The Legal Context of Human Services

Subject 196-213 (2009)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2009. Search for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 1 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2009:

On campus
For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: A 1.5-hour lecture and a 1.5-hour seminar per week from 12 September to 29 November.
Total Time Commitment:

Students are expected to devote approximately 8 hours per week to this subject.

(30 contact hours, 25 hours class preparation and reading, 25 hours assessment related tasks. Total time commitment = 80 hours)


Admission into the Bachelor of Social Work for BSW students or for Bachelor of Arts students, 37.5 points of second/third-year arts subjects.

Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's courses. Students who feel their disability will impact on meeting this requirement are encouraged to discuss this matter with the Course Coordinator and the Disability Liaison Unit.


School of Nursing and Social Work
The University of Melbourne
Level 5, 234 Queensberry St
Carlton Victoria 3053 AUSTRALIA
T: +61 3 8344 9400
F: +61 3 9347 4375

Subject Overview:

This subject provides an overview of the Australian and Victorian legal systems and their components, and the values and principles upon which law and ethics are based. The subject does not attempt to cover all issues raised by a consideration of the law. However, it does explore the relationship between the law and the human services to develop students' understanding of the major legal structures that impinge on welfare practice and the values and attitudes which underpin those structures. The subject makes use of video resources to explore the giving of evidence to tribunals and courts of law; the ethics of practice; the Australian legal system; protection of human rights in Australia; legislation relevant to fields of practice such as mental health and child protection.

Objectives: At the completion of this subject the student should have:
  • An understanding of the major legal organisations and structures which impinge upon social work practice;
  • A beginning knowledge of the legislation and legal system affecting individuals, children and families;
  • An awareness of the values, principles and ethics which underpin the law and social work, and of the points of difference and similarity in values and orientation between law and social work.

Assessment in this subject requires students to complete any two of the following four options each worth 50%: a written paper of 2000 words (due mid-semester), a written analytical paper following a court or tribunal visit totalling 2000 words (due mid-semester), a take-home examination (due at the end of semester), completion of a case study and submission of a report totalling 2000 words (due at the end of semester). A hurdle requirement of a minimum 75% attendance of seminars required.

Prescribed Texts:

Students should check with the subject coordinator prior to purchase of texts as additional or alternative texts may be substituted for those listed below.
In the Shadow of the Law 2nd edition (P A Swain), Federation Press 2002
The Law Handbook (Fitzroy Legal Service), 2005

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

At the completion of this subject, students should:

  • have skills in reading and understanding policy documents and legislation;
  • be aware of competing interests that together shape such policies and documents;
  • be able to link theory and practice;
  • be able to demonstrate the capacity to organise issues and competing arguments into logical frameworks of presentation.
Links to further information:

Previously available as 196-011/420. Students who have completed 196-011 or 196-420 are not eligible to enrol in this subject. The subject dates and HECS/course fee census date for this subject change each year. Check your enrolment record for the correct census date for this subject.

Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Socio-legal Studies Major

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