When a student experienced a personally challenging situation during field placement, she and her field supervisor worked through the scenario together, using a process of critical reflection. Many ideas and assumptions were unsettled for both, and aspects of the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) Code of Ethics were questioned. Using critical reflection as a pedagogical tool, we reflect on how discourses affect our practice. We demonstrate this by undertaking a political reading of the AASW Code of Ethics. Our analysis exposes tensions between the core social work value of ‘respect for persons’ and the practice responsibility of social workers to undertake culturally competent, safe and sensitive practice. We suggest that the Code of Ethics is predominantly embedded in Kantian philosophy and limits our ability to practise in culturally sensitive ways, as it denies the impact that knowledge and power have on our work with Indigenous communities specifically, and all non-Western peoples more broadly.