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Welfare, social work and an Indigenous community : an historical perspective.
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posted on 15.02.2017by Katrak, Meaghan Jane
This thesis examines social work practice within a rural Aboriginal community in north-west Victoria, Australia. It places the engagement of social work and the Aboriginal community in an historical context from 1970 until 2007.
Historically, there has been a legacy of policies and practices enforced upon Aboriginal people in the name of welfare. This thesis examines pre-colonised Aboriginal Australia and provides an overview of the impact of colonisation as an historic context to the more recent experience of Aboriginal Australians and the provision of welfare services in the community of study.
Policies prior to the 1970s were directly aimed at assimilation and absorption of Aboriginal people into white society. Policies from the 1970s onwards saw a significant change in philosophy, espousing self-determination and self-management of Aboriginal affairs by Aboriginal people. This has been followed in recent years by more directive policies and a shift away from the commitment to self-determination. Regardless of the philosophy of the time, what is evident is the failure of policy and practice to make a positive impact on the lives of Aboriginal people. Data shows an over-representation of Indigenous children and young people in out-of-home care, of children and adults in the justice system, and also that the life expectancy of Indigenous Australians remains significantly below that of non-Indigenous Australians. Some remote Aboriginal communities are acknowledged to be in a state of crisis in relation to violence, alcohol and drug dependency, and the abuse of women and children.
This analysis will endeavour to discuss the impact this legacy has had on both the Aboriginal community and social work as a profession, and how it continues to have an impact today. I also highlight how the experience of this one Indigenous community is reflective of policies, practices and philosophies in Australia's engagement with its Indigenous population. Therefore, parallels can be drawn regarding the wider Indigenous experience, from the analysis of this one Aboriginal community's journey in relation to welfare and social work.