Legal and Ethical Contexts of Practice

Subject SCWK90055 (2014)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2014.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 9 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2014.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 24 contact hours (7 x 1.5 hour lecture, 7 x 1.5 hour seminar and a 3 hour lecture)
Total Time Commitment:

In addition to the subject contact hours, students are expected to devote approximately 6 hours a week to this subject.



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 Health Sciences
The University of Melbourne
Alan Gilbert Buidling, Level 7, 161 Barry St
Carlton Victoria 3053 AUSTRALIA
T: +61 3 8344 4171
F: +61 3 8344 4188

Subject Overview:

This subject provides an overview of social work ethics and the Australian and Victorian legal systems. It explores values and principles upon which human services law and social work ethics are based. The subject examines current legal and practice issues which practitioners can expect to encounter in such practice areas as child protection, family law, domestic violence, mental health, guardianship, and working with refugees.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of the subject students should be able to:

  • understand the interconnectedness of social work practice and law
  • understand the nature of the legal and ethical context of practice and the implications for social work practice.
  • understand the notion of rights, their definition and their enforcement
  • articulate the interrelationship between access to justice and socio-economic factors, gender, sexual orientation, Aboriginality and ethnicity
  • articulate and understand the ethical and legal responsibilities of social workers in their practice generally, and in a range of common practice contexts.
  1. A written paper 2,000 words (40%) due mid semester
  2. 2 short tests (15% each) due mid semester
  3. A written paper 1,500 (30%) due end of semester
Prescribed Texts:

Swain, P. (3rd ed.) (2009). In the shadow of the law: The legal context of social work practice. Annandale: Federation Press.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

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

Students who complete this subject should be able to:

  • critically analyse texts and practices;
  • understand recent developments in social work contexts of practice;
  • link theory to practice;
  • competently communicate in ways relevant to both academic and practice contexts;
  • undertake independent research.
Links to further information:
Related Course(s): Master of Social Work

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