and politically neglected in the country. Through colonisation tangata whenua have struggled with their historical, political and social ideologies so much so that their values, practices and beliefs have been shaped. To incorporate indigenous identities you need one powerful thing- a critical consciousness. This is where you listen to their current circumstances, their experiences of oppression and marginalisation and have compassion and empathy while identifying their strengths for social justice as well as your own. Communication with tangata whenua is an absolute key to incorporating them in my social work practice. To know someone you first have to listen. After that application comes with knowledge; that to me is the only way tauiwi will ever work with tangata whenua.
Information is power, and with such a huge number of different ethnicities, religion and cultural groups within New Zealand it is my duty as a social work practitioner to become familiar with these groups, understand the key significance of each and apply this to my practice. To become aware of my attitudes and assumptions and how these are expressed towards my clients. Investigate their world view and develop critical thinking while processing the links between each other, this is become culturally literate. Using a wide range of my skills, competencies and sensitivities I can develop an anti-oppressive practice while growing a more evidence based framework. Biculturalism exists in every client I come across, no two people are same so therefore no two people are thinking alike but if we can align the two epistemologies so that they are aware of each others difference and similarities they working relationship