Toward equal participation: An auto-ethnography of facilitating consultations in the refugee sector


  • Sue Elliot Unitec Institute of Technology



This article uses an auto-ethnographic approach to exploring how one positions oneself as a facilitator in a layered and power-laden context in the refugee sector in New Zealand to ensure just and collaborative negotiations. It reflects on my facilitation practice based during a series of annual consultations between UNHCR, NGOs and refugee community representatives over a period of five years. The article begins by providing a brief overview of the New Zealand refugee system. This is followed by a review of relevant literature on the role of the facilitator and the role of facilitation within community development, an acknowledged field of social work. Reflections on facilitation practice within an ethnically diverse situation makes up the bulk of the article, which is written from the perspective of a Pakeha woman who has worked in the refugee sector for nearly 35 years, most recently in community development and capacity building of refugee-based organisations. 

This paper adopts a relatively descriptive style to a personal reflection on facilitating large consultations in the refugee sector in New Zealand. For ease of reading, the term refugee is used throughout, although the consultations focus on both refugee and asylum issues. As presented here, my reflexive analysis is interwoven with research and literature on facilitation and reflects who I am and what I value, in a myriad of tacit and overt ways. It focuses on the facilitation process and the role of the facilitator rather than on the outcomes of the consultations. I have deliberately focused on my own story as I consider this is the story I can ethically tell. 

Author Biography

Sue Elliot, Unitec Institute of Technology

Sue Elliott is a lecturer at Unitec Institute of Technology where she is a Curriculum Leader for the Bachelor of Social Practice. 


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How to Cite

Elliot, S. (2015). Toward equal participation: An auto-ethnography of facilitating consultations in the refugee sector. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 27(3), 57–67.