Spirituality in social work education and practice in Aotearoa New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Work at Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand
There is growing interest worldwide in the place of spirituality in social work practice, but as
yet very little research in Aotearoa New Zealand. This study examines how non-Māori former
students of the social work programme at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa experienced spirituality
during the programme and how it is applied in their social work practice. As a non-Māori
researcher who has engaged with spirituality in a Māori environment, the researcher places
herself in relation to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, bicultural practice and critical theory. Participants
discuss the importance of spirituality in their own lives, their experiences at Te Wānanga o
Aotearoa, and the relevance of spirituality to social work practice. The bicultural nature of the
social work programme as expressed through ngā take pū, the underpinning bicultural
principles, is also examined.
The study found that engaging with the social work teaching programme at Te Wānanga o
Aotearoa was a spiritual experience which enhanced and deepened participants’ sense of their
own spirituality and flowed through into their practice. They describe their spiritual practice
with reference to client needs and social work models, including blocks and ethical dilemmas.
The study identifies some elements of the Wānanga programme which were associated with
spiritual development and learning and suggests that these may be helpful for other social
work education programmes. It also suggests that social work practitioners can use existing
models to incorporate spirituality into their practice.