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Love isn’t all you need, but it can go a long way towards improving the way clinical social work theory can successfully work alongside indigenous knowledge.

That was the message from Dr Tracie Mafile’o, keynote speaker at the inaugural Kaitiakitanga: Postgraduate Diploma in Bicultural Professional Supervision annual conference held at the Raroera campus last week.

Tracie is a senior lecturer in the School of Social Work at Massey University and says the conference was an historic moment for tauira, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and the social work field.

She spoke to about 60 tauira from Manukau, Whirikoka, Mangakōtukutuku, Porirua and Papaioea, for whom the conference was one of the final parts of their study.

The qualification provides a postgraduate diploma in professional supervision that uses mātauranga Māori approaches as the core of its supervision curriculum. Tauira gain the knowledge, practice, skills and attributes to make a positive difference as kaitiaki/supervisors.

Tracie spoke about ways indigenous knowledge can contribute to social work practice.

Her kōrero, 'Love at the interface: Interfacing Pacific and other knowledges', outlined how love can be at the heart of different knowledge bases successfully working together.

“Love – ofa – as an interface is about firstly being grounded in our own knowledge and then we go out and share with others,” she says.

“Love, in a social work context, is relationship based practice but that is not the same thing as ofa.”

She says all things are connected and tauira should look for the places where scientific knowledge and indigenous knowledge come together in a way that acknowledges both.

That interface is where love had a role to play.

“Love at the interface is an expression of kaitiakitanga,” she says.

“Can we operate at this interface of Pacific and other knowledge and use that for the benefit of others?”

“By using our Pacific knowledge, we can help develop social work knowledge,” she says.

Tauira Sue Rudman says both the conference and the course were exceptional.

“I’ve been looking for a course like this for years,” she says.

“It’s the best thing I’ve done in a long time.”

She says it will have “a huge impact” on her practice.

“There will be benefits for whānau, for colleagues, for staff. I will be able to support them to be practitioners that think outside the box.”

Sue manages the Bream Bay Community Support Trust in Ruakaka and has more than 20 years’ experience working in the family violence field.

She is also part of the White Ribbon Trust, which aims to end men’s violence against women, and says it means more than simply wearing ribbons.

“You have to speak to the heart, not just hand out ribbons,” she says.

“You’ve got to show them the change process, not just say ‘change’. How do you do that, how do you change? What’s the process of that so it doesn’t impact negatively?”

She says kaupapa Māori values are an important ingredient to success.

That ties in with Tracie’s kōrero, which emphasised ways indigenous knowledge can benefit social work theory.

“Social work must be varied and dynamic if it is to achieve social change.”

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