Advertised position: Social Worker or Miracle Worker?

post by Melina Ubeda Browne

Do you know how many children a typical Oranga Tamariki social worker is responsible for? Did you know that caseloads for social workers at Oranga Tamariki are family based, not individually based?

This means that a typical caseload of an Oranga Tamariki social worker contains ‘cases’ where in one scenario; a case/family may have 3 children involved, but another may have 7 children. Not to mention the cases where multiple children are involved due to being related, household members, or present during a particular event.

Continue reading “Advertised position: Social Worker or Miracle Worker?”

Is unconscious racism hard-wired into Aotearoa New Zealand society?

post by Annie Summerfield 

Māori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand (Aotearoa), disproportionately feature in the country’s most negative statistics across social, economic and political platforms.  Whether the disparities are in the areas of crime, education, health, homelessness or socioeconomic disadvantage, Māori feature strongly.  With Te Aniwa Hurihanganui reporting Māori youth are particularly at risk for committing suicide  , Sarah Monod de Froideville reporting on the over-representation of Maori in the youth justice system , and Māori being significantly more likely than non-Māori to be placed in state care, and to experience homelessness, for example, this arguably suggests the problem is not with Māori but, rather, as Dr Ian Hyslop points out, a result of institutional bias . 

Continue reading “Is unconscious racism hard-wired into Aotearoa New Zealand society?”

Is this how we repay them?

post by Haaku Fuakau Fakahelehele

“To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.” (Walker & Speers (2013).

Older adults (aged 60 +) are highly respected and loved in Pacific Island communities, so it is difficult as a Pacific Islander to hear different scenarios where older people are taken advantage of and abused. Recent headlines state: “Caregiver pleads guilty to ill-treatment after unwittingly recording abuse” (Wairarapa Times Age, 2018) and “Elderly Aussie woman loses home to Westpac after tricked into signing loan” (Chung, 2018). This is distressing from my own cultural point of view and it is discouraging to see that the older generation are becoming victims to physical, psychological, emotional and financial abuse. Is this how we repay their hard work that has helped to shape our country? If it is, I want no part of it. Elder abuse has been defined by the World Health Organisation Toronto Declaration on the Global Prevention of Elder Abuse (2002) as

“… a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person”.  (Age Concern, 2018).

Continue reading “Is this how we repay them?”

‘Wanna hear a joke?’ (Trigger Warning – Sexual Assault)

post by Anonymous

“What’s the difference between football and rape? Women don’t like football” – Jimmy Carr, Comedian.

But it’s just a joke, right?

“Ninety-nine per cent of women kiss with their eyes closed, which is why it’s so difficult to identify a rapist” – Jimmy Carr, Comedian

A bit of ‘harmless’ fun.

The reality is that these ‘harmless’ jokes perpetuate society’s rape supportive attitudes. It trivialises rape to reinforce dangerous ideologies that normalises and diminishes violence towards women, and adheres to common rape myths that suggest female rape survivors ‘wanted it’, are to blame, and their credibility is questioned .

Continue reading “‘Wanna hear a joke?’ (Trigger Warning – Sexual Assault)”

Are you Māori?!

post by Jessica Leaming

Ko Jessica Leaming toku ingoa

Ko Kay King toku mama

Ko Mark Leaming toku papa e mate mai

Ko Richard King toku Tungane

Ko Ngapuhi ki Whaingaroa toku Iwi

Ko Ngati Pakahi toku hapu

Ko Mataatua te waka

Ko Emiemi te maunga

Ko Mangaiti toku marae

Ko Tau Te Rangimarie te whare hui

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa

My Name is Jessica. I am white skinned, with blue eyes and brunette hair. I also am Māori. I have a keen interest for whakapapa and as a result have a wide knowledge base of my tupuna, marae and genealogy which I can trace back to my three wakas. I thank my mother for taking me back home to Totara North/Kaeo every holiday’s since I was a baby, so I was able to learn who my extended whanau are and learn about our whanau values and histories. I consider myself grateful for these experiences as I am aware not all Māori are as fortunate.

jess leaming pic

My colourful whanau

My mother has five other siblings. Out of those siblings my mum is the only one with fair skin and blue eyes, therefore it’s fair to say when my family is put together we are a colourful one and often receive the comment, ‘we didn’t know you were Māori’ as if to say you can only be Māori if you have brown skin. Nadine Millar shares a similar experience stating that she is often asked how much Māori blood in fact she has in her as if this is a determining factor on what makes you a Māori (E-Tangata, 2015).

Growing up I have always felt the need to prove and over compensate for being so fair skinned but the true extent of what it meant to be Māori but contain all European features didn’t become clear to me until I began my degree at university. I can vividly remember the day I was made to feel as though I was not ‘Māori’ enough and did not have the right to wear my pounamu that my father who had passed away earlier in the year gifted to me. I was on the train and a middle-aged Maori woman proceeded to tell me how beautiful my pounamu was, at first, I was delighted and thanked her. She then took it upon herself to ask me if it was real as she reached to touch it, feeling the need to explain to me that was I aware how lucky I was to have a pounamu and was I wearing it for the right reasons and who gave it to me. I remember thinking if I were brown skinned would you have questioned me on if I knew the importance of owning a pounamu and question me on my reasons of wearing one? Or would you assume if I was brown skinned that you wouldn’t need to tell me what it meant to own a pounamu as special as mine? According to Marae (2018) 72,000 people identified as Māori on the last census but could not identify their Iwi. My point here is there are Māori who ‘look’ very Māori but do not know their whakapapa where as I do. Skin colour in not an indication of how Māori you are and how much you know about Te Ao Māori or tikānga Māori. Percentages were used by the government in the 1970’s to determine how Maori an individual is, whether they were an eighth or a quarter was used to determine which roll an individual could vote on. Under the Maori affairs act the blood quantum concept was used in 1953. The issue with this is that is assumes culture and identity are biological traits, where-as for Maori identity is dictated by the upbringing one has had. The use of the blood quantum contributed to undermining one’s sense of self identity (Pickering, 1996).

It seems these ideas of needing to justify how much Māori is in you have carried through the years. Kanoa Llyod has a great response to this in that ‘Māori is Māori’ despite the percentage (The spinoff, 2018). So, what does this mean for me heading into the field of social work? Personally, and professionally I see it as a strength. My knowledge of Te Ao Māori and of my own whakapapa stands me in good steed for knowing exactly who I am and what I am capable of. I can relate to both Māori and European because of having to walk in both worlds all my life. I’ve always felt the need to prove my Māori heritage to people until recently. I know I am Māori, I know where I come from and I know where I belong.


E-Tangata. (2015). So you think you’re Māori?. Retrieved from

Marae. (2018). Sunday 6th May. Retrieved from

The Spinoff. (2018). How to tell if you’re Māori. Retrieved from

Moeke-Pickering, T. (1996). Maori identity within whanau: A review of literature. Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato. Retrieved from

Abortion Law Reform in New Zealand: Where are the Social Workers?

post by Jessica Steele

I write this with blog in the wake of the referendum on Ireland’s eighth amendment – the abortion referendum. It is being hailed as a landslide victory for the yes (repeal the eighth) campaign. I feel nothing but relief and a renewed resolve to see things change in Aotearoa. My thoughts go immediately to the family and loved ones of Savita Halappanavar. Six years ago, Savita died a wholly preventable death due to sepsis in an Irish hospital as she was miscarrying. She was denied a life-saving termination of pregnancy.

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About this blog

This blog is all about the voice of social work students in Aotearoa. These are the views of  a group of final year social work students at the University of Auckland. This year this assignment was to write a post on one of the big social work issues of the moment.

I’m delighted to publish blog posts on a variety of topics which incorporate some great links to resources.

All comments will be moderated. Please note: Many bloggers have chosen to be anonymous and have used a pseudonym.

Liz Beddoe