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Bicultural degree to attract Maori to social work

Thursday, 15 June 2006

Bicultural degree at MIT looks to attract more Maori into social work

Manukau Institute of Technology’s proposed bicultural social work degree has been created to address the serious shortage of qualified social workers in Aotearoa New Zealand. The degree has been specifically developed to better prepare students for Social Work Registration.

The three-year Level 7 degree was developed jointly by MIT’s Department of Social Sciences and Te Tari Matauranga Maori (Department of Maori Education), and is pending a successful accreditation and approval from the Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics Quality (ITPQ). It is planned to be offered from February 2007.

According to MIT’s Department of Social Sciences, Maori, as well as other ethnic groups, are under-represented in the body of qualified social work practitioners.

However, MIT’s proposed new Bachelor of Applied Social Work is expected to attract more students from diverse ethic backgrounds to the social work field, says acting head of department, Margaret Maciver.

“The new degree is unique as it will look at social work from two world views as defined by the Treaty of Waitangi whilst being inclusive of other ethnicities in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“This degree will give graduates the knowledge and skills to work effectively with diverse cultures.”

Not only will the degree help overcome these challenges, but it will also relate to the diverse cultural communities of the Counties Manukau region, says head of MIT’s social work programme, Riki Paniora. “Its content is rich in Pacific peoples’ perspectives.”

MIT head of Te Tari Matauranga Maori, Wiremu Doherty, says the degree is a truly bicultural degree, which is built on social work theories and Maori knowledge which are integrated through the degree.

“We want to ensure we put the best qualified person in front of our cousins, brothers, sisters, children and parents.”

The bicultural nature of the proposed degree was applauded by visiting academic Dr Karina Walters, associate professor at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work, who focuses on the wellbeing of indigenous people in her research.

Dr Walters attended a presentation of the degree to around 130 social work students, practitioners and lecturers at MIT’s marae on Monday, 12 June.

“It is a great idea. The bicultural vision of the degree can be very empowering,” says Dr Walters, who is in the country to present at the Traditional Knowledge Conference in Wellington this month.

The new degree will greatly benefit MIT’s existing social work students. While MIT currently offers a Diploma in Social Work and a Diploma in Bicultural Social Work Practice, students who wish to obtain a degree need to continue their studies elsewhere, says Riki.

“Our students have told us they would prefer to stay at MIT not only because of travel and free parking, but because of the care and friendships they have in their classes and with their lecturers.”

Being able to remain at MIT for the duration of their studies up to degree level is particularly important to the large number of students who begin their studies at certificate level or through foundation education, and who then staircase on to further studies, adds Riki.

For more information on MIT’s range of Social Services or Maori Education programmes contact MIT on 0800 62 62 52, or visit


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