Defining, teaching, and practising diversity: Another hegemonic discourse?


  • Susan Beaumont Whitireia Polytechnic, Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Stephanie Kelly WelTec, Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Lee Smith WelTec, Aotearoa New Zealand



Diversity, social work profession, professional practice, competencies


INTRODUCTION: Respect for diversity is a primary principle of the social work profession; however, the term diversity has been critiqued as meaningless and is often linked with cultural competence. Gaps in terminology, education, and knowledge about how to practise diversity have been identified in health and social practice literature, while attempts to teach diversity have uncertain results. The research question guiding this master’s study was “What are the factors that inform Aotearoa social workers’ practice when engaging with diversity?”

METHODOLOGY: Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of four practising social workers to explore what informed their diversity practice. An inductive thematic analysis of the interview data was undertaken. Numerous themes and sub-themes were identified and grouped into seven thematic categories.

FINDINGS: For research participants, the term diversity exists only in the discursive; and it “gets in the way” of practice. While acknowledging the importance of education and practice with Te Tiriti, participants could not seem to connect this knowledge with diversity and associated practices. The authors suggest that the definition of diversity for the purposes of social work education and competency frameworks requires a more critical approach: its associations with power, and its tendency to describe and classify otherwise complex, fluid, contextual identities. Aotearoa New Zealand social work education must also engage in critical analysis of monocultural, hegemonic discourse and power relationships through te Tiriti frameworks to prepare all students for practice with diversity in a bicultural context.


Adelowo, A., Smythe, L., & Nakhid, C. (2016). Deciding to migrate: Stories of African immigrant women living in New Zealand. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 28(1), 52–58.

Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers. (2014). ANZASW social work practice standards: Enhancing competent social work practice. Standard-Publication-Full-Nov-14.pdf

Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers. (2019). Code of ethics. uploads/Code-of-Ethics-Adopted-30-Aug-2019.pdf

Bhattacherjee, A. (2012). Social science research: principles, methods, and practices. Textbooks Collection. Book 3.

Boulton, A., & Cvitanovic, L. (2021). Māori centred social work practice: Evidence brief. https://www. Research/Latest-research/Maori-centred-social-work- practice-v2/Maori-centred-social-work-practice.pdf

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2)77–101.

Bryman, A. (2016). Quantitative and qualitative research: Further reflections on their integration. In J. Brannen. (Ed.). Mixing methods: Qualitative and quantitative research. Routledge.

Came, H., Doole, C., McKenna, B., & McCreanor, T. (2018). Institutional racism in public health contracting: Findings of a nationwide survey from New Zealand. Social Science & Medicine (1982), 199, 132–139. https://doi. org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.06.002

Craig, G. (2002). Poverty, social work and social justice. British Journal of Social Work, 32(6), 669–682.

Czaika, M., & de Haas, H. (2010). The globalization of migration: Has the world become more migratory? International Migration Review, 48(2), 283–323.

Danso, R. (2016). Cultural competence and cultural humility: A critical reflection on key cultural diversity concepts. Journal of Social Work, 18(4), 1–21. https://doi:10.1177/1468017316654341

Featherstone, B. (2009). Diversity and performance: A research view. British Journal of Community Justice, 7(3), 11–15.

Fook, J., & Gardner, F. (2007). Practising critical reflection: A resource handbook. Open University Press.

Fraser, S., & Briggs, L. (2016). Bi-culturalism and accountability: Fundamental changes in social work practice in Aotearoa New Zealand 1984 – 1990. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work 28(1), 43–51.

Hetaraka, M. (2019). A kaupapa Māori analysis of Tātaiako: Considering Māori education policy. MAI Journal, 8(2), 160–171.

Hobbs, M., Ahuriri-Driscoll, A., Lukas, M., Campbell, M., Tomintz, M., & Kingham, S. (2019). Reducing health inequity for Māori people in New Zealand. The Lancet, 394(10209), 1613–1614.

Houkamau, C. A., & Sibley, C. G. (2010). The multi- dimensional model of Māori identity and cultural engagement. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 39(1), 8–28.

International Association of Schools of Social Work. (2018). IASSW’s message for peaceful engagement with social justice: Opposing and condemning intolerance and violence.

International Association of Schools of Social Work. (2020). Global standards for social work education and training. IASSW-Global_Standards_Final.pdf

International Association of Schools of Social Work & International Federation of Social Workers. (2014). Global definition of social work. https://www.iassw-aiets. org/global-definition-of-social-work-review-of-the-global- definition/

International Association of Schools of Social Work & International Federation of Social Workers. (2018). Global social work statement of ethical principles.

at: work-statement-of-ethical-principles-iassw/

International Federation of Social Work. (2012). Global standards.

Jeyasingham, D. (2012). White noise: A critical evaluation of social work education’s engagement with Whiteness studies. British Journal of Social Work, 42(4), 669–686. https://doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcr110

Johnson, Y. M., & Munch, S. (2009). Fundamental contradictions in cultural competence. Social Work, (54)3, 220–231.

Kelly, S., Beaumont, S., & Arcus, K. (2020). The word gets in the way. Sociological social work with diversity: A turn from the discursive. The International Journal of Diversity in Education, 21(1), 51–65. https://doi:10.18848/2327- 0020/CGP/v21i01/51-65

Kelly, S. M. (2002). Weaving whakapapa and narrative in the management of contemporary Ngai Tahu identities [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Canterbury University.

Lenette, C. (2014). Teaching cultural diversity in first year human services and social work: The impetus for embedding a cultural safety framework. A practice report. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 5(1), 117–123.

Maykut, P., & Morehouse, R. (1994). Beginning qualitative research: A philosophical and practical guide. The Falmer Press.

McIntosh, T. (2005). Māori identities: Fixed, fluid, forced. In J. H. Liu, T. McCreanor, T. Mcintosh, & T. Teaiwa (Eds.). New Zealand identities: Departures and destinations (pp. 38–51). Victoria University Press.

McNabb, D. (2019). A treaty-based framework for mainstream social work education in Aotearoa New Zealand: Educators talk about their practice. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 31(4), 4–17. https://doi. org/10.11157/anzswj-vol31iss4id667

Ministry of Health. (2015). Tatau kahukura: Māori health chart book 2015 (3rd ed.). publication/tatau-kahukura-maori-health-chart-book- 2015-3rd-edition

New Zealand Social Workers Training Council (February, 1984). Report. News and Views [Newsletter of the New Zealand Association of Social Workers], 3-4.

Olcoń, K., Gilbert, D. J., & Pulliam, R. M. (2020). Teaching about racial and ethnic diversity in social work education: A systematic review. Journal of Social Work Education, 56(2), 215–237. 1656578

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.

Padgett, D. K. (2017). Qualitative methods in social work research (3rd ed.). Sage Publications.

Payne, M. (2020). Modern social work theory (5th ed.). Macmillan Science & Education.

Ramsden, I. (2002). Cultural safety in nursing education in Aotearoa and Te Waipounamu. [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Victoria University of Wellington. RAMSDEN-I-Cultural-Safety_Full.pdf

Richardson, F. I. (2010). Cultural safety in nursing education and practice in Aotearoa New Zealand [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Massey University.

Saunders, J. A., Haskins, M., & Vasquez, M. (2015). Cultural competence: A journey to an elusive goal. Journal of Social Work Education, 51(1), 19–34. https://doi:10.1080 /10437797.2015.977124

Sewpaul, V., & Henrickson, M. (2019). The (r)evolution and decolonization of social work ethics: The global social work statement of ethical principles. International Social Work, 62(6), 1469–1481.

Sinclair, A., & Evans, M. (2015). Difference and leadership. In B. Carroll, J. Ford, & S. Taylor (Eds.), Leadership: Contemporary critical perspectives (pp. 130–149). Sage Publications.

Social Worker Registration Board. (2016). Code of conduct. conduct/

Social Worker Registration Board. (2021). Core competence standards. competence-standards/

Southwick, M., & Polaschek, N. (2014). Reconstructing marginality: A new model of cultural diversity in nursing. Journal of Nursing Education, 53(5), 249–255. https://doi:10.3928/01484834-20140415-01

Stenhouse, R. (2021). Understanding equality and diversity in nursing practice. (2021). Nursing Standard (2014+), 36(2), 27–33.

Stevenson, B. (2001). The relationship between Māori cultural identity and health [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Massey University.

Stirling, B., Furman, L. D., Benson, P. W., Canda, E. R., & Grimwood, C. (2010). A comparative survey of Aotearoa New Zealand and UK social workers on the role of religion and spirituality in practice. The British Journal of Social Work, 40(2), 602–621. https://doi:10.1093/bjsw/ bcp008

Testa, D. (2017). Hospital, nationality, and culture: Social workers, experiences, and reflections. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 29(2), 96–107.

Walker, S. (2012). The teaching of Māori social work practice and theory to a predominantly Pākehā audience. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 24(3), 65–74.




How to Cite

Beaumont, S., Kelly, S., & Smith, L. (2021). Defining, teaching, and practising diversity: Another hegemonic discourse?. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 33(3), 61–73.



Original Articles