Dual Relationships and Crossing Boundaries in Māori Social Work Practice

  • Anaru Eketone University of Otago
Keywords: Whakawhanaungatanga, indigenous ethics, dual relationships, social work boundaries


Whakawhanaungatanga is an important part of the Māori culture and is used in the engagement phase of the social work process. It is a type of relationship forming where client and worker can become whānau, extended family. It is criticised in some quarters as creating a dual relationship that crosses social work boundaries. Interviews were conducted with seven Māori social work practitioners with over 25 years practice experience, investigating how they dealt with potential boundary issues and the principles and processes they operate by to keep both themselves and their clients safe. The research highlights the need for workers to make plain their role in the social work relationship, the need for contracting and negotiation regarding expectations, the importance of supervision, the role of Māori customary behaviour and the need for cultural ending rituals to signify the transformation of the relationship. To implement this form of practice a Māori social worker needs; experience, an understanding of their social work process, a highly accountable practice ethic, a lived understanding of Maori cultural processes and a commitment  to Māori cultural ethics.


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