Educating on anti-oppressive practice with gender and sexual minority elders: Nursing and social work perspectives


  • Margaret Pack ANZASW
  • Peter Brown University of Western Sydney



Social work education, sexuality, diversity


INTRODUCTION: This article relates a common dilemma in professional education out of which developed a collaboration between two health disciplines at a regional Australian university. In a literature review across the two disciplines, the authors drew from social work’s teaching knowledge base in an attempt to strengthen the nursing skill base. The intention was to provide students working in the health sector with a consistent theoretical approach and practical tools when working with sexual and gender minorities.

METHOD: As associate professors in social work and nursing, the authors argue on the basis of the teaching and the literature review, for an explicitly anti-oppressive approach to be applied to the education of professionals who work with elders identifying with gender and sexual minorities. Working within an anti-oppressive framework, beginning practitioners in social work and nursing in degree-level education programmes were encouraged to explore their own attitudes including taken-for-granted assumptions often unexplored in the prevailing medical models of care. How different demographics within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer (LGBTQIA) community experience the health industry is a current issue for educators. There have been increasing challenges expressed by transgender individuals and their concerns over their specific health needs/stigma in rest-home-care facilities, for example.

CONCLUSION: By embedding anti-oppressive principles in our teaching practice, relating to gender and sexual minorities, we acknowledge and open the debate to some of the possibilities/practicalities/difficulties of advocating for this within a broader multi-disciplinary in small town, rural contexts. The implications for social work and nursing education are discussed.


Australian Government. (2007). Aged Care Act, 1997. Retrieved from

Bennett, B., Green, S., Gilbert, S., & Bessarab, D. (2013). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social work. Melbourne, VIC: Palgrave Macmillan.

Blackwell, C.W. (2005). Registered nurses’ attitudes toward the protection of gays and lesbians in the workplace: An examination of homophobia and discriminatory beliefs (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Central Florida, Orlando.

Blackwell, C. W. (2008). Registered nurses’ attitudes toward the protection of gays and lesbians in the workplace. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 19(4), 347–353.

Concannon, L. (2009). Developing inclusive health and social care policies for older LGBT citizens. British Journal of Social Work, 39, 403–417.

Dahlkemper, T. R. (Ed.). (2013). Nursing leadership, management, and professional practice for the LPN/LVN in nursing school & beyond (5th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis Company.

Dorsen, C. (2012). An integrative review of nurse attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender patients. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research, 44(3), 18–43.

Dominelli, L. (2002). Anti-oppressive social work theory and practice. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave McMillan.

Henrickson, M. (n.d.). Lavender parents. Retrieved from

Herek, G. M. (1998). Attitudes toward lesbians and gay men. Retrieved from

Hughes, M. (2007). Older lesbians and gays accessing health and aged-care services. Australian Social Work, 60(2), 197–209.

Irwin, L. (2007). Homophobia and heterosexism: Implications for nursing and nursing practice. Advanced Journal of Advanced Nursing, 25(1), 70–76.

Langley, J. (2001). Developing anti-oppressive empowering social work practice with older lesbian women and gay men. British Journal of Social Work. 31, 917–932.

Payne, M. (2005). (3rd Ed). Modern social work theory: A critical introduction. Chicago Illinois: Lyceum Books

Pearson, A., & Vaughan, B. (2005). Nursing models for practice (3rd ed.). Oxford, UK: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Price, E. (2008). Pride or prejudice? Gay men, lesbians and dementia. British Journal of Social Work, 38(7), 1337–1352. Retrieved from

Rondahl, G. (2003). Heteronormativity in a nursing context: Attitudes toward homosexuality and experiences of lesbians and gay men (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Uppsala University, Sweden.

Rondahl, G., Innala, S., & Carlsson, M. (2004). Nurses’ attitudes towards lesbians and gay men. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 47(4), 386–392.

Rondahl, G. (2009). Students’ inadequate knowledge about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 6(1), 548–923.

Royal College of Nursing. (2003). The nursing care of lesbian and gay male patients or clients. Guidance for nursing staff. London, UK: Author.

Stein, G. L., Beckerman, N. L., & Sherman, P. A. (2010). Lesbian and gay elders and long-term care: Identifying the unique and psychosocial perspectives and challenges. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 53(5), 421–435.

Zhang, T. (2016). “We are super-duper resilient”: Exploring health and professionals’ attitudes towards trans people in Auckland (Unpublished master’s thesis). Massey University, Albany, Auckland, New Zealand.




How to Cite

Pack, M., & Brown, P. (2017). Educating on anti-oppressive practice with gender and sexual minority elders: Nursing and social work perspectives. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 29(2), 108–118.



Original Articles