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Privilege and oppression

It is important to remember the power practitioners hold when working with vulnerable children and families, particularly when children have been assessed as children in need of protection and a care arrangement is required to ensure their safety.  Engaging in reflective practice either in supervision or with peers is one way practitioners can ensure they are using their authority in the best interests of children. (Refer to the practice guide Power, privilege and use of self in child protection.)


Watch the following short video to strengthen your understanding of how privilege impacts on people. Reflect on how being an authorised officer may impact on your ability to partner with our children, young people, parents and carers who identify as being different.

What Is Privilege? 


Watch the following short video to further understand power, privilege and oppression.

Power Privilege and Oppression   

Practice prompt

Consider times when you may have experienced someone using their privilege regarding a decision or action that impacted on you. How did you feel? What did you do to feel safe at that time?

How can you take your experience and use it to inform your engagement with families?

Working with and across difference

The process of recognising, understanding, and appreciating our own cultural heritage and cultures other than our own is outlined in the following chart: A Working Conceptualisation of Historically & Currently Excluded (Target) and Included (Non-Target) Groups in Australia (produced by VISIONS Inc., 2015). The chart is not presented as definitive, authoritative or ‘the right or only way’, but rather as a meaningful starting point and reference point for a common language and approach to discussion.

When reading the chart, consider how children, young people, parents and carers who may fit within one or more of these groups may interact with you when you are exercising your legislated power.

Practice prompt

Think about how the following e types of oppressions/exclusions affect children and young people in care?

What are some factors to be mindful of and how can you bridge the gap to ensure our children’s and young people’s care arrangements meet their safety, wellbeing and belonging needs, despite any point of difference?

A Working Conceptualisation of Historically & Currently Excluded (Target) and Included (Non-Target) Groups in Australia

Types of oppression Variable Privilege/ included groups (non-target) Oppressed/ excluded groups (target)
Racism Race/colour/ ethnicity White

Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander

South Sea Islander, Pacific Islander, African, Asian, Greek, Italian, Lebanese
Classism Socio-economic status Middle, upper class Poor, working class
Sexism Gender Men Women/transgender
Genderism Gender identity/ Gender expression Cisgender (appearance and behaviors are congruent with the gender binary (male/female) system) Transgender, Gender non-conforming, Gender queer, Androgynous


Religious oppression

Sexual orientation



Christians such as Anglican, Protestants, Catholics

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Pansexual [attraction to people regardless of their sex], Asexual, Queer, Questioning

Muslim, Jewish, Agnostic, Hindu, Atheist, Buddhist, Spiritual, Mormon, Pagan, Jehovah’s Witness, Lutheran & others
Militarism Military status World War I & II veterans Korean, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, Pacifists



 Young adults


The elderly/Elders

Ableism Physical, mental, emotional, learning ability Currently ‘able-bodied’ People with a physical, psychiatric, intellectual, neurological, sensory, emotional and/or learning disability


Linguistic oppression

Immigrant status


Australian born


Immigrants, Refugees, New Australians

English as a Second Language

Non-English, Deaf people

Practice prompt

In considering the chart, what groups do you belong to and what groups might children, young people and parents?

Based on your reflections, how much difference is there, and what can you do to bridge the gap in your practice with children, young people, families and carers?

What lenses do you look through each day, and how does this influence what you see and what you do? How does this influence your engagement with children, young people and carers?

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