Call for papers: Resistance and rangatiratanga in a time of political change


In October 2023 the general election was held in Aotearoa New Zealand, but a government only emerged after six long weeks of negotiation between three political parties: ACT, National and New Zealand First. Made possible by the mixed-member proportional electoral system, this three-party alliance brought to power two smaller, more extremist parties on the coat-tails of the larger centre-right National party. Despite their combined vote shate of 15%, this gave them immense power as ‘king-makers’ in the process. Out of the process of political bargaining, many sacrifices were made on the altar of consensus generation. The result was an ambitious ‘100 day plan’ as well as longer term political projects that reflected the concerns and bugbears of the two extremist smaller parties, desperate to maintain their small but vocal political base, with little obvious space left for the majority party – National’s – policies at all. The result is a curious mix of policies, with a few clear themes as well as idiosynchracies.

The overall themes included conservative social values and neo-libertarian ideals. These are expressed in policies including reducing regulation across many areas of policy (particularly climate -related), reducing workers' rights, removing any recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi and taking more punitive approaches to crime. For example, repealing legislation that ensured fairer pay and stable work conditons, repealing the nationalisation of water infrastructure (colloquially known as ‘three waters’), requiring specific time in schools to teach reading, writing and maths and banning cell phones, reducing health system wait times, disestablishing the Māori health authority and repealing the smokefree legislation that was enacted to reduce smoking across the population (to name just a few).

These changes broadly reflect conservative notions of equity and freedom from within a neo-libertarian paradigm, promoting an extreme version of individual autonomy/responsibility, and reducing the role, scope and size of government, with constant plays to a notion that universalist approaches to policy equate to equity and fairness. This latter aspect of policy includes a concerted rejection of te reo Māori in public ministry and government operations as well as a rejection of Māori rights to sovereignty or governance under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. This is consistently reconstructed within government rhetoric as a threat to equality rather than an expression of it. In line with this, a further win for ACT was that there will be a referendum on the principes of the Treaty of Waitangi, the state’s founding document that sets out the rights and responsibiities of iwi Māori and the Crown. Annoyed that the Treaty was influencing legislation and policy, ACT’s referendum is a scarcely concealed effort to reduce Te Tiriti to a universalist doctrine, rather than one that guarantees rangatiratanga to Māori, and redress for breaches of it. Without this, it is completely distorted or as John Campbell wrote, the Treaty Principles Bill is “not so much a re-evaluation of the role of the Treaty as an abandonment of it”, as part of a ‘new colonialism’.

Taken together, these changes have led to instances of policy fractures, breaks, continuities, circularities and inevitably, resistance. Each new government creates an overlay of what already exists, rather than a clean break from the past, leading to complex, multi-faceted refractions of political ideology, interests, alliances and outcomes. Policy path dependency operates beneath new (old) rhetorics and initiatives. In turn, this mix od old and new shape public and social policy, and the conditions of social and community work practice. Resistance and protest are also invigorated, the strongest tools of saying no.


This special section calls for papers that focus on these recent political changes including:

  • Critical analysis of the underpinning ideology and likely impacts of specific policy changes (including but not limited to health, justice, welfare, child protection, education, Māori sovereignty)
  • Linking of current changes with their historical context including aspects of continuity, fracture and recurrence
  • Projects of resistance in any area of policy change and the methods and effectiveness of this resistance
  • How social and community workers can respond to the inevitable challenges of policy demands and effects that may be at odds with notions of social justice, human rights, empowerment or collective wellbeing. Is this another nail in the coffin of social work? (Maylea,2020).
  • How legislative repeal will or will not influence change in the specific areas, that is, analyses of legislation in wider context
  • The re-framing of the Treaty articles and principles as they are applied in legislation and the significance of this for Māori and non- Māori, with applied examples (for example, in child protection, justice or health)
  • An analysis of the implicit discourses surrounding te reo Māori and the effects on its use in various settings
  • Social problems- oriented or constructionist pieces examining the re-framing of key words, concepts and discourses in political or media texts that represent or critique these changes
  • The effects on practice contexts of any changes introduced as part of the new 2023 government.
  • Analyses of the effects on already-marginalised communities of these changes, and how social work might respond (for example, gender minorities, working class, welfare recipients, migrants)



The call for abstracts is due 1st April 2024

Full articles or viewpoints will be due 1st July 2023

Abstracts and a working title

  • Please supply an abstract of 250 words with a working title and up to 6 keywords. Submissions may take the form of:
    • Full papers - 7000 words including references
    • Research briefs - 3500 words
    • Viewpoints - 2000 words
    • Practice notes- 3000 words

Please see the author guidelines for information about preparing and submitting your article.


Maylea, C. (2020). The end of social work. The British Journal of Social Work.