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The Experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students in Social Work Field Placement

Entering the profession of social work may be a controversial path for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Recurring themes in the literature highlight the profession’s complicity in forcibly removing children from their family, culture and country; in disregarding Aboriginal experience and cultural ways of helping; and in perpetuating the unchallenged influence of Eurocentrism in social work practice and education. Yet attracting more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people to the profession is an important response to these complex issues. To date the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, knowledge and skills in social work practice and education is fraught at best.

This research was a collaborative research project which explored field education experiences with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social work students and graduates. During individual interviews and focus groups, participants described experiences of subtle and overt, personal, organisational and cultural racism as every day features of their field education placements. These findings were examined through a lens informed by ‘whiteness’ perspectives and highlighted significant implications for social work education units and agencies involved in supporting Indigenous social work students on field placement.

Debra Miles, Dorothy Savage,, Susan Gair and Ines Zuchowski
James Cook University.
AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers