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Professional Social Work in Australia

Professional Social Work in Australia OPEN ACCESS

Copyright Date: 2016
Published by: ANU Press
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    Professional Social Work in Australia
    Book Description:

    This is an unchanged republication of the first historical account of the social work profession in Australia. It traces the development of social work education and professional social work in the larger, more industrialised societies overseas before the same developments began in Australia in the late 1920s, and it notes the part played by overseas influence in the subsequent 30-odd years. The book concentrates on the development of training bodies and their courses, the spread of qualified social workers into various fields of employment in Australia’s expanding health and welfare services, and the growth of professional associations and their programmes. The author assesses the occupational group in terms of accepted attitudes towards the established professions. He concludes with a discussion of major contemporary issues facing the Australian social work profession.

    eISBN: 978-1-921934-28-5
    Subjects: Sociology, History
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  1. This book was only possible because The Australian National University was willing to grant me a PhD scholarship, and its History Department was willing to accept my application, despite the novelty of my topic, and the absence of supervisors without any direct knowledge of it. When I commenced my work on it in 1958, ANU was still relatively new and its only students were doctoral students. It was a stimulating academic environment and we had considerable free rein.

    My pioneering work was not assisted by well-kept archives — either by people or institutions. The keeping of systematic records over any...

  2. Introduction (pp. xi-xvi)

    The well-established professions rank high in the social structure of modern Western societies. Entry is restricted by the cost of the basic training and the intellectual capacity required, their practice tends to be surrounded by a certain mystique, they are used extensively by the ruling and propertied classes, and their members are generally in the higher-income groups.

    In a recognised profession such as medicine, law, architecture, or engineering, there are seven notable characteristics. First, members of the profession and the rest of the community understand that it is a distinct occupational group with certain rights and duties. Second, a general...

  3. The Early Years
    • In the half-century or so before 1930, a feature of industrial societies such as Britain and the United States was the extension of social provision, both government and non-government. By 1930, through a combination of economic, political, and social factors, these societies contained a great number of specialised social agencies helping selected categories of people who were seen to need outside assistance. Their particular concern was with the destitute, deprived children, legal offenders, the physically and mentally handicapped, the physically and mentally ill, unmarried mothers, migrants, the poorly housed, the aged, the idle, the ignorant, the lonely. Often the provision...

    • In the late 1920s, some 140 years after the first European settlement, the Australian population was approaching 6,500,000. During the previous 40 years it had doubled, and had become even more concentrated in the six capital cities which now contained close to half the total. Melbourne with a million persons, and Sydney with just over a million, had reached a size and a complexity in their social provision which made them ready for the growth of a social work training movement and full-time trained social work.

      Most of the history of Australia’s health and welfare services is still to be...

    • Before examining the immediate origins and early years of the Australian social work training movement, how was the case for training presented in Australia during these early years — in talks given on various occasions, in newspaper articles, and in other printed material?¹

      Three main arguments were used: community trends favourable to social work training, the defects of untrained social workers, and the advantages of trained ones.

      It was pointed out that social problems were becoming more complex because of industrial and urban growth, and the tensions and anxieties of industrial society were emphasised in a depression. Social service, to...

    • The training standards attained by any educational institution depend upon its curriculum, its teachers, the teaching materials available, and its students. The early experience of the Australian training bodies in each of these aspects is the subject of this chapter. Though their output was small, they were still confronted with basic issues in social work education and many of the problems experienced and the patterns set in this period continued into the post-war years.

      How long were the courses to be? At what level? What balance was to be struck between classwork and fieldwork, between psychological and sociological subjects, between...

    • After examining the pre-war fortunes of the new occupational group produced by the development of an Australian training movement, it is necessary to consider its employment, the professional activities of the qualified social workers outside their agencies, and the quality of their work.

      As was to be expected from the location of the training bodies, the nature of their courses, and their students, most pre-war qualified social workers in Australia were women working in non-government agencies in Sydney and Melbourne, usually engaged in social casework, often in a medical setting. Although this was a period of general financial stringency, people...

  4. The War Years
    • Australia, with its seven million people, immediately followed suit when Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939. By the end of the year, troops had been sent to the Middle East, Australian naval forces had joined the British in the Mediterranean, and it had been decided that many Australian airmen should be trained for service in Europe and the Middle East. As the fighting spread, there was increasing anxiety about Australia’s own security. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and the rapid southward advance of Japanese forces through Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies brought a concentration of Australia’s military...

    • The three general social work training bodies entered the war years in a precarious financial position, fearful that even the limited financial support they had previously received would shrink. Yet they could expect a greatly expanded demand for qualified social workers. From the first, each of these independent training bodies had had a firm connection with its local university, and had hoped to be taken over by it. This was now imperative if the Australian training movement was to have any chance at all of meeting war and post-war demands for qualified people.

      University education for social work had begun...

  5. The Post-War Years
    • In the post-war years the Australian social work training authorities, already alive to the British and North American training movements, became increasingly aware of the worldwide development of education for social work. Only five years after World War II, there were at least 373 schools of social work of various kinds in 46 countries, and the United Nations was trying to help them interchange information.¹

      The growth of the Australian social work training movement after World War II was not rapid, but by the early 1960s solid gains had been made. By then the minimum professional qualification was a three-year...

    • In Australia the post-war years were marked by vigorous economic growth, full employment, sustained inflation, substantial population growth, much of it through an immigration programme, increases in the government, especially the Commonwealth government sector of the economy, and political stability at a national level. Each had significance for the country’s social provision.

      When in 1948 the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights declared the right of everyone to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, Australia was well on the way to achieving this. The older achievement of fair minimum...

    • If social work was to be a profession worthy of the name, it was important that qualified social workers throughout each country combine in a single, effective, overall professional association, rather than remain isolated, either geographically or in specialist associations. To bring this about members had to identify with the national body and there had to be adequate provision for specialist interests inside it.

      Again it was American social work which gave the lead. In 1955, four well-established specialist professional associations, two embryonic specialist groups, and the long-established general association, were all absorbed by the new National Association of Social...

    • Returning to the characteristics listed in the introduction as describing the established professions, to what extent in the early 1960s were these demonstrated by the occupational group which has been the subject of this study?

      1. Members of the profession and the rest of the community recognise that it is a distinct occupational group with certain rights and duties.

      Most qualified social workers in Australia now considered that they belonged to a distinct occupational group. They possessed a university qualification, similar in broad outline from place to place and over time. The only high-level specialised training which had existed, in medical...

    • The previous chapters have given an historical analysis of the development of professional social work in Australia. They were written in an attempt to give present-day social workers an account of the tradition to which they are heirs, and to make known to others an historical story of considerable significance for human welfare. This final chapter discusses what appear to be the main contemporary issues facing the Australian social work profession.¹ Not all of these are ‘issues’ in the sense that they are matters of widespread lively concern, but they are all suggested by the analysis of the development of...