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SWSP1043 Government, Public Policy and Civil Society

Level: Bachelor
Credit Points: Six
Prerequisites: None
Mode(s) of delivery: Online
Core/elective: Core

Unit Description

This unit looks at the Australian political processes and institutions and the way Governments, through ideology and public policy, including social policy, influence the formation of a certain type of citizenry and a civil society, nationally and internationally. The role of social workers in the human services sector is explored in this context.

Unit Workload

This unit is taught over 12 weeks and totals 3 student contact hours per week.

Students will participate in teaching and learning activities including:

a)   Lectures and critical discussion

b)  Tutorials and skill development activities

c)  Online pre-learning activities

d)  Online post-learning

Depending on the delivery mode, this unit’s content is delivered to students via

  • A weekly 3 hour learning session [via Zoom]. One hour will be didactive material delivered in lecture format. Two hours will be interactive class time, for discussion of the lecture, readings, assessments and class activities.

 In addition to timetabled contact hours, students are expect to do at least 6 hours of personal study each week to review lectures and read prescribed and recommended materials for this unit. The total individual workload of this unit will be around 9 hours (including teamwork, individual self-study and reading).

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Describe the political process and ideologies that underpin the political process in Australia.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the structures, processes and relationships that lie “behind” the public face of government in Australia.
  3. Describe the complex set of relationships and a range of players and their competing interests in the socio-political, cultural and economic discourses of the times.
  4. Articulate what a civil society looks like and how stable this definition is.
  5. Demonstrate an understanding of such concepts as; civil society, public good, power, elites, wealth, inequality, discourse, justice and democracy are explain how they are produced and to what effect.
  6. Describe how the interconnectedness and interdependence with global societies, politics and cultures are producing a ‘global world’ and a ‘global citizen’.

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.


Recommended Text

  • Fenna, A., Robbins, J., & Summers, J. (2014). Government and politics in Australia (10th ed.). Pearson Education.
  • Maddison, S., & Denniss, R. (2013). An introduction to Australian public policy: Theory and practice (2nd ed). Cambridge University Press.
  • McClelland, A., & Smyth, P. (Eds.) (2014). Social policy in Australia: Understanding for action (3rd ed.).  Oxford University Press.

Recommended Readings

  • Bessant, J. (2006). Talking Policy: How social policy is made.  Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, pp. 230-233.
  • Christiansen, E. (2009). Four Stages of Social Movements. Ebsco Research Starter: Academic Topic Overview.
  • Cunningham, J., & Cunningham, S. (2008). Sociology and social work. Exeter, England: Learning Matters, pp. 51-77.
  • Fawcett, B., Goodwin, S., Meagher, G., Phillips, R. (2010). Social Policy for Social Change. South Yarra: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Howe, B. and Howe, R. (2012). The influence of faith-based organisations on Australian social policy. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 47(3), pp. 319-333. ISSN: 0157-6321.,_volume_12,_no._2/#wpfb-cat-43
  • Keman, H. (2011). Third Ways and Social Democracy: The Right Way to Go? British Journal of Political Science, 41(3), pp. 671-680. DOI:
  • Krinsky, J., Crossley, N. (2014). Social Movements and Social Networks: Introduction. Social Movement Studies, 13(1), pp. 1-21.
  • Marston, G., McDonald, C., Bryson, L. (2014). The Australian Welfare State: Who benefits now? South Yarra: Palgrave Mcmillan.
  • McKenzie, D., et al. (2008). Co-Production in a Maori Context. Social Policy Journal of New Zealand, 33, pp. 32-46.
  • McMahon, A. (2003). Re-defining the Beginnings of Social Work in Australia. Advances in Social Work and Welfare Education, 5(1), pp. 86-94.
  • Neal, A. A. (2015). The Intersection of Social Work and Social Enterprise. The Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics, 12(2), pp. 1-9. DOI:10.1080/02650533.2014.960197.
  • Raisio, H. (2010). The Public as Policy Expert: Deliberative Democracy in the Context of Finnish Health Reforms and Policies. Journal of Public Deliberation, 6(2), pp. 1-34.
  • Sandoval-Almazan, R. and Gil-Garcia, J. R. (2014). Towards cyberactivism 2.0? Understanding the use of social media and other information technologies for political activism and social movements. Government Information Quarterly, 31, pp. 365-378.
  • VCOSS (2015). Walk alongside: Co-designing social initiatives with people experiencing vulnerabilities. Melbourne: Victorian Council of Social Services.


  • ADVANCES: Journal of Social Work and Welfare Education
  • Australian Journal of Social Issues
  • Australian Social Work
  • Critical Social Work
  • Journal of Social Work (UK)
  • Journal of Social Work Education (USA)
  • Australian Social Policy
  • Journal of Social Policy
  • Social Policy and Society
  • Australian Policy Online (
  • Journal of Critical Thought and Practice
  • Social Work and Policy Studies: Social Justice, Practice and Theory

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 the Academic Misconduct Policy for full details.


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.