Decolonising field education - challenging Australian social work praxis

Authors

  • Ines Zuchowski James Cook University
  • Dorothy Savage
  • Debra Miles James Cook University
  • Susan Gair James Cook University

Keywords:

decolonisation, field education, Indigenous, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, social work education, theory to practice

Abstract

Social Work’s contribution to Australia’s legacy of colonisation, the Stolen Generation and ongoing child welfare interventions, may make entering the profession a contentious issue for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Yet the profession is poorer for their absence, and closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous social work graduates is a quest aligned with social justice, and with social work as a human rights profession. Field education is considered a significant and important process through which students are socialised into the profession. Questions arise about how professional enculturation might occur for Indigenous students as they put theory into practice, when this theory and practice derives from dominant western frameworks.

In this article we present findings from research exploring the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social work and welfare students in field placements. The findings identify racism as ever-present, highlight the impact of Eurocentricsm on practice, and reveal the disregard of Aboriginal cultural ways of helping and the potential for disempowerment. These findings have implications for social work praxis and social work education. Recommendations for improved practice and further research are made.

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Published

2013-06-01