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The following essay will identify and describe key takepu principles that are an integral part of social work and the development of relationships with all culturally diverse individuals within the social work practice. The main focus for my essay will lay around 6 main takepu which are Ahurutanga – Safe space, Kaitiakitanga – Responsible stewardship, Taukumekume – Positive and negative tension, Te Whakakoharangatiratanga – Respectful relationships, Mauri ora – Pursuit of well-being and Tino Rangatiratanga – Absolute integrity. (Pohatu, 2004:1). These takepu are guidelines that social workers should use to allow an open space that encourages and supports a healthy relationship between social worker and client and vice versa. When contextualized, and internalized, they assume a central place in how people should engage in kaupapa. (Pohatu, 2004:1). This essay will also discuss how I incorporate Nga Takepu into my social and professional life.
Nga Takepu principles are grounded in the social work professions philosophy, values, ethical prescriptions and an obvious way of living. They are not supported by empirical verification nor are they compiled in one single document supported by the government. Yet at Te Wananga o Aotearoa these principles are taught as if there is an agreed upon set of practice guidelines that all social workers should follow. To the contrary, social works practice principles are largely unwritten, learned life experiences and typically are passed on informally from seasoned workers to those who are entering the profession, or in my case from teacher to student. I feel that the takepu principles I have learned at Te Wananga o Aotearoa have enabled my conscious mind when it comes to forming and maintaining relationships with people. Social workers must be consciously aware of how their own beliefs, perceptions, and behaviors may have an impact on their professional relationships, as these personal attributes will surely affect the ability to be helpful to clients. (Sheafor, Horjsi & Horjsi, 2000).
Te Whakakoharangatiratanga (Respectful relationships) for me occurs in every aspect of our lives whether it is mother – daughter, brother – sister or student – teacher. There is always that acknowledgement of respect for each other and it is something that I have learned to appreciate throughout my life. In the Tongan culture Whaka’apa’apa (respect) takes on a lot of forms. Showing respect could be not looking your elders in the eyes, which in the European culture can be seen as disrespectful. Respect for me and Te Whakakoharangatiratanga go hand in hand. Respectful relationships cannot thrive without respect from all parties involved. All the positive outcomes that benefited Tongan people in the past were said to result from the acknowledgement, recognition and appreciation or faka’apa’apa for the roles played by deities in the people’s welfare and livelihood. (Havea, 2005).
Good helping relationships result from a conscious effort on the part of the worker. It is necessary for the social worker to make conscious use of what is naturally themselves – to use all of themselves and not just their analytical or technical skills – to achieve a purposive relationship with someone else. (O’Connor, Wilson and Setterland, 1998). A lot of what I am learning at Te Wananga is being consciously aware of my surroundings, being able to absorb all that I can from not only my kaiako but fellow peer’s also. I feel as though I’ve grown up with all these Takepu – I’ve just not known them by there Maori words, they are phrases and values I hold dearly. For me it was all to do with recognizing these principles and knowing when to apply them. My family created a safe space for me at home (ahurutanga), I care for my nephews and nieces when needed (kaitiakitanga), having faith in what I believe in and having the strength to back it up (tino rangatiratanga), I engage in respectful relationships with people I meet at Te Wananga o Aotearoa (Te Whakakoharangatiratanga), resolving disagreements within the family and acknowledging good behavior with younger members of my family (tau kumekume), and last but not least the constant need to better oneself, love more, give more, understand more and even further my knowledge base here at Te Wananga o Aotearoa is all in the pursuit of overall mauri-ora (wellbeing).
“Values are concerned with what is good and desirable whilst ethics deal with what is right and correct”.
(Loewenberg & Dolgoff, 1992)
While understanding when these principles should be used and being able to identify them we cannot steer away from the fact that there is always a deeper meaning to what we learn and what these principles mean to us. If we cannot control the definition we cannot control meanings and the theories which lie behind these meanings (Smith, 1995). This quote reminds us of the importance of Maori frameworks. The fact that I have been fortunate enough to learn about Nga Takepu straight from Matua Taina Pohatu himself just reaffirms the fact that Maori should be teaching all things Maori. His definitions of the meaning therefore mean more to me than if I had read them in a book at school. Being a great social worker to me is when you reach a point where you already know the guiding principles, when to use them, how to use them, and doing so, so much that you subconsciously use all of yourself to engage in relationships with people.
The social work profession promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance Mauri-ora (well-being). Utilizing theories of human behavior and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments. Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work. Incorporating Nga Takepu Principles encompasses social workers duty to tangata whenua – Members actively promote the rights of tangata whenua to utilize tangata whenua social work models of practice and ensure the protection of the integrity of tangata whenua in a manner which is culturally appropriate (ANZASW Code of Ethics, 2008). Tino rangatiratanga (absolute integrity) is not just an important part of my learning here at Te Wananga o Aotearoa but it is an important part of who I am as an individual, how I hold myself and how I appreciate difference and strive to learn more.
All cultures have a special way to define time and space. Understanding how cultures do it differently increases our understanding and communication cross-culturally. (Inglis, 2000). It is through knowledge that we are able to gain an understanding of how people are defined by there culture, or cultural differences. Understanding Ahurutanga (safe space) allows social workers an environment where they are able to freely engage in discussion, an environment where all parties involved are able to open up and truly be in a space that is free from prejudice and any other outside influences. Ahurutanga (safe space) is the first step social workers take when first establishing a relationship. Ones ability to build and maintain positive helping relationships with clients is fundamental to social work practice. (Sheafor, Horejsi & Horejsi, 2000). Knowing when to create Ahurutanga encourages a greater thinking on the social workers behalf, and encourages a healthy relationship.
Creating a safe space to engage in is one of the steps taken to ensure the basis of the relationship is comfortable and an open environment is thus created. The well-being of the client(s) should be present throughout. Mauri-ora is as explained by Matua Taina Pohatu is the pursuit of well-being (Pohatu, 2001). Mauri-ora for me is knowing and having clarity of the past and of your purpose here on earth. Having the ability to grow from these strengths and flourish as an individual all in the pursuit of an ultimate well-being. Mauri-ora is being fully aware of transformative possibilities, responsibilities, accountabilities, guide practice and respectful relationships. From a social workers point of view Mauri-ora would come in the final stages of empowering a client, or fulfilling their needs.
In conclusion interpreting and reshaping take pu to inform and guide our practice in each new activity, give time and place for the active re-engagement with the thinking and voices of earlier generations. The possibilities are immense and boundless if there is the will to respectfully ‘engage’. (Pohatu, 2003). The fact of the matter is there are hundreds if not thousands of principles that we can use to shape how we engage in relationships with people from different cultures. Knowing what principles you already have, and are constantly learning throughout your life help us to respectfully engage with people. Nga Takepu for me are Maori principles that I can incorporate into my studies to help me engage with tangata whenua. All my life experiences add to who I am as a person and how I treat others. All through school I have engaged with people from all different cultures, I have always gone in with an open mind and a willingness to understand more about the true character of a person. Take pu for me is a vital part of my learning towards becoming a social worker, using all of them will surely help how I engage in all relationships now and in the future.
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