IntroductionThe challenges faced by Australian social workers dealing with families stem from political, cultural and social diversity issues. In most case, the challenges resonate with those of nations with similar demographics. Social workers have to adapt to these problem by adopting best evidence based practices in their roles. Proponents of evidence-based practice in social work suggest that it is important in handling the dynamisms associated with care giving. Besides, it would guarantee quality service provision. In the Australian context, for instance, social workers have to understand the demographic factors which influence the behavior of the populace. In particular, it is important to note the ethnic divisions which have marked the social fabric of the country since the days of colonialism. Before British colonialists came to the country, the native Aboriginal populations had their own ways of life. Therefore, a social worker has to acknowledge their history before deciding on the best discourse for addressing common social issues. In the Australian case, as Pawar notes, social work should be integrated with community development (2014).
Despite the benefits of EBSW, critics of the framework have raised several issues that question the legitimacy of its benefits. According to the critics, the challenges of EBSW include proof of effectiveness and authority. It is also characterized by a conflicting hierarchy and a challenge in the definition of evidence. Other challenges of the model are its shortage of supportive evidence, efficacy versus effectiveness issues, challenges in adoption and implementation. The greatest challenge for social workers in Australia is the implementation of theoretical frameworks into practical concepts. There are many social, political, religious, cultural, and economic issues that interfere with implementing policies across the field.
Historical Issues influencing Families in Australia
History highlights some of the challenges that social workers have faced in the nation. The Aboriginal people are arguably the oldest surviving tribe in Australia. The Aborigines have always relied on communal living. Family, in ancient Aboriginal set up, was revered as the basic unit of the society. There was little cultural exchange between the indigenous Australians and other ethnic groups which came to the continent later on. Scholars have intimated that the tribe survived over the years because they rejected acculturation. In Aboriginal families, knowledge and traditions are passed from one generation to the next (Lawrence, Brooker, & Goodnow, 2012). While culture is described as a dynamic combination of events, and not a static action, a historical discourse on this ethnic group displays unique approaches to change. Most members of the community are contended with their lifestyles despite globalization and technological factors. In fact, most indigenous societies have continued to survive even in the wake of modernity by showcasing aggressive behaviors towards change.
Worldview theorists inaccurately refer to indigenous cultures as primitive. The thought is wrong because these people opt for such lifestyles despites the promising opportunities presented by modernization. The structural family framework of the Aboriginal people was disrupted by the arrival of Europeans. While historians suggest that the settlers brought technology, and other positive influences to the people, that notion contradicts the the anti-oppressive approaches. The anti-oppressive approach is concerned with locating immediate solutions while searching for long term strategies. The cost of the technology brought by the Europeans was incurable diseases. To their advantage, the settlers had already been inoculated toward these conditions. Therefore, the European diseases shaped the medical course among the indigenous group.
The historical perspectives on the Aboriginal population highlight challenges facing social workers attending to this group. To start with, the aboriginals are not readily receptive to remedies which appear foreign. It is, therefore, important that any social worker who handles them understand their culture when implementing any change policy. Notably, social issues within these largely conservative groups are better addressed within their social ranks. Moreover, even those who have embraced popular cultures often revert to their clansmen for social solutions. Therefore, Australian social workers require to have a historical background of their clients before offering assistance. This information can be obtained through interviewing the client or having consultations on the same.
The British, under Captain James-Cook, colonized the country in 1768. The period was marked by slavery, forced religions, and acculturation. These were the atrocities meted on the native Aboriginal population in Australia. In order for the colonialists to succeed in their efforts, it was important to distort the communal order within the native societies. The objective was achieved through instigating inter-tribal and familial conflicts. Captain Cook failed to recognize the rights of the Aboriginal Torres families. The British declared the land that was owned by the indigenous tribes belonged to nobody. The early years of permanent settlement of the British was devastating for the Aboriginal people who live around Sydney Cove. Many natives were killed, incarcerated, forcefully removed from their land. Besides, wars, diseases, restriction of movements and forceful assimilation became common.
By the 19th century, three out of four native Australians had died from the atrocities occasioned by the British invasion (Egan, & Papadopoulos, 2016). For generations, Aboriginal children were forcefully uprooted from their families and enrolled in schools. This was in line with the government’s policy of assimilations. The move was intended to reduce the number of productive indigenous people who were at the fore front in fighting the British rule. These children would later become known as the lost generation.
In 2009, Australia finally supported the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Previously, Australia had opposed the Declaration for decades. Subsequently, in November 2012, an Act of Recognition of Indigenous Communities’ bill was introduced to the House of Representatives (Egan, & Papadopoulos, 2016). The historical framework put into perspective the relationship between whites and the indigenous populations.
The discourse raises ethical and social issues that determines individual groups’ perceptions on social work. History shapes people’s future actions and relationships. Notably, indigenous families present greater challenges to the efforts of social workers. There is a clear disparity in the accessibility of social amenities, such as health, education, employment, and housing, between the indigenous people and the visitors. The objective of a social worker is to avert the historical risks and promote a united society based on equity. There is the need for social workers to specialize on historical and current trends on family life in Australia.
Social Influences on Australian Families
Social issues within families are universal and not limited to the Australian population. Some examples of social issues within families include juvenile delinquency, mental illnesses, divorce, domestic violence, child abuse, and child adoption issues by gay couples. While some factors may be addressed economically, other challenges require professional assistance offered by social workers, policy makers, or psychologists. The Australian population presents a unique population demographic that is not common in many other countries. Australia is a very diverse country in terms of opinions and population demographics. In this context, diversity is measured by estimating the number of residents who speak a language other than English. According to current statistics, 44% of Aussies have direct foreign heritage (Parrott, 2014). This means that they were either born outside the country or their parents migrated to the country. Diversity in any society raises the question of the natives versus foreigners.
The work of sociologists is to understand how different groups relate with each other. In addition, the opinion of individual Australians regarding how they should relate with one another is important. The responses to these concerns vary depending on opinions, politics, educations, race, and people’s self-decisions. Diversity within families can be discussed based on issues such as intermarriages, same sex marriages, adoption, domestic violence, child abuse, homelessness, and social status. For the discourse, the social issues within families are discussed based on racial differences. More importantly, the essay explores the differences and similarities between the native aboriginals and the white population. This choice is informed by the historical backgrounds between the two races in the continent.
Historical legislations which forcefully took away children from indigenous parents tend to influence the reproductive health of the indigenous tribes. Following decades of atrocities directed towards the natives by the settlers, the population of the Aborigines experienced a sharp decline. Despite the forced assimilation, and inability to access quality health, these groups struggled to preserve their traditions and beliefs. Moreover, family members were forced to hide children for fear they would be taken away by the ruling British government. It is apparent that the Aborigines valued children more than their white counterparts. This is evidenced by the government’s introduction of boarding schools which were rejected by the native tribes since they would be separated from their children (Lawrence, Brooker, & Goodnow, 2012).
Native communities led communal lifestyles almost their entire life. Unlike foreigners who could easily leave their families to seek employment in foreign countries, indigenous tribes tended their land together. Moreover, parents stayed with their children within the community. When the parents grew old, children would be expected to take care of the former. However, the new system introduced care systems for the aged, homeless, and orphans. Most of the new practices that the British introduced contradicted the native lifestyles. The native population were overpowered by the better weaponry that the foreigners introduced. The diseases which the settlers came with also killed them in masses. Even after the passage of Reconciliation Act, and other legislations that were intended to promote equality in health, the number of Aboriginals who die from preventable conditions surpass that of other racial groupings. The historical marginalization of the indigenous populations means that the levels of formal education in the population is still low.
Besides the disparities in health, Britons introduced new concepts to family dynamics which were not practiced by the native people. Some of the practices that are different include divorce, adoption, and same sex marriages. In the traditional aboriginal families, polygamy was widely practiced. However, whether divorce or same sex marriages existed remains unknown as there is lack of literature that support the observation. Adoption in the traditional context was a norm in case of the death of a parent. Moreover, children were considered part of the whole society and not just the nuclear family. Notably, the communal social setup deterred juveniles from being delinquents because punishments were meted out by any senior member of the society. From a theoretical framework, the indigenous’ family set up was ideal. However, it is difficult to replicate such a system in the contemporary world. Australia prides itself as a country that promotes and respect cultural diversity of her citizens. In fact, thirty percent of Australian couples are from mixed race background. Despite the popularity of interracial couples, they face greater racial discriminations than same race relationships. Furthermore, the hate is usually more directed to the ethnic minorities in such relationships.
Political and Cultural Influences in Australian Families
Political inclinations in the country are influenced by personal opinions. For example, John Howard, who was the country’s prime minister from 1996 to 2007, was for the assimilation of cultures. Howard’s opinion was that the country should establish a single culture that would become the identity of all Australians. The monoculturalism, as an ideology, is the main source of conflict between foreigners and indigenous people (Lawrence, Brooker, & Goodnow, 2012). While most settlers supported the assimilation policies, the Aboriginals clamored for self-determination. In 2011, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, proposed a multicultural framework for Australians. Under this context, diversity ought to be embraced and acknowledged.
Multiculturalism in Australia is supported by evidence based studies. In a study conducted to ascertain which culture students believed they belonged to, a majority responded by identifying with more than one culture. Understanding the meaning of culture is important in social work. In addition, cultures are dynamic because of the inevitability of changes (Egan, & Papadopoulos, 2016). Therefore, cultural practices refer to everyday activities rather than ideologies. A major characteristic of conformity in cultural practices is observing and respecting various norms and values. The process of adopting heritage of a new culture is called acculturation. This practice is important for immigrants who move to Australia for various reasons.
Political, Cultural and Social Diversity Impact on Social Policy and Social Work Practice
Politics, culture, and social diversity affects the operational success of social policies and social work practices. Legislatives are responsible for formulating policies that are aimed at improving the outcome of social work (Corney, 1980). The Australian society is uniquely diverse in terms of political ideologies, race, traditions, and other constructs. The operation and success of social work depends on understanding the theoretical and practical implications of these issues. Issues emanating from the society require different approaches depending on factors such as race, historical outcomes, and cultures. A major problem for social workers is adopting the theoretical frameworks and putting them into practice. It should be noted that different groups have specific needs that require best practice based solutions in addressing them. This is one of the dilemmas that social workers face; they have to change their approaches to suit the demands of the diverse groups within the country. Ethics is a major area of concern in social work. From understanding cultural diversity, social workers, in collaboration with other professions, can establish ethical frameworks for addressing the issues.
Theoretical and Ethical Frameworks for Overcoming the Challenges Faced by Social Workers
The first model employed used to overcome challenges in the course of social work is called the Integrated Framework. The model has an Anti-Oppressive Practice (AOP) approach to work with individuals, families and groups. AOP is part of the critical view theory that assists social workers in critical analysis of clients’ situations. The AOP framework links theoretical models to the practical perspectives. Practice approaches informed by critical theories speak to the practitioner as much as to the situation of the service user. Language is the most important tool that is used in both policy and practice frameworks. Other methods through which social workers can navigate challenges in their career path include multidisciplinary collaboration, developing awareness of power relationships and ethical practice, learning practice skills-theory and context, and developing questioning skills (Egan, & Papadopoulos, 2016). Social workers identify three major areas of concern in their practice. The points of concern include quality performance in service delivery, an effective understanding of their role within familial and communal contexts, and collaborating to achieve success (Bergstrom 1979)
Social workers in Australia face unique challenges in terms of cultural, political, and social diversity within the nation. Most of the issues in the country emanate from historical factors that shaped the country. Family, in the Australian context, is revered in both cultures. However, differences persist among racial groupings. Research in the field of social work suggest that ethical practices based on evidence can help social workers to navigate challenges in their career. However, the major challenge for social workers is aligning theoretical frameworks into practice.
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