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  • Term Mode
  • Semester 1Campus Attendance



Unit rationale, description and aim

In this capstone core curriculum unit students investigate the experiences and perspectives of diverse groups in society such as Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other First Peoples, refugee and diaspora communities, and those experiencing disadvantage and marginalisation, to enable the effective use of subsidiarity in decision-making. Students reflect on how key ideas from the western intellectual tradition, in dialogue with other traditions, can help address contemporary challenges in ways that recognise the autonomy and distinctiveness of communities while emphasising our common humanity. Through a community engagement placement, students learn to apply critical thinking, and analytical and research skills, to work with community groups, the public service, not-for-profits, social enterprise or otherwise ethically-focused organisations. Where opportunities exist and with the approval of the Program Director, placements can be undertaken in government itself, in Canberra or internationally. The Mission of the University confirms ACU's commitment to producing graduates who are skilled in their chosen field and committed to having impact through empathy.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Articulate an understanding of the importance of policies and strategies for building safe and supportive environments for working with children, young people and vulnerable adultsGC1, GC2, GC6, GC9, GC11, GC12
LO2Demonstrate an appreciation of different cultures and worldviews in the context of a community engagement placementGC1, GC2, GC3, GC4, GC6, GC8, GC11, GC12
LO3Critically evaluate ideas and principals drawn from the western intellectual tradition as they pertain to contemporary social challengesGC1, GC2, GC3, GC7
LO4Analyse problems and challenges in partnership with community groups in a spirit of subsidiarity with the aim of devising potential solutions and making a positive contribution to a local, national or international communityGC2, GC4, GC6, GC7, GC8, GC12


Content selected to ensure that students achieve the learning outcomes for the unit.  

Students undertaking a placement in Australia or overseas will study topics that help prepare them to participate in normally 70 hours of volunteer experience with a government, not-for-profit or community organisation. 

These may include: 

  • Building safe and supportive environments for working with children, young people and vulnerable adults 
  • Subsidiarity: 
  • The right of people to participate in decisions that affect their lives.  
  • Decisions are made by the people closest and most affected by the issues and concerns of the community 
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other First Peoples’ approaches to community development and experiences of addressing disadvantage. 
  • First Peoples’ cultural traditions; engagement with western ideals, and responses to marginalisation  
  • Community development in local and international contexts 
  • Ideas considered in the great books of the western intellectual tradition such as human rights, freedom, democracy, liberty and justice.   
  • A theoretical framework of community service or development: subsidiarity and the evolving needs of the community and the role of not-for-profit organisations in community service and development 
  • Contestable issues and current debates related to community development work or volunteering 
  • Reciprocity 
  • Diverse roles students might play while engaging the community (e.g. learner, listener, project collaborator) 
  • Interpersonal communication necessary for effective liaison in volunteer organisations and workplaces and the University code of conduct and the guidelines around appropriate use of social media 
  • Identifying skills that translate from volunteer experience to other ethical work, portfolio careers and pathways  

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

The activities listed below serve to expose students to the bodies of knowledge related to the peoples and cultures students may encounter in the course of their community engagement experience. Students build knowledge through readings, lectures, workshops and discussions prior to planning and participating in a community engagement experience. A formal debrief and opportunity to reflect on the learning gained from the experience occurs after the placement.

Mode/ Attendance Pattern:  

Semester One: 

Online lectures; tutorials and workshops on campus; webinars; in-class forums on social entrepreneurship/engagement; placement or project work with a community group, government, not-for-profit, or otherwise ethically-focused organisation.  

Summer/Winter Term and Overseas placement: online guided learning, webinars, online forums, placement or project with a community group, government, not-for-profit, or otherwise ethically-focused organisation. 


Semester One:  Three contact hours per week for six weeks or equivalent over twelve weeks; 50-70-hour period of voluntary placement time, which may be in Australia or overseas through an ACU-approved project. The 50-70-hour period may include compulsory training classes as designated in the unit outline. The 50-70-hour period may be conducted part-time as needed. 

Winter or Summer Term: Guided learning online with a 70-hour period of voluntary placement time, which may be in Australia or overseas through an ACU-approved project. The 50-70-hour period may include compulsory training classes as designated in the unit outline. The 50-70-hour period may be conducted part-time as needed. 

150 hours in total with a normal expectation of 50-70 hours of placement and 18 hours of directed study. The balance of the hours becomes private study. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The unit includes two hurdle assessments each with its own purpose.

The first hurdle task, the placement agreement, clarifies the role to be performed by the student and the expectations of both parties. This assessment also prompts students to provide any necessary documentation such as a police check or working with children check and requires that each student submits a signed statement acknowledging the expectations arising from ACU’s student code of conduct and the social media policy. This is connected to learning outcomes 1, 2, 3 and 4. 

The second hurdle task requires students to complete 50-70 hours of community placement. Students may undertake a longer placement if available and approved by the lecturer. Students will undertake and report on a community-based project, gain significant insight into workplace issues, and further develop employability skills in communication, planning and organisation, self-management and problem-solving. This is connected to learning outcome 4.

There are two graded assessment tasks in the unit:

The first task analyses the strategic plan and mission of the host organisation and its relationship to community development goals. This assesses learning outcomes 2 and 3. 

The second asks students to critically reflect on their placement experience and observations and to consider active citizenship and community leadership issues within a specific organisational or community context. This assesses learning outcome 4.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Capabilities

Hurdle Task: Placement Agreement

Students must complete the Placement Agreement and provide evidence of completion of other relevant requirements.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4GC1, GC2, GC3, GC4, GC6, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC11, GC12

Hurdle Task: Placement which may include training sessions 

This hurdle requires students to complete 50-70 hours of placement and to submit a report from the relevant organisation confirming satisfactory completion of the placement, as per the terms of the Placement Agreement.


LO4GC2, GC4, GC6, GC7, GC8, GC12

Assessment Task 1: Research Essay

Research Essay that analyses a contemporary social challenge faced by a local, national or international community and the mechanism by which institutions have sought to meet this challenge.


LO2, LO3GC1, GC2, GC3, GC4, GC6, GC7, GC8, GC11, GC12

Assessment Task 2: Learning in the community assignment 

Placement/Project Portfolio.  

Students will demonstrate critical self-appraisal and reflection and will be required to: 

  • Identify the gaps in policy or service provision that lead to ongoing disadvantage or unmet needs.  
  • Describe the kinds of disadvantages observed or identified and/or the particular client needs to be addressed by the placement or project organisation. 
  • Explain the ways in which their host organisation currently serves or develops the community. 
  • Critically reflect on the strengths, opportunities served or identified, and or/ particular client benefits addressed by the placement or project. 
  • Evaluate the impact of the placement on the student’s own values, assumptions and attitudes with regard to ethical workplace practice, subsidiarity and social responsibility. 
  • Translate skills from volunteer experience to other ethical work, portfolio career and pathway documents


LO4GC2, GC4, GC6, GC7, GC8, GC12

Representative texts and references

Arthur, W., & Morphy, F. (2019). Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia (Second ed.) Sydney: Macquarie Dictionary Publishers. 

Buijs, C., Hovens, P., Broekhoven, L., & Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde. (2010). Sharing Knowledge & Cultural heritage first nations of the Americas: Studies in collaboration with Indigenous peoples from Greenland, North and South America : Proceedings of an expert meeting National Museum of Ethnology Leiden, The Netherlands (Mededelingen van het Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden ; no. 39). Leiden: Sidestone Press. 

Chahine, T. (2016). Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship. Boca Raton: CRC Press. 

Duguid, Fiona, Karsten Mündel, & Daniel Schugurensky, (2013). Volunteer Work, Informal Learning and Social Action, Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.  

Fitzgerald, Hiram E & Primavera, Judith. (2013) Going Public: Civic and Community Engagement, East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press  

Head, Brian, W. ‘Community Engagement: Participation on Whose Terms?’ Australian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 42, Iss. 3, 2007 

Ife, J. (2013). Community Development in an Uncertain World: Vision, analysis and practice, Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. 

King, Mary A. & H. Frederick Sweitzer (2014). The Successful Internship: Personal, professional, and civic development in experiential learning, University of Hartford, Fitchburg State University. 

Purdie, Nola, Patricia Dudgeon and Roz Walker. Working together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and wellbeing principles and practice. Commonwealth of Australia, 2010. 

Smith, D., Stebbins, R., & Grotz, J. (2017). The Palgrave Handbook of volunteering, civic participation, and nonprofit associations. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire; New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. 

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