Last night (14/04/16) I attended the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) special general meeting (SGM) to vote in another Board member to make up our core requirement (3 tauiwi Board members had stood down because I challenged their ‘no Māori at the table’ research and as such, they deemed me unsafe to their professional positioning). The remaining 5 Board members (affectionately known as the tight five) chose to support my challenge, much to the disapproval of the three who stood down.
At the SGM, a motion of “no confidence” of the 5 remaining Baord members was carried (less than 10% of the total membership voted) and we were ousted. We tight five suffered the humiliation of being framed as unfit to lead, unskilled and dishonest in our conduct; called “duplicitous” by some of the elite. The five (kind, caring, long serving people in social work) were left shocked and devastated. It was a well planned and executed coup because (in part) we dared to try and bring some tangata whenua visibility back to ANZASW and not just lip serviced, biculturalism.
Last night I got to see the elite present their true colours. I witnessed hypocrisy through a rigged motion of voting out the tight five with no real alternative than our having to go with it. The elite also changed the constitution to support this motion without the change going out to the wider membership. Even the only resolution seemed pre-empted, similar to the common practice of an FGC being predetermined in favour of the state. Later it was framed as “inviting” us to step down and we “did so honourably”…like there was some expectation that we would behave unprofessionally or as poor sports.
I saw theatrical outbursts (emotional defense that any concerns we had about the association were “racially based”), that I use my position as a “victim to have power over good people” and this “it’s not personal Paora, its process.” I heard too that “partnership works both ways” (meaning poor tangata whenua visibility in ANZASW is their fault for not engaging more). Would this not mean that ethical respect towards our colleagues works both ways? I also heard that tangata whenua only member with ANZASW for the title and work insurance offered because “they can get their Māori fix elsewhere.”
We learned last night that democratically elected TW Board members by their tangata whenua membership can be be voted off by the general membership and that’s not “racially based.” It seems that ANZASW does not want a Tiriti based relationship with tangata whenua, just a tino rangatiratanga sticker in the front window. I witnessed just how clicky and entitled these people are about keeping their status quo. For example, some of the social work registration board (SWRB) are also ANZASW members and tangata whenua voices in social work (TWVSW) as well as MSD (all its components and the major agencies that have captured most of the market).
These elite monoplise social work in Aotearoa and they get to set/revise ethical standards and competency to work with Maori. A concern for me is, if any one of my colleagues wanted to take a grievance over the treatment they received last night; just how ‘ethical’ ‘interest conflicting’ ‘unbaised’ would any process be under the SWRB? Take for example, this all started with my challenging the Er2p research project (I asked why there were no Maori at the table). And now the Chair of the SWRB is on the project team. Plus, two members central to the proceedings of stepping the Baords down last night were recently appointed to the research’s oversight group. So I question how I might fare if the research team took me before the SWRB? I bet about as well as I got last night?
My point being that elitism, multiple platforming/positioning in social work is dodgy as, especially if you choose not to or are incapable of speaking up about the critical issues impacting whanau Maori (such as our relentless incarceration rates, our children too). We need to call these people out who also influence/advise on the proposed modernising of child protection. I’m concerned for our tamariki Māori and whānau.
I reckon I’ve lost nothing and gained much by having it theatrically confirmed that the social work industry in Aotearoa is indeed a slick machine and (in part) attributed to those who want to keep their deck chair cushions well plumped. When the social work elite have to publicly denigrate the mana of kind, caring and loyal practitioners in order to justify your taking them down…you feed the Resistance! More to come….
See the vid at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S338qnpji7U