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The concept of social work

Critical Social work is a much broader concept than social work. According to Morley, & Ablett, 2016), the term ‘social workers’ was widely used in the late 19th century when some reformers and philanthropists demanded the creation of a profession called ‘social work’. However, in recent days, ‘social work’ is not likely to be identified as a distinct profession. Mainstream social work is commonly recognized as dealing with poverty eradication programs or helping vulnerable people in society. However, the presence of inequalities of various dimensions (discriminations and inequality in income and opportunities) within the society created many critical forms of social work. Within the most practiced alternatives, there are Marxists, feminists, radicals, postcolonial, anti-racist, indigenous and postmodern, and many more. 

The main objective of critical social workers is to extend social citizenship to all people in different contexts or dimensions. An important step to starting with critical social work is to do a critical analysis of society and critical self-reflection. Critical self-reflection of the society means evaluating the assumptions or popular beliefs regarding various dimensions of the society before taking action. It is important for social workers to understand and implement the ‘culturally responsive practice’ which is mandated by the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) Code of Ethics and Practice Standards. Australia is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Different community in Australia has different cultures, traditions, conflicts, requirements, expectations, and beliefs related to various aspects (such as religion, gender, or kind of bias), and thus the social workers first need to understand the difference in the communities based on different dimensions and apply it as general disillusionment about the society may lead to worse consequences (anti-Muslim bigotry and others as mentioned by the authors). 

This paper discusses the intersectionality among the oppressed, marginalized, and discriminated groups in Australia. The importance of understanding the differences in the culture, beliefs, rituals, and others in different communities is also discussed. This paper further delves into analyzing the implications of all these understanding for the critical social work practices. 

The term ‘intersectionality’ was coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989. However, the concept of intersectionality has been practiced in feminist research far earlier than that when people started to recognize the fact that women are being positioned as women (in a patriarchal society) as well as within other forms of oppression ( that is, based on race or religion, or nationality) (Phoenix, & Pattynama, 2006). According to Mattsson (2014), Intersectionality is an important tool to analyze and explore sexuality, gender, race, and class as intertwined complex, and mutual categories of oppression and privilege. 

Intersectionality can be addressed based on various dimensions, especially in a country like Australia. According to the data published by Segrave,  Wickes, & Keel (2019), there are more than 7.6 million migrants in Australia and the percentage of people within the total population who were born overseas is 29.8%.  In recent times, the research related to the violence against immigrant women has gained much importance. Ghafournia, & Easteal, (2018) has discussed the policy implications and policy gaps that should be addressed by the Australian government and other respective bodies to put a stop to the domestic violence against immigrant women. As per a survey by Segrave, Wickes, and Keel (2021), 33% of the immigrant and female respondents admitted to experiencing some form of domestic and family violence within which 47% were violence towards others or property, 91% of it was in the form of controlling behaviors, and 42% were in the form of physical or sexual abuse. They also found that the intensity of domestic violence rose during the pandemic period which means, periods of distress can be associated with the violence against immigrant women. 

Critical Social work in Australia

Ressia, Strachan, & Bailey (2017), had done extensive research on the job search procedure of the individual skilled migrant in Australia and the difference in difficulty level of the same based on their gender, race, social status, and many more. The authors claimed that the Australian people face problems in finding jobs because of their origins and ethnic backgrounds. Their study revealed that in most of the cases both the male and female migrant job seekers were equally excited and determined to get a job and apply for the completion of the immigration process. However, in the case when job seeking and doing all the other necessary adjustments to bear all the responsibilities get too difficult to manage for both (male and female counterparts), female parties have to bear the burden of taking care of the families and doing all the adjustments in most of the cases due to the prevalence of social norms. All these extra responsibilities are detrimental to the job-seeking procedure of those female job seekers. Also, it has been found that women in Australia are expected to work in times of distress especially in times of financial crisis just to provide financial assistance to the family instead of achieving career goals. Women who have young children and limited access to formal childcare and lack family support, experience a huge difficulty in job-seeking. However, unmarried women, women with no child, or older children face the least constraints in terms of job search. Similarly, migrant ethnicity and lack of local work experience, and language barriers are found to be detrimental to the job-seeking experiences of male job seekers in Australia. According to Chiang, Low, & Collins (2013), Asian females are most likely to experience both racism and sexism in everyday life in Australia despite having class privilege. Asian women are discriminated against by their Asian male as well as their white male counterparts in the workplace, during the job-seeking process. 

According to a report by the Australian Human Rights Commission (2016), older people and people with physical or other forms of disabilities face many problems in the job-seeking process as well as in the workplace in Australia. 11% of the surveyed respondents confirmed that they faced discrimination in employment because of their age or disability. Even older or disabled women are more likely to face this kind of discrimination against themselves compared to their male counterparts as older women or women with disability are perceived to be more inefficient than that men. Most older employed people don't feel enough secure against joblessness as they fear that their request or application for getting leaves or other kinds of adjustments will not be approved just because they are older or have a disability. Even these kinds of people are less likely to have listened to their colleagues about the problems they face within the organizations. They are most likely to be terminated during the organizational restructuring. Fozdar (2012), with the help of a survey, has shown that Muslim refugees are the most oppressed religious group in Australia. Many Australian people think that Muslims created social disruptions in Australia. The above statement has been substantiated by the experiences of Muslim refugees in Australia. Most of the surveyed Muslim refugees were jobless (28%) or working in a position that is below their qualifications (47%), 50% of the surveyed people confirmed that they experienced discrimination and barriers in the employment market, sometimes because of their accent and sometimes because of their name, appearance and language ability. However, religion as a cause of discrimination has been identified as insignificant. 

Culturally responsive practice in social work

In my personal experience, I have seen discrimination against gender, race, and migrants, especially black migrants. Racism can be seen in sports. Australian people have been seen making racist comments against black cricket players frequently. In 2020, I had news where the Asian-Australians were threatened and physically abused because according to the attackers Asians are supposed to stay indoors. Anti-Asian discrimination and harassment have become regular news in Australia in recent times. Moreover, I have seen many women suffering from domestic violence just because they are women and they could not take major steps against their families as they did not have any income source (which was also resulted from the social norms such as women should take more responsibility in taking care for families instead of doing jobs and focusing on their career goals). I have personally heard many people making sexists comments about gay or bisexual men.  Many people still believe that sexual orientation is not an independent variable and are unable to accept the fact that they are equally normal human beings like them. Many of my black and/or Muslim friends and their family does not feel safe walking alone at night, even in 2022. The migrants are sometimes being mocked for their pronunciation as that does not meet the standard of an Australian accent. 

According to Pease (2010), most of the research is mainly focused on the oppression against the marginalized group but little effort is made to recognize the unearned privilege enjoyed by some people. He proposed that some person is getting unearned privilege implies that some other groups of people are being discriminated against them. The interesting fact is that the privileged people who enjoy this privilege without any proper reason, do not even realize the fact that they are getting special treatment without earning them because they are too used to enjoying those privileges (or may have seen the same occurrence since their birth and has never questioned it). For example, the white men in Australia enjoy the privilege of getting jobs and better pay in their workplace while black males and females are being discriminated against them. In terms of job-seeking migrants, the job-seeking male migrants are getting some unearned privileges than their female counterparts. According to Schulz, & Fane (2015), the social awareness among the teachers in Australia should be addressed as quickly as possible. The lack of knowledge and discussion regarding the privilege of the white Australian during the teachers’ training process is producing suboptimal results as teachers and students tend to unwillingly recreate white race privilege.

According to Heron (2005), a social worker should first ask him/herself some questions to be engaged in the process of critical self-reflection. These questions are as follows:

  1. What do I do regularly that may cause the reproduction of unequal outcomes? 
  2. What act or behavior of the people (I interact with) can be seen as a further resistance to further marginalization? 
  3. How to incorporate the answers to the above questions into my regular work?

Thus more questions should be asked ourselves in order to understand the gaps in my day-today basis work. The answers to the above questions are given below:

1. I tend to avoid people who have an accent that is difficult to understand (other than an Australian accent) because I don't know what to say in the reply as I don't understand what are they saying. Also, I don't protest when I see or listen to people when they say things that may provoke white privilege. I feel empathetic about poor immigrants and refugees who do not have employment, a home, and sometimes food. They can't provide their children with proper childcare and educational facilities. I feel I am a little biased towards the black and migrant women who face domestic violence from their families and the young black girls who don't feel safe walking in the streets at night. However, I tend to look over the other issues such as the gender discrimination (advocated by our society) among the migrants during the job-seeking process also puts extra pressure on the male members of a migrant family as society mandates the system that the male member must be capable of earning and feeding the family and the female member must do everything to take proper care of the family. 

Intersectionality and its significance

2. I have seen some confident black women who spoke against racism and sexism and did not tolerate their oppression on them. One of them was a victim of domestic violence. The family migrated from an Asian country after one of the family members got a job in Australia. Initially, the earnings of that male member were not sufficient, and thus the woman had to share financial responsibilities with her husband. She had to learn to cope with the new organization, new work culture, and people for continuing the job. However, the situation changed when her husband got promoted in his office and his earnings were raised. The family started to pressurize and torture her to stay at home and resign. She protested and even got separated from her family to protect her career goals. There are many such inspirations such as I still find teh homophobic people trying to oppress gay and bisexual people by doing verbal abuse even sometimes the members of the LGBTQ community are abused by their parents and family but they do not stop living their life in their own free will and they protest against the oppression. 

3. To overcome my biases towards migrated and/or black women (who are being oppressed), I will try to observe society keenly in order to find out the areas that I am missing out while thinking about oppression and privilege in the society. I will take the help of the concept of intersectionality to understand whether there are factors in society that are affecting all human beings (instead of focusing on their gender) but when trying to help them I shall try to understand why this factor (for example, society mandated gender biases) is affecting these people (the same factor may affect different people in different ways) and help them accordingly. I am especially interested to work with the migrated and poor children in Australia who do not get proper educational facilities, especially in the early learning stages (because the early learning and care schools are very expensive) as their parents do not earn enough. I want to understand how free education can help these children and how that can be achieved in the future.

Conclusion 

The aim of this paper was to provide an understanding of the intersectionality among the oppressed and marginalized people in Australia and how social workers should address and incorporate those in their critical social work practices. The intersectionality among the oppressed people in Australia has been discussed based on various dimensions such as gender, race, immigrants, age, and many more. The unearned privileges enjoyed by some people are associated with incidents of oppression and discrimination. It has been found that the migrant Muslim people are being discriminated against by the migrant/non-migrant non-Muslim people while the typical white Australians are getting unearned privileges.   Personal experiences from the family, neighborhood, and in general the country have also been discussed along with their implication in the critical social work practices. This paper also provided insight regarding the importance of doing critical self-reflection before planning social work practices. The process of critical self-reflection has been elaborated by using examples from previous works of literature. Thus, the paper concludes by revealing the true picture of oppression and privileged groups in Australia and providing possible ways of incorporating the above understanding during critical social work practices.

References 

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2020). Migration, Australia, 2019-20 financial year. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 


Australian Human Rights Commission. (2016). Willing to work: national inquiry into employment discrimination against older Australians and Australians with disability (2016). Apo.org.au. Retrieved 2 April 2022, from

https://apo.org.au/sites/default/files/resource-files/2016-05/apo-nid66558.pdf.


Chiang, F., Low, A., & Collins, J. (2013). Two sets of business cards: Responses of Chinese immigrant women entrepreneurs in Canada and Australia to sexism and racism. Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 5(2), 63-83.https://search.informit.org/doi/pdf/10.3316/informit.958590283109293


Fozdar, F. (2012). Social cohesion and skilled Muslim refugees in Australia: Employment, social capital, and discrimination. Journal of Sociology, 48(2), 167-186.https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Farida-Fozdar/publication/254121461_Social_cohesion_and_skilled_Muslim_refugees_in_Australia_Employment_social_capital_and_discrimination/links/551362ee0cf23203199c0024/Social-cohesion-and-skilled-Muslim-refugees-in-Australia-Employment-social-capital-and-discrimination.pdf


Ghafournia, N., & Easteal, P. (2018). Are immigrant women visible in Australian domestic violence reports that potentially influence policy?. Laws, 7(4), 32.https://www.mdpi.com/342468


Heron, B. (2005). Self?reflection in critical social work practice: subjectivity and the possibilities of resistance. Reflective practice, 6(3), 341-351.https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14623940500220095 


Mattsson, T. (2014). Intersectionality as a Useful Tool: Anti-Oppressive Social Work and Critical Reflection, Journal of Women and Social Work, 29 (1): 8-17.doi:10.1177/0886109913510659 


Morley, C., & Ablett, P. (2016). The renewal of critical social work. Social Alternatives, 35(4), 3-6.

https://eprints.qut.edu.au/107704/12/33106226.pdf 


Pease, B. (2010). Undoing privilege: Unearned advantage in a divided world. Bloomsbury Publishing.


Phoenix, A., & Pattynama, P. (2006). Intersectionality. European Journal of Women's Studies, 13(3), 187-192. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1350506806065751 


Ressia, S., Strachan, G., & Bailey, J. (2017). Operationalizing intersectionality: An approach to uncovering the complexity of the migrant job search in Australia. Gender, Work & Organization, 24(4), 376-397.https://research-repository.griffith.edu.au/bitstream/handle/10072/339130/Ressia66527.pdf?sequence=1


Schulz, S., & Fane, J. (2015). A healthy dose of race?: White students' and teachers' unintentional brushes with whiteness. Australian Journal of Teacher Education (Online), 40(11), 137-154.

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1083399.pdf


Segrave, M., Wickes, R., & Keel, C. (2021). Migrant and refugee women in Australia: the safety and security study. Apo.org.au. Retrieved 2 April 2022, from https://apo.org.au/sites/default/files/resource-files/2021-06/apo-nid313003.pdf.

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