- The social work discipline at Charles Sturt University celebrates World Social Work Day on Tuesday 16 March with the international theme ‘Ubuntu: I am because we are’
- ‘Ubuntu’ speaks to the need for global solidarity, and also highlights Indigenous knowledge and wisdom
- Ubuntu challenges Western individualistic thinking, and is evidence of a shift in the teaching and practice of social work, social welfare and human services
At Charles Sturt, one of the largest providers of social work education in Australia, the social work discipline in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences reaches out to and engages with regional and remote communities through its courses and field work education.
Social work and human services Senior Lecturer Dr Ndungi Wa Mungai (pictured right) in Wagga Wagga and Lecturer Mr Ignatius Chida (pictured left) in Dubbo, said that ‘Ubuntu’ (‘I am because we are’) is a concept and philosophy that resonates with the social work perspective of the interconnectedness of all peoples and their environments.
“Ubuntu is a long-held philosophy and worldview that has emanated from African societies,” Mr Chida said. “It speaks to the need for global solidarity, and also highlights indigenous knowledge and wisdom.
“It places special emphasis on doing acts of kindness that value and respect humanity. The Ubuntu philosophy places value on the ‘other’ and can be aptly summed up as ‘a person is a person only with and through other people’.
“This notion resonates well with social work’s values, particularly respect for persons. Ubuntu gives expression to the spirit of warmth, gentleness and kindness by valuing the uniqueness of individuals.
“In short, Ubuntu ensures people can define themselves through their communities and societies in which they live and belong.
Dr Mungai said this is also a standard definition of social work, and that Ubuntu is deeper than a simple ‘be nice to each other’ prescription.
“It says that we are only us, because of those around us; our identity is part of and linked,” he said.
“This is not a trivial matter as it is challenging Western individualistic thinking and is evidence of a paradigm shift in social work, social welfare and human services teaching and practice.
“That’s what Ubuntu is about, individually and society-wide; we are who we are, because of and as a result of, how we care for others and for our environment.”
Mr Chida and Dr Mungai said they and colleagues at Charles Sturt are all striving to represent and express the University’s ethos ‘yindyamarra winhanganha’ - the wisdom of respectfully knowing how to live well in a world worth living in. This is evidence of respect for Indigenous knowledges and wisdom.
“At Charles Sturt University social work teaching is consistent with Ubuntu’s principles of respect and service to humanity, and is in synch with the International Federation of Social Work,” the academics said.
“We are celebrating World Social World Day by passing on this message.”