A trans-Tasman relational model for academics integrating Indigenous knowledges and perspectives into whitestream social work education

Author: Libby Hammond

Hammond, Libby, 2021 A trans-Tasman relational model for academics integrating Indigenous knowledges and perspectives into whitestream social work education, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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Social work education globally acknowledges its need to decolonise its education to produce graduates who are culturally responsive and culturally safe when working alongside marginalised Indigenous peoples. Both Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand’s social work governing bodies have called for social work to be decolonised and for Indigenous knowledges and perspectives to take their place alongside Western knowledge in a way that supports epistemological equality (McNabb, 2019a; Zubrzycki, Green, et al., 2014). In the context of the ‘the whitestream’ academy, Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing are often relegated to the margins and many challenges and barriers exist when integrating Indigenous knowledges and perspectives into social work education. In an endeavour to understand these challenges and barriers and to investigate what enhances the integration process, this study focused upon academics and explored the question, ‘How do relationships impact the integration of Indigenous knowledges and perspectives for academics in social work education?’ Uniquely this study looked at the experiences of eighteen academics, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous on both sides of the Tasman, in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. A valuable aspect of this study was hearing the voices of Indigenous academics as they shared their personal experiences of navigating the whitestream. Collectively the academics shared about aspects of their relationships that both enabled and hindered the integration of Indigenous knowledges and perspectives into the social work curriculum in the global south.

My original contribution to knowledge is the development of a relational model for academics that focuses upon six key relationships that an academic may consider when integrating Indigenous knowledges and perspectives into their teaching. Each one of these relationships, when reflected upon, may provide different ways that an academic may develop and enrich their integration of Indigenous content into their teaching and potentially enable navigating the whitestream more successfully. The six relationships that the model presents are an academic’s relationship to self; relationship with students; relationship to Indigenous knowledges, languages, and cultures; relationship with peers; relationship with those in power and the whitestream; and relationships with Elders, Kaumatuas and Indigenous communities.

Creating space in the whitestream that is conducive to establishing and maintaining these relationships is suggested as a way of countering hegemony and supporting academics in their endeavour to integrate Indigenous content into social work education. This study proposes creating an ethical, electrifying, third cultural, collaborative, authorising and decolonising space that supports academics in developing these six key relationships. The implications of each of the six relationships upon the integration process are outlined and recommendations for implementation are made to whitestream universities. Finally, operationalising the aspirations of decolonising social work education in whitestream academia requires that the systems and the status quo be challenged and ultimately changed. This study suggests a relational model that may, when implemented, provide insight into navigating the whitestream for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous academics.

Keywords: Social work education, Indigenous knowledges, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, relationships, whitestream, decolonising, whiteness, Maori

Subject: Social Work thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2021
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Dr. Keith Miller