10 April 2015


Two perspectives on identity and registration.

The SMH reports that the national government's chief Indigenous adviser, Warren Mundine, wants
a national database of Aboriginal people to resolve "once and for all" the controversial issue of proving Aboriginality. 
The article indicates that the NSW Aboriginal Housing Office
formerly required people to prove their Aboriginality in one of three ways: by being a member of a local Aboriginal land council or registered Aboriginal organisation; obtaining a confirmation letter from one of those organisations; or, if those avenues were not possible, by providing a statutory declaration. The office will no longer accept statutory declarations. 
A Department of Family and Community Services spokeswoman said the policy change was discussed with housing and Indigenous groups and was "consistent with other practices and organisations". However according to the NSW Health website, a statutory declaration and references from two Indigenous community representatives is accepted as proof of Aboriginality in job applications. ...
Mr Mundine said the debate showed the need for a national database of Aboriginal people "that gets away from all the politics". "At the moment there is a ridiculous situation where you do have fraud, you do have petty personal politics involved," he said.
The SBS reports that Mundine
has called for the establishment of a national database of Aboriginal people. Mr Mundine says such a database would help overcome allegations of corruption and fraud. 
"I can walk in and get a passport and have to prove who I am. I'm a citizen of Australia to get that passport," he said. "Why shouldn't we be up for the same scrutiny?" 
He said it would enable Indigenous Australians to prove their identity, which is required to access certain services or perform certain duties. … "And of course on a more practical level, if you're accessing housing, if you're accessing government procurement contracts, or being able to vote at land council meetings, and so on, then it's quite clear you're in or you're out." 
He says a well-researched national database would also make it easier for Indigenous people to find out which First Nations they belong to. ...   
But he says the process and the body established to oversee it must be independent, transparent and run by Indigenous people. 
"Just from the historical approach because our people have been so knocked around and by governments of all political persuasions, of all political levels, that we have a distaste for trusting those type of organisations."
Less contentiously, the South Australian Coroner in reporting on the death of Chloe Valentine has stated
There is no statutory registration system for social workers. In my opinion it is appropriate that there should be. In his submissions the Commissioner for Victims’ Rights suggested that registration could be achieved through the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme which resulted from the Council of Australian Governments agreement in 2008. That may well be an appropriate mechanism for achieving a system of registration for social workers. I intend simply to recommend that the Minister for Child Protection Reform introduce a measure to provide for registration of social workers. The solution suggested by the Commissioner may commend itself to the Minister as a suitable way to implement that recommendation, but that is a matter for the Minister. Furthermore, I intend to recommend that there be a mandatory restriction on student social workers and qualified social workers with less than 12 months experience having client contact without direct supervision by a senior social worker.
The latter comment reflects comments by Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs on the content of the social work undergraduate degree course -
Professor Briggs expressed concern in her evidence that social work students on completion of their degree course had obtained little insight about children and were unable to tell the difference between normal child development and abnormal child development and that this would lead to mistakes being made in the child protection area. She also commented that social workers must be trained to relate well to children because, if they could not, they would choose instead to relate to the adults and listen to them, thereby missing important information. She said that there was no course content in the social work course relating to child protection. She has campaigned over a long period to have changes made to the content of the social work course. However, she said that her discussions have not been fruitful because the course content is accredited by the Australian Association of Social Workers. Professor Briggs remarked that social workers are responsible for assessing the safety of children and yet their training in child development is not as good as that of a kindergarten teacher. Yet kindergarten teachers are not required to make the serious decisions that social workers make. 
Professor Briggs was concerned that inadequate training leads to social workers relying on their emotions rather than their professional knowledge . She was concerned that the Australian Association of Social Workers is making a submission to the current Royal Commission into Child Protection Systems that the employer, namely Families SA, should be responsible for training students to work in child protection. Professor Briggs regards that position as unrealistic. 
Professor Briggs was asked about cases of neglect of children and commented that experienced social workers become accustomed to seeing houses in which neglect takes place. She said that they can become acclimatised and: "…what they think is okay, a lot of other people wouldn't. For example, teachers despair that they have a neglected child. If the parents are drug addicts, it can be dismissed as a lifestyle choice when the child is being neglected as a result of the drugs." 
Professor Briggs regarded it as completely irresponsible to send a student social worker to work with a potential child neglect case. She said that student social workers do field work to learn, not to lead. She said they have to be supervised.