Poster Presentation Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference 2016

Cultural invisibility within the Australian social work curriculum and practice (#440)

Nangala Woodley 1
  1. BraveSpirit Cultural Consulting , Mackay, QLD, Australia

The Australian Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics states; 'The social work profession promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance wellbeing. Utilising theories of human behaviour and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments. Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work'. Yet within social work curriculums within the university structures in Australia, there is a blinding invisibility of culturally competent content within the theoretical teachings of a four-year Bachelor degree. Mainstream theory is embedded within tertiary education systems that deny Aboriginal traditional and cultural nuances, mores and methodologies to be considered in social work teaching and practice. The continued invisibility of cultural theory and cultural practice within the social work curriculum and practice participates in the ongoing oppression and discrimination of Aboriginal people and their communities at their most vulnerable.

Social work practice, in its essence, is to provide support for vulnerable people with ideologies that fit particular cultures and traditions, and must be tuned to fit cultural differences associated with best-practice outcomes that promote social change, and to assist in the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance wellbeing. Culturally competent, safe and sensitive practice requires tertiary education systems to provide cultural and traditional knowledge-based considerations within their curriculum when educating students to social work paradigms. There must be a shift in thinking that connects the wrongs of the Australian mainstream past to that of the present day oppression of Aboriginal Australia. Aboriginal people, our culture, tradition and knowledge and law is the oldest living culture in the world, yet we are invisible in social work paradigms and theory. We must come together to change what students in social work are learning to better inform their knowledge base and practice. Embedding Aboriginal concepts of engagement that encompass cultural and traditional nuances and mores into social work are imperative to the overall health and social wellbeing of Aboriginal people.





  1. Australian Association of Social Work, Code of Ethics 2010.