Whilst working in a remote area I observed a year nine indigenous student (Lorena Bannard) and a teacher (Bill James), alone together after school hours. I considered this could be an unprofessional situation. I spoke to Bill later regarding the situation and he replied, “I’m helping her with some family problems, and I’m concerned about the effect it’s having on her school work”. I suggested he refer Lorena to the Guidance Officer.
During the initial interview with Lorena, I explained what was talked about in the interview was confidential, unless an unlawful act or event occurred, or if someone could be harmed. (Geldard & Geldard, 2005). I explained to her that as a counsellor I had a duty of care to her, which is part of the Child Protection act. This acts protects children from others and sometimes themselves.
In the first interview, Lorena seemed suspicious and guarded, and I had to be cautious building a relationship with her. It was important to be congruent and show genuine interest by listening to her. Geldard & Geldard (2002) stated “children are very good at recognizing people who are not congruent”, (p, 38).
Lorena is the eldest of four children; her mother is a single parent, unemployed, and Lorena reports that her mother is a drug and alcoholic addict. The father left the family and community ten years previously, and has not contacted them since.
Over several interviews Lorena, disclosed a dysfunctional family environment where she and her siblings were at risk of neglect. Her mother left Lorena to prepare her siblings for school, prepare meals, and look after the housework; thus effecting her physiological growth and schooling.
In the final interview, Lorena disclosed that Bill went to her home at night when her mother was out or drunk. Bill had given her money and food, and had told Lorena he would marry her when she was older, and this was to be his and Lorena’s secret.
Identify the problem
This case had several ethical, legal and professional ramifications, including aspects of cultural differences between non-indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients. There is a requirement for counsellors to actively understand the diverse cultural backgrounds, and differences in behaviour of their clients; stated in; The Australian Counselling Association (ACA-Au., 2008); Code of Conduct (2, 2.1), American Counselling Association (ACA, US, 2005), Code of Ethics (A.2c; B.1a; c.2a) and Education Queensland (EQ) Code of Conduct (1994) 2.1.1, and Education Queensland (EQ) (2008) Ethical Code, and Watson, Herlihy & Pierce, 2006.
Confidentiality was explained to Lorena, and also the exceptions in which, confidentiality would have to be breached. Lorena was asked if she understood this, she replied “Yea”. ACA (2005, Section, 126.96.36.199. Breaching the confidentiality and therefore trust between Lorena and myself in this instance, was necessary and unavoidable, ACA, 188.8.131.52,...