Excluding essential Māori knowledge in social work: The enhanceR2P project

Two years ago I challenged the (enhanceR2P) project because I believed it was really important research in terms of guaging ‘how’ and ‘what’ students were learning in NZ social work. (See this blog for background detail: https://pmoyle.com/2015/12/10/pakeha-doing-research-on-maori-the-enhancer2p-project/)

It presented as a one-size-fits-all, white-is-best team and research methodology. I questioned it because I didn’t want social work to miss exploring how institutional racism in mainstream social work programmes starved students of what they needed to engage well with Māori. Especially, since Māori are the predominant client group transacted through statutory child protection…and pipelined to the prison system.

At the time I asked questions, the enhanceR2P team were all Pākehā academics. When I challenged them about having “no Māori at the table,” they vehemently denied the research was monocultural but rather it was “open” and “collaboarative.” Shortly, after they added the Māori Chair of the SWRB to their team. But as I said at the time, adding a nice Māori does not make the research “bicultural” or Māori inclusive or even friendly. Tokenism is still only littlebitism.

This week I got an email from the Social Work Registration Board (SWRB) stating that they support the enhanceR2P project and were sending the project’s online surveys to all registered social workers. Of course they support it, the SWRB Chair sits on the project team!

As a fee paying registered social worker  who is Māori, I DO NOT SUPPORT this research! Even the Wananga refused to participate in it because they did not want to just hand over their teaching knowledge to Pākehā centred research. And why should they when they were not invited to be a part of the inception of the research/terms of reference, only the four involved Universities. It’s the same tiko as Universities calling themselves Wananga (when they are far from qualified to do so) and kicking up a stink when Wananga go to call themselves Universities.

Looking at the enhance2RP online surveys, nothing appears to have improved over ywo years in terms of including Māori and exploring how institutional racism impacts them. Example, putting into your findings the use of “Te Reo Māori terms and terms from Pacific languages” does not reflect their “inclusiveness” into the project. Again it is veenering us on and boxing us to tick.

And the Project Advisory Group make up; just more social work elitsim that support the status quo. Same with the project’s Māori and Pacifica stakeholders groups that do not appear to have influenced the research methodology used. And all the Human Ethics approval in the world means nothing when it excludes approaches that invite essential Māori knowledge currently missing from social work education.

Here are just a few examples from the online surveys[1] that broadcast how this project will benefit Indigenous NZs about as much as a bicycle will Nemo:

  • No where in the surveys or online project information is Te Titriti o Waitangi referred to, or bicultual pracitce or indeed institutional racism that plagues social work. Yet “cultural sensitivity” (a term that went out with the Ark) gets to feature, but NOT “racism sensitivity.”
  • Question 19, in Survey 1 – the example of statutory social work given is, “removing a child.” Could you not use another example? Because according to the stats it is Māori under 5s that are the most increasing client group for uplifts whilst non-Maori are decreasing. If you as a team had a mind for how hurtful this genocide is to Māori, you might have used some discretion here.
  • Māori and Pacifica are still, “othered” add-ons, veneered to your project. See examples, question 23 and 35, Māori and Pacifica are boxed as “service users groups” and under “specialist knowledge held by social workers.” Where is the box for Pākehā who are also a culture and if you were as “collaborative and “inclusive”  smart as you espouse your team to be, then I wouldn’t need to be pointing this out.
  • Under the “Supervision” section in your surveys, there is a question that refers to “cultural and kaupapa Māori supervison” as being “choices” and “are they helpful to social workers.” Once again ‘add-ons’ because the white-stream is the norm. I’d argue that Kaitiakitanga, or bicultural professional supervison needs to be a requirement for all social workers working with Māori, particularly those working in MVCOT, where our babies are prolifically uplifted for being “vulnerable” (poor brown and powerless).
  • Question 72 where “new social work graduates have mentioned certain topics they say they wished they knew a lot more about” your survey lists “Working with Māori” in the same column as, dealing with hostility, aggression or conflict, assessing risk, good record-keeping, acquiring advanced and specialist skills and knowledge qualifications, the evidence base for your area of social work practice – ‘what works’ and more…This is very telling!

Now more than ever, social work needs to wake up to it’s racial targeting of Māori; not pretend it’s not happening so as not to offend white-fragility that permeates the profession. We need to work collectively on all research that has the potential to really challenge white-is-right myths. Such as MVCOT’s insistence on being a ground breaking model for addressing Māori over-representation and doing so whilst ignoring it’s rife institutional racism.

This research is about as arrogant and ignorant as any white streamed research could possibly be and the SWRB supports it! Challenge the status quo of non-Māori deciding what IS Māori and what’s BEST for Māori. Unlearn the lies and so too the lie that Academic knowledge makes one an ‘expert’. Pffftttt, lived-experience and Indigenous knowledge, old and new is available to us all and that is where the real solutions are. What’s the point in having a voice if you havent got the courage to use it. Be a Spanner for Whānau, Not a Cog for the State!

[1] http://www.enhancer2p.ac.nz/2017/08/newly-qualified-social-workers-survey/

Video of original challenge to the project team: https://youtu.be/dWD0ZCi5NOI

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BeaSpannerNotaCog

See me at https://www.paoramoyle.com

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