The Development Of Social Work In Australia

Sample Report on Social Work In Australia

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Historical knowledge plays a key role in the development of social work identity. It holds a peripheral position in the social policy and social work in Australia. There are complex set of relationships that mark history of a country over a number of centuries (Goodwin and Huppatz, 2010). The present assignment provides an understanding of development of social work in Australia focusing on the historical foundations in United Kingdom and United States of America. In this study, historical events that took place in UK and US and their role in shaping and defining social work in Australia is explained. In the present time, administration of social policy is dependent on external factors such as globalisation and exerting pressure to compete in international economic market. The social work and policy emerges from the particular society or community in which it exists.

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Social work is carried out within society in regard to attempt and deal major problem within society i.e poverty and inequality. Also, such work is linked with the ida of charity and thus it organizes various events so that better practices could be carried out in order to improve social work profession (Becker, Bryman and Ferguson, 2012). Australia is influenced from the historical events occurred within UK and USA. Therfore, it is essential for Australian government to identify the important events that has been conducted within UK and USA and thus it influences the social work carried out by Australia. Therefore, through evaluating the different historical events in relation to poverty and inequality helps in overcoming certain beliefs and values so that equal treatment could be given to every individual. The social work in UK is carried out in order to reflect that it shares common features in terms of models of practice, development of profession and training approaches. UK also focuses upon carrying out social work in relation to educating children (Teate, Leap and Homer, 2011). Thus, on that basis, Australia is shaping its culture and carry out social work in order to accomplish the events as carried out in UK and USA.

The history of social work in Australia focuses on UK and US and emphasizes on social reforms and movements in 19th and 20th century. The two major forerunners of social work of UK and US – the Settlement Movement and the Charity Organisation Society were both unsuccessful in Australia. The history of philanthropy in Australia is quite long and emphasizes on social control of poor class, personal responsibility and child saving (Epstein and Buhovac, 2014). During the period between 1800 to 1850, there was huge involvement of colonial women and men in more than 18 philanthropic and social reforms causes in Australia. This included establishment and management of women only organisations such as the Sydney Dorcas Society in 1830, the Female Friendly Society and the Female School of Industry in 1826.

The origin of social work can be traced back to 19th century when the economy was at peak due to proficiency in trade, agriculture, fishing, finance, industry and forestry (Kalliath, Hughes and Newcombe, 2012). This brought immense satisfaction and pride in the citizens and poverty was considered to be self inflicted and unfortunate necessity and was not noticed by the law. COS focuses on individual casework and it is evident from Victorian London that there were massive, poverty, begging and crime. COS opined that poor law agenda was not adequate and moreover, it deteriorated the situations of poor. The people were demoralised and engaged in emancipator strategies as there was no distinction between deserving and non-deserving, as a result people became complacent and begun to exploit and became dependent on poor charity rather than reinventing themselves to become independent. This greatly impacted the society and led to weakening in family structures.

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For projecting the changes in the society and introduction of principles of less eligibility, the Poor Law Ammendment Act, 1834 and the Workhouse came into force (Baron-Cohen, Lombardo and Tager-Flusberg, 2013). The previous Poor Law was inadequate and unable to meet the present demands and needs of the society as it was based on local perishes relief. The main cause was the shifting to industrialisation and urbanisation from agriculture. The principle of less eligibility was enforced through workhouse test that worked in consultation with Poor Law Authoritie to decide whether an individual seeking support was genuine and prefer to face the harshness of workhouse. The role of social work can be highlighted in this context in helping the deserving needy against the undeserving destined to the workhouse. The social work played a role of gate keeping and acted as deterent for unregulated charities that were emerging as duplicates and created confusion within the charities. These small charities were undermining the genuine philanthropic efforts reinforced by charity which enforced discipline. Therefore, the transformation of philanthropic from Charity Organisation Society was the main cause of social work business. This transformation was necessary to prevent chaos and misguided principles within the society.

During 18th and 19th century, there was drastic changes in social, economic and politics in Britain (Robinson, Shaver and Wrightsman, 2013). As a result, new economic relations, social problems, new legislation and political institutions emerged by the mastermind of government for ensuring social control and stability. Increase in urbanisation and population and changes in employment are the main factors that took place in the 19th century. In context of social work, these are external forces but they had a great impact on its origin. There was change in family structures to factory work and family from subsitence work and family due to industrialisation. The invention of machineries led to shift of people from farm to factories. More people were attracted towards working in cities which caused overpopulation and urbanisation (Mendes, 2011). The emerging industries, factories, minng and manufacturing led to decline in agriculture, fishing and forestry.

Another significant attribute of social work is acknowledgement of training systematic programme by COS. The Settlement Movement marked the beginning of social work as social action which was established in 1880 by Canonm Bernett but this was not successful in Australia. The social welfare work in the 19th century was varied. Basic social services like hospitals, free schools, services for working women and refuges and accomodation were established (Early Australian social work milestones, 2017). One of the major social issue in 19th century was education specially for poor people. For this purpose, Catholic congregations were founded to provide education which was a mix of fee paying schools, free education for poor and government subsidised denominational schools and elite. But even after these efforts and Education Act of 1870s and 1880s, the promise of free, secular and compulsory education was not fulfilled as there were still children who were not able to attend school due to poverty or lack of home care.

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During the period of 1880s to 1990, there were two major aspects around which Australian social activism and debate revolved – the women's question of women access to social and political powers and suffrage rights and workers' right to fair wages (Featherstone, Morris and White, 2014). The rise of Australian Labour party raised question about tariff protection for domestic industry, regulating wages by using arbritation, maternity allowance in 1912, social policy reforms for providing Old age and Invalid Pensions led to creation of National Settlement which brought together farmers, manufacturers and workers. On the other hand, various steps were taken by women to secure politic, social and economic independence. Women's Christian Temperance Union raised voice against use and abuse of alcohol and for improving social status of women.Moreover, The Womanhood Suffrage League was established in Sydney in 1891 with the aim to get equal voting rights to women as men.


Social work in Australia has been formed on the basis of UK and USA as it has certain past effect on the culture of Australia. Therefore, government decided to identify the foundations of social work carried out by both these countries and then develop themselves in every field i.e poverty relief, education, private philanthrophy, social action, medical social work and thus work upon such factors in relation to accomplish the social work in relation to improve the society so that best results can be attained. Evaluating all such developments within UK and USA helps in improving the social work in Australia and thus lead the country towards success. Therefore, it helps them to improvise their environment which assists them to provide better living conditions to individuals and thus enhance social work culture in Australia.

The Australian Association of Social Workers possess commitment to the international social work community and thus carry out effective social work so that proper standards could be set in regard to meet the objectives. However, UK and USA sets benchmarks for other countries in terms of social work from past hisotical periods therefore, it is essential for Australia to undertake it as a base and thus improve the social life within country. Through overcoming poverty, improving education level and providing better health and safety social work assists in improving the Australian culture in world.


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  • Mendes, P., 2011. Towards a community development support model for young people transitioning from state out-of-home care: A case study of St Luke's Anglicare in Victoria, Australia. Social Work in Action. .
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