SWSP6003 Becoming a Social Worker – Social Policy and Practice Context

Level: Master
Credit Points: Six
Prerequisites: None
Mode(s) of delivery: On-campus (Sydney)
Core/elective: Core

Unit Description

This unit introduces students to the profession of social work, its history, philosophy, values, ethics, practices and influences since its early beginnings. The profession's ideas about welfare and individual and social change are discussed and evaluated against contemporary understandings of social welfare and the increasing complexities and paradoxes of people’s struggles and the many social problems that confront the modern world, nationally and internationally. Students will be introduced to social work's “home grown” intellectuals and their ideas about social work’s continuing efficacy in the social welfare field. These accounts will be matched against students' beginning ideas about social work.

This unit also provides students with an overview of the social work practice context and the role of the social worker in the field of practice. Social policy is integral to the social work context and is covered in a number of ways throughout the course. In discussions about the political, economic and social context of practice, the development of social policy is discussed in relation to differing political viewpoints and the impact these have on how social policy is orientated, funded, measured and delivered.

Unit Workload

The workload for this unit is 9 hours per week. This includes timetabled class time and private study time.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Evaluate and discuss the emergence of social work and social policy, and its historical, cultural, political, social and global context, and its influence on the development of a welfare consciousness, nationally and internationally.
  2. Analyse and discuss concepts of equality, fairness, social justice and human rights and how they underpin the philosophical, ethical and moral base of social work and social policy.
  3. Describe and critique contemporary social work theories and their underlying assumptions about the social, cultural and intra-psychic worlds of individuals, communities and societies.
  4. Demonstrate a critically reflective stance in their personal and professional lives in order to respond to the increasing complexities facing contemporary social welfare policy and practice.
  5. Demonstrate increased self-awareness, reflections on personal values and belief systems that could impact on current and future practice.
  6. Demonstrate detailed knowledge of the role and value of social work in relation to individuals, families and the community.

Learning and Teaching Approach

  1. Learning is an active process – which involves both questioning and challenging.
  2. Learning is a shared process – where others’ thoughts and ideas are presented, critically analysed, exchanged and respected.
  3. Learning is a collaborative and empowering process for self and others.
  4. Learning is thoughtful and reflective.
  5. Learning requires integration with prior knowledge and other arenas of knowledge development in the program.
  6. Preparation for lectures and seminars and reading the recommended texts and references is essential.

The content of this unit has been designed to maximise both online and face-to-face learning to integrate the subject matter.

Students are expected to:

  • Complete all activities
  • Complete readings
  • Complete all assessments
  • Attend all classes

It is also recommended that students:

  • Keep a record of new terminology that is introduced in this unit
  • Keep a copy of assessments and other correspondence
  • Make notes on unit content and readings

There will be learning activities linked to all lecture materials which are designed to encourage students to deliberate and reflect and to provide opportunities for further learning. The activities are designed to help students think through and practise the specific skills and general concepts presented in this unit as well as provide valuable learning opportunities.

Assessment Summary



Word Count

Week Assessed

Learning Outcomes Assessed

Profile of Self and Expectation of Professional Education


1,000 words


4, 5, 6

Social Policy Briefing Paper


2,000 words


1, 2, 3, 4

Take Home Exam


1,500 words


1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


Recommended Texts

  • Chenoweth, L., & McAuliffe, D. (2015). The road to social work and human service practice (4th ed.). South Melbourne, Australia: Cengage Learning Australia.
  • Fawcett, B., Goodwin, S., Meagher, G., & Phillips, R. (2010). Social policy for social change. South Yarra, Australia: Palgrave Macmillan.

Recommended Readings

  • Alston, M. (2009). Innovative human service practice: Australia’s changing landscape. South Yarra, Australia: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Briskman, L. (2014). Social work with Indigenous communities: A human rights approach (2nd ed.). Sydney, Australia: The Federation Press.
  • Cunningham, S., & Cunningham, J. (2012). Social policy and social work: An introduction. Los Angeles, CA: Learning Matters.
  • Dwyer, P., & Shaw, S. (Eds.) (2013). An introduction to social policy. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
  • Fejo-King, C. (2013). Let’s talk kinship: Innovating Australian social work education, theory, research and practice through Aboriginal knowledge. Torrens, Australia: Christine Fejo-King Consulting.
  • Gardner, F. (2006). Working in human services organisations: Creating connections for practice. South Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.
  • Healy, K. (2012). Social work methods and skills: The essential foundations of practice. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Hong Chui, W., & Wilson, J. (Eds.) (2006). Social work and human services best practice. Annandale, Australia: The Federation Press.
  • Jamrozik, A. (2009). Social policy in the post-welfare state: Australian society in a changing world. Frenchs Forest, Australia: Pearson Education Australia.
  • Kennedy, R., Richards, J., & Leiman, T. (2013). Integrating human service law, ethics and practice (3rd ed.). South Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.
  • McClelland, A., & Smyth, P. (2009). Social policy in Australia: Understanding for action. South Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.
  • Muller, L. (2014). A theory for Indigenous Australian health and human service work: Connecting Indigenous knowledge and practice. Crows Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin.
  • O'Connor, I., Wilson, J., Settlerlund, D., & Hughes, M. (2008). Social work and human service practice (5th ed.). Frenchs Forest, Australia: Pearson Education Australia.
  • O’Hara, A., & Pocket, R. (2011). Skills for human service work: Working with individuals, groups and communities (2nd ed.). South Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press.
  • Ozanne, E., & Rose, D. (2013). The organisational context of human service practice. South Yarra, Australia: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Reisch, M. (2014). Social policy and social justice. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications.


  • Australian Social Work
  • ADVANCES: Journal of Social Work and Welfare Education
  • Australian Journal of Social Issues
  • Critical Social Work
  • Journal of Social Work Education (USA)
  • Journal of Social Work (UK)

Academic Misconduct

Ethical conduct and academic integrity and honesty are fundamental to the mission of ACAP. Academic misconduct will not be tolerated by the college. Please refer to http://currentstudents.acap.edu.au/assets/Managing-My-Course/A-Z-Policies/Academic-Misconduct-Policy.pdf for full details of the Academic Misconduct Policy.


This unit outline may be updated and amended from time to time. To ensure you have the correct outline please check it again at the beginning of the trimester. For a list of required textbooks for the upcoming trimester, please click here.