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. We discuss and evaluate the contemporary understanding of welfare, its complexities, paradoxes and struggles against the profession's ideas about welfare, the individual, community and social change. We will introduce students to ‘home grown’ social work leaders and their ideas about social work’s continuing efficacy in the social welfare field. These accounts are 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 fields of practice. Some areas of practice include mental health, working with children, young people and families, aged care, disability and working with indigenous peoples of Australia. The historical development of social policy in each of these areas will be explored, together with an analysis of current social policies, and discussions about the implications for social workers practicing in these fields.

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. Discuss and evaluate the historical, cultural, political, social and global context of social work and social policy.
  2. Analyse and discuss concepts of equality, fairness, social justice, human rights and how they underpin the philosophical, ethical and moral-base of social work practice.
  3. Critically reflect on current fields of practice and communities of interest, identifying specific roles and responsibilities for practice.
  4. Link current social work theories and methods to specific practice fields and assess their impact on targeted groups.
  5. 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.

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 Texts

  • Chenoweth, L ., & McAuliffe, D. (2018). The road to social work and human service practice (5th ed.). South Melbourne, Australia: Cengage Learning Australia.
  • Alston, M., McCurdy, S., & McKinnon, J. (Eds.) (2018). Social work fields of practice (3rd ed.). South Melbourne, Australia: Oxford Uni Press.

Recommended Readings

  • To be provided by your educator.


  • 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.