Critical Reflection: Smile, we can’t see you- the voices of workers of colour navigating Whiteness in the Australian child protection system


  • Andrew Savreemootoo University of Sydney


Cultural competency is presented as the balm against culturally insensitive practice for Australian statutory child protection agencies, yet fails to capture the complexity of people of colour’s lived experience of racism. Using Whiteness theory and literature on second-generation migrants, this paper argues that the inclusion of voices of social workers of colour is crucial for shedding insight into the complex intersection of white privilege and racial Otherness. Drawing on my reflections as a child protection worker of colour and conversations with other caseworkers of colour, I conclude that the inclusion of our voices is an essential part of the effective rethinking of the concept of cultural competency. The discussions in this paper issue a challenge to include insight from those who acutely experience whiteness, contributing to the larger goal of redressing oppression and adhering to the requirements of the Australian Association of Social Work to ensure culturally competent practice.


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Beyond “cultural competency”: Confronting whiteness in social work