Race and Self-Reflection in Social Work

Framing of Aboriginality and Whiteness Politicised in Australia

Historically Indigenous Australians havent been correctly represented when written into history which was manufactured by the Europeans exerting their dominant power since 1788 (Baxter, 2003). It wasnt until 1972 when Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam (Labour Representative) endeavoured to change Aboriginal Policy to restore to the Aboriginal people their lost power of self-determination (Kowal, 2008); influenced by decolonisation, a growing International Indigenous Rights Movement, and a US . Prior to this change, Indigenous Australians were living with assimilation policies and this shift was under the premise that a new Department of Aboriginal Affairs was for Indigenous Australians to participate in decision and policy makings that affected their peoples. There was a notion that the Department would autonomously establish Aboriginal Organisations, however non-Indigenous Australians were still working in partnership. I perceive there was some control, authority and self-interest invested by non-Indigenous Australians in the roll-out of the improved Aboriginal Policy. Over time, Liberal Representative John Howard, took the reins and the level of state spending increased in selected areas, but the institutions of self-determination were neglected (Kowal, 2008). Blame was placed upon Indigenous Australians and claims that the demise of this era was due to the lack of commitment and improvements within that community rather than the withdrawal of funding. When reviewing all Australian Governments in history, I find it important to draw on the fact that these are all white leaders putting forward policies they believe are best for the Indigenous Australians which leads me to suspect the system is racist and oppressive.

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To put a white Government policy into perspective it is evident westernised biomedical models domineer society and oppress Indigenous Australians with the lack of insight from a cultural perspective (Le Grande et. al. 2017). When measuring Indigenous Australians health, westernised research methodologies are being used which lack, in understanding cultural value systems (Kite & Davy, 2015) such as the Indigenous Social and Emotional Wellbeing (SEWB) model which addresses domains of cultural importance of connections to land, community, family and spirituality whereas the westernised model has a more clinical approach (Green & Baldry 2008). Therefore, it leads to questions around national policies such those aiming to for Indigenous Australians, but these policies are based on westernised methodologies (Le Grande et. al. 2017).

In Summary, I believe it is evident that Australia is dominated by a white Government; colonised, working within institutionalised structures with racism, patronising Indigenous Australians with policies and subjecting a neoliberal capitalistic warfare of oppression. As a social worker, I believe that it is imperative that practice includes accepting and including cultural views and models (Green & Baldry, 2008) to be able to effectively practice without bias. Decolonising knowledge of self and removing the postcolonial manufactured history, for holistic practice, are factors when working with Indigenous Australians. In saying this, it is still important to recognise that the colonised history does exist, and this, also, is a contemporary issue.

Social Work Challenges; Neoliberalism, Global Capitalism and increased Managerialism

I believe the world is a forever changing neoliberal society. Neoliberalism being the government that is charged with the maintenance and regulation of the polity, economy, and governance of the social province from which people seek their protection and rights (McDonald, 2003). I believe that Social workers are employed in society to undo the unjust served upon marginalised, oppressed, and disadvantaged people. Human Service workers are scrutinised when political, social, economic and ideological circumstances change (Rogowski, 2012). In saying that, I perceive this is due to Social Workers and other Human Service workers challenging the neoliberal system in which they represent their clients. My perspective is that if the Government were to shift from Liberal back to the Labour, which is the Welfare State, where Social Workers would have less scrutiny and would be a supported institution as this is supposed to be more focussed on the social realm in life. I say supposed to be as Government agendas change; what once was the Welfare state might have future changes that affect Social Workers.

In terms of capitalism, I am of the understanding that presently there is an economy favouring those who could be placed under a privileged position of being able to afford private health, not live on benefits, pay their university debts, and live a life without being marginalised into an oppressed social category. All these private services are the neoliberal approach to prioritising the marketplace over the need to look after the people affected by this privatisation (Weinberg, 2018).

Spies-Butcher (2014) described the system as being a dual welfare state where the government appears to attempt ease present social issues but puts fiscal restraints onto the service providers that are contracted to be the alleviators. I perceive that some social services are outsourced for cost effective reasons, then the responsibility to these service providers is so strained that the turnover of clients becomes more important than the of the client; quantity overrides quality. As Weinberg (2018) described the system, resources reduced and demand for services increased. I feel that reduction of resources indicates that the actual neoliberal lack of need of the plethora of Social Workers thus wanting less workers to do more work.


The integrity of the social work profession, at times, seems so bound by the neoliberal structuring that their core values feel easily lost in the bureaucracy. Ethically practitioners can only do the best they can with the tools they have due to the shaping of economic and practical decisions (Weinberg, 2008). I feel that they must have in practice to ensure that they are still aligning with the Social Work Core Values, reflect upon ethics for themselves and those using their service, and undertake continuous improvement to challenge the constraints that have been placed onto workers and organisations affecting service users. As Weinberg (2008) described, the ethical landscape that needs altering is the macrostructures within the politics of ethics.

Relationship-based practice

Social work is a as practitioners are providing a service to clients and building a relationship is imperative. Practitioners need to be able to draw on theories and knowledge and use this to benefit the client relationship (Bryan, Hingley-Jones, & Ruch, 2016). These clients look for the promotion of life change from these practitioners, thus putting their vulnerabilities and trust into the professional relationship. I believe that relationships create the foundation to which successful outcomes can be built from.

The use of self

Within social theories, the use of self has been described as using tools of self-awareness, reflexivity, critical reflexivity, reflectivity, and critical reflectivity (Adamowich, Kumsa, Rego, Stoddart & Vito, 2014). Within the social work realm, it is essential to practice the exploration of self tools as society is living under a hierarchy of oppression (Chinnery & Beddoe, 2011), discrimination (Howard, 2006), and influences of power (Kteily & Sidanius, 2012) in which social workers are strained within neoliberal governed practices. This then requires that in practice, mindfulness is reflected on due to the potential of harm that can be delivered upon clients (Chinnery & Beddoe, 2011). In saying this, the potential of harm or a positive outcome are built into relationships that one has with the self which can influence or have transference effects on a client or the client on the self.

When defining our use of the self, it is important to understand that we define our self by using the tools as mentioned above (Adamowhich et. al., 2014). We need to be self-aware and take responsibility for our actions and thoughts when working as reflective practitioners. I believe that relationship-based practice requires positive sustainable rapports with clients, therefore the professional integrity of the practitioner is in jeopardy if they are unable to define their own self. The reflection of self can realign ones ethics and morals as supported in the study of Authenticity in Reflection: Building Reflective Skills for Social Work (Gursanky, Quinn, & Le Sueur, 2010).

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