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What is the Social Work Action Network (SWAN)?
The Social Work Action Network (SWAN) is a grassroots organisation of social workers, academics, students, social care workers, service users and carers. SWAN originated in the UK and now has chapters in Ireland, Greece, New Zealand and Canada. SWAN campaigns and advocates for the social work and social workers against neoliberal policies, marketisation and managerialism. It supports an alternative social work that actively promotes radical social work, social justice and human rights.
Who we are
We are a group of five Masters of Social Work students who form a remote student unit. We are situated in Victoria, NSW and Queensland, and are currently on placement from Deakin University, Geelong. Our placement consists of conducting a study as to whether a SWAN group can be initiated in Australia. We are being supervised by our Project Manager and Supervisor John Townsend (contact details for John) from the Deakin Social Work School.
Task 2: Multicultural context for SWAN-AU (SWAN Australia)
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Multiculturalism is described as a movement whose aim is to increase and encourage individuals with diverse ethnic backgrounds on the basis of religion, caste, creed and nationality to thrive and survive in a specific society or country. The concept of multiculturalism is very challenging and controversial. The response to multiculturalism varies according to socioeconomic factors, political environments, and individual orientation of people inhabiting in society towards cultural pluralism. Multiculturalism is viewed as an accepted social beneficial factor or it is also viewed as a factor contributing to the threat of indigenous people of a particular society or country (Ramakrishna, 2013).
The concept of multiculturalism is challenging as often it is viewed in a different perspective by policymakers and individuals who are residing in a community. In various countries, the governments have encouraged multiculturalism as an act of secular practice and cross-cultural sharing of ideas and intellect. The individual orientation towards multiculturalism in the same countries has been oppressive and viewed as suspicion or threat to their indigenous population. The individual orientation has been attributed towards apprehensions on empowerment, distribution of resources, political bias on benefits, and insecurity of employment. Multiculturalism provides a professional challenge for social workers all across the globe, and practice in such areas increases the professional competency of a social worker (Johnson, 2002) (NASW, 2002).
Unity in diversity is the key philosophy that drives economic growth of various developed and developing countries. After the cold war ended and the dominance of the two world powers became recognized, claims for recognition based on ethnicity, race and cultural background became very stronger. Countries like Australia, Canada and Sweden have adopted and encouraged multiculturalism as its response to ethnic and cultural diversity. Multiculturalism in these countries is on the rise and Australia is no exception to such a phenomenon. Australia has witnessed a tremendous increase in multicultural immigrants since 2001. This rise in multicultural influx was due to the growing and stable economy in the country (Ramakrishna, 2013).
However, the population and skilled manpower is a recognized scarcity which stimulated rehabilitation of the immigrants. Such individuals are also provided stimulus package and financial support for six months upon their arrival to Australia. The multicultural background of Australia is dominated by immigrants from Africa, South East Asia, Oceania, and Latin American countries. With the increase in resources and opportunities in Australia, multiculturalism is on the rise and is expected to rise even further in coming four to five years (Ramakrishna, 2013).
Not only the rise in opportunities and resources that are providing encouragement to multiculturalism, but the vision of the Australian Government on this issue is also a governing factor. The Australian Government has taken a clear stance on multiculturalism. It emphasizes and acknowledges the existence of ethnic diversity and ensures the right of individuals to retain their own culture and access each and every facility that is available to individuals in the Australian societal set up (Soutphommasane, 2012).
The Government of Australia believes that such encouragement would provide an ambience of working on a shared common goal to foster the prosperity of the nation. This belief comes from the recognition of intellect and talent acquisition in a multicultural society. Such recognition is expected to make individuals adhere to the constitutional and legal principles and values prevalent in the society. The government also believes that such policies will benefit individuals and society as a whole in the reduction of social conflicts and cold war based on racial discrimination. The policy makers in Australia also feel that cultural diversity will provide the national impetus for foreign economic, political and cultural relations. Even with this view from the Government, the individual orientation towards multicultural society has been negative in various circumstances. Bullying and racial discrimination are prevalent in various pockets of Australian mainstream society, which is an area of concern for the Government. This is an area which provides a critical challenge for a social worker practising in such settings (Soutphommasane, 2012).