University Of Tasmania

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The problem of professionalism: how White social workers enact Whiteness in their work with people of refugee background

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 05:42 authored by Kate VincentKate Vincent
Within Australia, Whiteness is embedded within social work, requiring us to turn the lens in on ourselves as a profession. This article presents research data exploring how Whiteness is enacted within the practices of White Australian social workers who work with refugee arrived communities. Eight social workers with experience working with people of refugee background participated in this multimethod qualitative study. Data was analysed using a critical approach to narrative analysis. Participants told narratives of how their Whiteness was enacted through their powerful positions within relationships with clients. The reported experiences of social workers in this project also relate to the pressures, desires and often failures to be professional, as it is defined within White Western social work. The findings suggest that to disrupt Whiteness, we need to challenge the need for professionalism when working with people of refugee background. It is argued that this could be achieved through a focus on relationality, dialogue and two-way care.


Publication title

Qualitative Social Work






School of Social Sciences


Sage Publications

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2022 The Author(s)

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Understanding Australia’s past; Migrant and refugee settlement services; Expanding knowledge in language, communication and culture