Mistakes and Misunderstandings: Why Are Social Workers Still Not Getting It Right?

Bindi Bennett, Stuart McMinn, Nigel Millgate, Claire Morse

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterEducationpeer-review


We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of where we work and live and we pay our respects to the Elders both past, present, and emerging. This chapter is a collaboration between an Aboriginal Kamilaroi social worker; an Aboriginal Dharug and Gubbi Gubbi social worker; an Aboriginal Karulkiylu social worker; and a non-Indigenous social worker. Two of the authors were part of an Australian Research Council (ARC) grant exploring the cultural responsiveness, understanding and practice within Australian social work. The other two writers were involved in the research as stakeholders and to added their professional and personal expertise to the project.
For stage one of the research, we surveyed and interviewed 37 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders from across Australia. As a result of this survey it became clear that, despite the conscientious undertakings of the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) to prepare social work­ers to work in culturally responsive and inclusive ways, in some instances social workers were causing irrevocable harm to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, communities, and organisations. Despite many social workers expressing well-meaning intentions, there is a proportion of social workers that have a general unwillingness, apathy, or perhaps fear to engage effectively with cultural responsiveness. A lack of cultural knowledge regard­ing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander protocols, coupled with ignorance and an inability to foster reciprocal respectful relationships, give rise to cultural mistakes and misunderstandings that social workers find difficult to navigate. This chapter examines these issues and suggests productive improvements to the training of social workers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAboriginal fields of practice
EditorsBindi Bennett
PublisherRed Globe Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781352012293
ISBN (Print)9781352012286, 9781352012330
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


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