Supporting the development of Pacific social work across Oceania - critical reflections and lessons learnt towards disrupting whiteness in the region
Pacific people across Oceania have a rich history of being navigators and sea-farers, utilising traditional knowledges to connect within various islands and waters of the Pacific. With the introduction of Western modernity through colonialism, such traditional approaches have been gradually eroded and devalued. Reciprocal and communal principles like solesolevaki are still practised but now at the behest of contemporary influences like globalism, capitalism, consumerism and individualism. Pacific people continue to be on the move, navigating new spaces and places to keep up. This includes rural-urban drift leaving village life behind, and migration to New Zealand and Australia. With large cohorts of Pacific people now residing in such Western locations, certain systems are challenged to understand their cultural perspectives. Pacific people are then relegated to the margins, occupying spaces that are marred by over-representation in the legal system and increasing rates of noncommunicable diseases. This chapter focuses on the burgeoning identity of Pacific Social Work and its role across education, practice, policy and research. Examples from my own extensive professional experience in community and academia highlight the scope to deconstruct dominant perspectives in working with such people groups, and the need to disrupt whiteness in appropriately responding to Pacific communities across Oceania.