Loading…
Thursday, December 5 • 1:30pm - 3:30pm
BREAKOUT SESSION SIX: Social Work

Sign up or log in to save this to your schedule and see who's attending!

Chair: Liz Beddoe

Eileen Joy and John Darroch: Social work- a non-violent profession?

This presentation will critically interrogate the social work profession’s commitment to non-violence. We start out by troubling the binary between violent and non-violent actions and discuss how this can obscure both the structural and the interpersonal elements of violence. In using a Foucauldian lens we will interrogate how certain ‘violences’ are normalised (those used in state child protection and justice work) and sanitised while others are pathologized. It is posited that there is a fundamental contradiction between the professed commitments of social work, and thus social workers, and many of the functions we are tasked with carrying out. We ask whether it is even possible for social workers to work within these institutions. We conclude that when social work is done in a compromised system (and even society) then we need to accept, and challenge the commitment to non-violence and move away from a binaried understanding of this.


Liz Beddoe: Where’s feminism gone? The silence of social work about reproductive justice

The IFSW definition of social work includes a commitment to social justice and human rights. Despite a rights perspective, abortion remains on the margins of social work curriculum, research, advocacy and practice. Recently, a plethora of social movements have mobilised in the quest for decriminalisation in democratic nations: signalling a shift towards reproductive justice.
In this presentation we explore the role of social work in campaigns to remove abortion from criminal codes (in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand) while agitating for improved abortion access, as a key determinant of women’s rights and overall wellbeing. We found only a handful of social work activists. The profession as a whole has been largely silent on abortion rights. We explore this apparent lethargy and indifference to reproduction as a feminist issue for social work in Aotearoa and argue we must disrupt the profession’s gender blindness and make explicit its commitment to reproductive justice.


Sarah Epstein, Sevi Vassos and Norah Hosken: Social work education, research and practice from a feminist critical perspective: Collaboration as socially just practice


This paper presents lessons we (the authors) have learnt in our attempt to establish a feminist critical research and teaching collaboration within a university-based social work education program. The collaboration, called Critical Edge Women (CrEW), interrogates women’s varied experiences of engaging with power relations whilst attempting to embody a socially-just pedagogy and practice within the neoliberal academy. The assumptions grounding our work emerge from two separate, yet interconnected positions: First, our own understandings as feminist social work educators who espouse relational teaching and learning processes. Second, our commitment to privileging women’s experiences (as diverse as they are) in all our research and advocacy efforts. This presentation offers insights into addressing the nexus between social work education, research and practice for social justice from a feminist critical perspective.


Stephanie Kelly & Abbie Ranui: Crafting relationship with Tangata Whaiora through practice: The craftsmanship of the mental health support worker

In 1973, the seminal sociologist C. Wright Mills wrote about craftsmanship and the meaning of work. He described craftsmanship as a state of daily work which is meaningful because the daily work is not detached in the worker's mind from the product of the work. For Mills the craftsperson sees the place of their part in the whole process of work, and thus understands the meaning of their exertion in terms of that whole. If work, in some of its phases, has ‘the taint of travail and vexation and mechanical drudgery’, the craftsman manages these junctures by awareness and anticipation of a satisfying product.
Qualitative research conducted with six residential mental health support workers in Aotearoa New Zealand suggests that unlike other clinical roles where practice is more rules bound, the residential mental health support worker crafts a relationship with tangata whaiora through the intimate nature of daily practical tasks in all their travail, vexation and mechanical drudgery. The mental health support worker does this using the practice skills of observation, responsiveness, experience and time, to both guide practice and maintain the relationship with tangata whaiora, bringing immense meaning to their work. This meaning making is felt and experienced, non-discursive, and always intentional. While other health and social service work becomes increasingly bound by neoliberal risk management, compliance, competencies, and reporting, the non-professionalized mental health support worker continues the art of craftsmanship. We present the findings of how these workers craft the relationship, meaning and practice, and suggest that policy moves to shift this role toward further professionalization may have an impact on what may be one of the last social service crafts in our neoliberal times.


Each presentation will be allocated 20 minutes. Additional time for questions and discussion will be available in each stream.