The koru model: The stages of biculturation for foreign-trained social workers in Aotearoa New Zealand


  • Barbara Staniforth Waipapa Taumata Rau-University of Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Helene Connor Te Atiawa and Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāti Rahiri and Ngāti Te Whiti. Waipapa Taumata Rau-University of Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand



Transnational social work, acculturation, indigenous, Ma ?ori, biculturalism, biculturation


INTRODUCTION: This article reports on a project which explored the process of “biculturation” (settling into a country with a bicultural mandate for social work practice) for 20 foreign-trained social workers who moved to Aotearoa New Zealand. This article details the particular theme of stages that the participants navigated in new terrain working within a bicultural framework with Māori.

METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 20 foreign-trained social workers who had moved to Aotearoa New Zealand to practise social work. A thematic analysis was undertaken with the use of NVivo software.

FINDINGS: Participants reported negotiating phases consistent with the international literature on acculturation. Particular challenges were noted regarding coming to terms with the impact of colonisation and the difference between bicultural and multicultural approaches.

CONCLUSION: These stages have been represented by the various phases of growth of the fronds of a ponga tree described as the koru model. The stages described should be of use to social workers (or other professionals) who have shifted from one country to another, or
are thinking about such a move. This is especially relevant when moving to a country where an indigenous group has experienced the negative impact and trauma of colonisation. The information will also be of use to social work agencies, employers, professional associations and regulatory bodies in understanding the process of acculturation for transnational social workers.


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How to Cite

Staniforth, B., & Connor, H. (2021). The koru model: The stages of biculturation for foreign-trained social workers in Aotearoa New Zealand. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 33(3), 6–19.



Original Articles