Social Work Education in Aotearoa New Zealand: Building a Profession

Social work in the Pacific nation Aotearoa New Zealand has developed within a unique cultural and socio-political context. An essentially western model of social work developed sixty years ago in a colonial state which imposed British education, policing, child welfare, criminal justice and mental health systems into to the lives of Māori people. Growing awareness of the negative impacts of those systems on Māori families and communities led to significant challenges to the social work profession, leading to conflict and continuing ambivalence about the emergent professionalisation project. Social work education reflects these tensions, being influenced by political forces, the global struggles of indigenous peoples and, in the last three decades, the impact of neoliberalism in social welfare reform in Aotearoa New Zealand (Hyslop,2016; O’Brien, 2016) . A limited form of statutory regulation in the 2003 Social Workers Registration Act instigated the Social Workers Registration Board which  saw the introduction of benchmark educational qualifications for entry to social work (Beddoe, 2014; Hunt, 2017) . In 2019 , legislation will introduce mandatory registration and protection of title. The aim of my new article (Beddoe, 2018) is to explore the history of social work in this national context with reference to a Bourdieusian framework of professional capital to explain why social work education is, and will remain, a site of struggle in its mission for social justice and human rights informed practice.

The article was published as part of a special issue of the journal Practice, on social work education .Read the full article here and if the free e-prints have been used up email me at   for a copy


Beddoe , L. (2014). A matter of degrees: The role of education in the professionalisation journey of social work in New Zealand. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 26(2/3), 17-28. Read here

Beddoe, L. (2018). Social work education in Aotearoa New Zealand: Building a profession. Practice, 30(4), 305-320. 10.1080/09503153.2018.1478955

Hyslop, I. K. (2016). Where to social work in a brave new neoliberal Aotearoa? Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 28(1), 5-12. 10.11157/anzswj-vol28iss1id111 Read here

Hunt, S. (2017). The social work regulation project in Aotearoa New Zealand. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 29(1), 53-64. 10.11157/anzswj-vol29iss1id370
Read here 

O’Brien, M. (2016). The triplets: Investment in outcomes for the vulnerable – reshaping social services for (some) New Zealand children. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 28(2), 1-6. 10.11157/anzswj-vol28iss2id220  Read here



About socialworknz

I'm a social work researcher in Aotearoa New Zealand
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