Grappling with the differences between individuals and groups is an important component in social work efforts to address discrimination and oppression. But how can we understand difference and diversity, and its impact for social work practice? What does it mean to practise social work in ways that are anti-discriminatory? Moreover, how does this relate to the need to demonstrate culturally appropriate practice and sensitivity to the many and varied identities, cultures and conditions affecting people in their everyday lives. We start from the premise that contemporary society is unequal and there are a range of social divisions that contribute to people experiencing discrimination. The history of contemporary societies, their relative placement within the many forms of colonialism and imperialism from globalisation will be formative with regard to discourses of difference and culture (Connell, 2007). For example, Australia can be seen as having a ‘settler majority culture’ (Hosken & Goldingay, 2016, p. 53), meaning that some members of society are thus contrasted in relation to the majority as belonging to minorities. How people are positioned in this relation of majority-minority cultures is a complex matter and different in each society. What it means for someone positioned in this way also depends on particular historical, cultural and social arrangements. With this in mind we can see that ethnicity and culture may be just one kind of diversity that social workers must grapple with throughout their practice.
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