New wine from old wineskins, a fresh look at Freire

Shayne Walker


Recently, I re-read Freire’s (1972) Pedagogy of the oppressed and found his emphasis on love inspiring. I was left wondering why this is not often quoted regarding Freire. As an educator (University of Otago), regulator (SWRB), whānau worker and supervisor (NGO staff), I believe my work here in Aotearoa New Zealand is about creating contexts within which it is easier to love. I view love broadly as a set of attitudes, actions and thoughts. It produces a professional set of skills that is a personal journey of completion. I am not patient, tolerant or fair all the time, but I should at least try to be. Perhaps love in the context of professional relationships within the social work process is at the heart of a 21st century emancipation and liberation of Māori and other oppressed groups in Aotearoa. Freire understood that treating people as ‘fully human’ in the social work process was in itself an act of love, otherwise it would be dehumanising.

In this article I will be discussing:

  • conscientisation, colonisation, dehumanisation, historical trauma and intergenerational trauma;
  • Freire’s (1972) notion of a ‘culture of silence’;
  • identity;
  • transformative relationships;
  • love in social work;
  • Freire’s virtues and qualities for social workers; and
  • fully human practice.


Freire; Pedagogy of the Oppressed; culture of silence; identity; transformative relationships; love in social work; colonisation; intergenerational trauma; social work practice;

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