The Relationship Between the Social Work Profession and Indigenous People

Topics: Indigenous Australians, Indigenous peoples, Australia Pages: 6 (2655 words) Published: August 25, 2013
Samuel Brown – 3100913
Indigenous Studies – Assessment 3
Topic 4: The relationship between the social work profession and Indigenous people has been a problematic one. Discuss with reference to Stolen Generations. Social work is a complex and broad field and the relationship between social workers and Indigenous Australians can be equally intricate and difficult to navigate. The theme of this paper will be; ‘understanding the relationship between the social work profession and Indigenous Australians’. A priority will be placed on analysing the historical relationship in reference to social work practice and related Government policy. Firstly, the history of social work and Indigenous policy will be discussed in relation to present work in the welfare sector. Historic Indigenous policy will be used to illustrate the paternal nature in which the Australian Government has related to Indigenous Australians. The experiences of the ‘Stolen Generation’ will then be outlined and the consequences detailed. It will be argued that the process of forcefully removing children from Indigenous families has resulted in distrust towards human service practitioners and institutions. Contemporary approaches to managing Indigenous disadvantage will be examined in reference to the Northern Territory Emergency Response. It will be argued that these latest efforts by the Australian Government continue in the punitive and strong-handed nature of previous strategies. In conclusion a summary of the findings of the paper will be provided. It is important to analyse the philosophical and ideological foundations of the Social Work profession when examining the role social workers have played in the implementation of the Protection Acts, the Stolen Generation, and the Northern Territory Emergency Response. An acknowledgment must be made that the profession originates from a Judeo-Christian and European perspective, and rarely takes into consideration Indigenous customs and traditions (Chenoweth & McAuliffe 2008). The history of social work is also important because it may identify reoccurring social themes, and provide you with an understanding of how history has shaped contemporary human services (Chenoweth & McAuliffe 2008). Chenoweth & McAuliffe (2008, p.27) state that ‘at a fundamental level, many social problems are not new although they have manifested in different forms throughout history’. Ife (2008, pp.164-166) argues that ‘the study of history is important to social workers’, and outlines four reasons for this importance. Firstly, that a historic perceptive emphasises that things can and do change. The second reason is that ‘the study of history can be seen as the study of the struggle for human rights’ (p.165). This is important in that without a historical understanding people can lack the commitment to exercise human rights for which previous generations fought, and sometimes died for. The third reason is that a study of history assists in deconstructing the ‘western enlightenment tradition within which the human rights discourse was framed’ (p.165), and finally that history extends human rights practice onto issues of intergenerational justice, in that the present generation is responsible for preventing future human rights abuses, and also addressing past abuses. In order to gain an understanding of the relationship between Indigenous Australians and social workers we must examine the forms of contact they have had since 1788. Before the development of the social work profession in the 1920’s Indigenous Australians had already been in contact with European colonisers for over 120 years (Gilbert 2005, Chenoweth & McAuliffe 2008). Australia started looking at its social policy around the time of Federation and Indigenous peoples has already suffered constant human rights abuses, had their children removed, been dispossessed of their lands, and moved to missions (Gilbert 2005). The protectionist approach adopted by the...
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