Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit analyses the policy and legal dimensions of social work practice in the Australian context. The impact of policy and legal issues and decisions on people from diverse and marginalised populations will be explored. Students will be required to research and analyse policy and legal issues within a broader ethical social work practice framework. The unit aims to equip students with the requisite knowledge, skills and understanding in advocacy, and the analysis of policy and law, particularly in relation to vulnerable and diverse populations.

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.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Identify the values, knowledge, and skills that social workers need to be human rights professionals (GA2, GA3, GA5, GA8);

LO2 - Critically examine current policy and legal issues and their impact on marginalised and diverse populations (GA1, GA4, GA5);

LO3 - Demonstrate knowledge and application of the specific legal responsibilities for social workers (GA2, GA5, GA9);

LO4 - Apply ethical and skills based social work practice in law and policy (GA4, GA5);

LO5 - Demonstrate effective oral and written skills for advocacy and social action (GA1, GA2, GA9). 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


On successful completion of this unit, students should have developed an ability to:

GA1 - Demonstrate sense of identity as a professional social worker

GA2 - Demonstrate sound understanding of and commitment to social work values and ethics to guide professional practice

GA3 - Apply social work knowledge and interventions to respond effectively in meeting the needs of individuals, groups and communities in diverse settings, client groups and geographic locations

GA4 - Apply knowledge of human behaviour and society, as well as the social, cultural, political, legal, economic and global contexts of practice to respond effectively within a human rights and social justice framework

GA5 - Review, critically analyse and synthesise knowledge and values and apply reflective thinking skills to inform professional judgement and practice

GA6 - Apply research knowledge and skills to understand, evaluate and use research to inform practice and to develop, execute and disseminate research informed by practice.

GA7 - Demonstrate effective communication and interpersonal skills

GA8 - Work with diversity and demonstrate respect for cultural difference

AASW Practice standards 

Unit has been mapped to the AASW Practice Standards. The following table sets out the broad relationship between the Learning Outcomes, ACU Graduate Attributes and the AASW Practice Standards.

Standard/Attributes/CriteriaLearning Outcomes

3.1 Work respectfully and inclusively with cultural difference and diversity.

3.2 Respect, strive to understand and promote the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

and their cultures


1.1 Practice in accordance with the Code of Ethics (2010)

2.1 Represent the social work profession with integrity and professionalism.

2.2 Behave in a professional manner and be accountable for all actions and decisions.


1.1 Practice in accordance with the Code of Ethics (2010)

4.4 Understand and articulate how and when theories, knowledge bases and knowledge sources inform practice.


4.4 Understand and articulate how and when theories, knowledge bases and knowledge sources inform practice.

5.4 Apply critical and reflective thinking to practice


6.3 Effectively work with others in a team environment

6.4 Use information technology to communicate and provide services as appropriate



Topics will include:

  • The institutions in the Australian legal system and social policy  
  • Domains of social policy 
  • Policy and legal issues for vulnerable and diverse populations 
  • The role of social work in the areas of policy and law 
  • Critical, interactional and analytical skills for effectively developing and implementing policy 
  • Advocacy and writing skills in policy and law 
  • Ethical social work practice in the legal and policy context 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of learning with a combination of face-to-face lectures, parliamentary visit and live court room observation. Tutorials will incorporate small group, collaborative learning with students engaging in active discussion of the theoretical unit content of law, policy and duty of care in social work practice. Case-based learning will also be utilised allowing students to better understand and explore the legal reporting process in social work practice. 

Law and policy is a first year post graduate unit that requires students to familiarise the impact of policy and legal issues and decisions on vulnerable populations. Social workers need to be prepared to undertake advocacy and practice within the Australian legal context. Knowledge gained in this unit is particularly useful in informing social worker practice in family violence and child protection work as outlined in the professional standards required by the Australian Association of Social Workers. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

This unit aims to prepare students to develop academic skills through legal reporting, critical analysis of the media and develop a policy briefing paper based on a significant policy gap in Australia.

The initial legal reporting assessment intends to assess students’ understanding of appropriate approaches to professionalism, integrity and code of Ethics outlining specific legal responsibilities for social work (LO2) and is related to embedding of policy, law and advocacy in the curricula. 

The next two assessments directly assess the ability of identifying key policy issues represented both in the media and in policy debates. They are authentic adopt reflexive approaches key to social work advocacy. These assessments give students an opportunity to articulate the importance of social policy and advocacy (LO5). Evidence of demonstrable competency and skill within these unit assessment tasks sets students on a successful path towards demonstrating sound understanding of and commitment to social work values and ethical practice. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Legal Report & Reflection

Students are expected to reflect on the case studies presented to them in a legal context in a report formal. Here students demonstrate professionalism and attention to detail in examining, assessing and drafting a legal report that can possibly be submitted in court. It is aimed at demonstrating competency and skill whilst working in a legal environment. 


LO2, LO3, LO5,LO6

GA2,GA4, GA5,GA6, GA9

Critical analysis of Media

Students are enabled to identify issues of public policy represented in the media in a reflexive and essay style of writing. In particular, the examination of media representation of social work and welfare issues.


LO1, LO3, LO4

GA1,GA2, GA4,GA5, GA9,GA10

Policy Proposal  Briefing Paper

This is an essay style assignment which enables students to develop a significant proposal and exemplify the policy issue by prioritising a policy agenda and make recommendations on the possible implementation.


LO1, LO3, LO4,LO5, LO6

GA1,GA2, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA9, GA10

Representative texts and references

Althaus, C., Bridgman., P., & Davis, G. (2013). The Australian Social Policy policy handbook (5th Ed.). Crows Nest, NSW: Allen and Unwin.

Bessant, J., Watts, R., Dalton, T. & Symth, P. (2006). Talking policy: How social policy is made. Sydney: Allen and Unwin

Brayne, H., & Carr, H. (2010). Law for social workers (11th ed.) Oxford University Press.

Forrester, K., & Griffiths, D. (2010). Essentials of law for health professionals (3rd ed.). Sydney: Mosby Elsevier.

Healy, K., & Mulholland, J. (2007). Writing skills for social workers. London: Sage. 

Jamrozik, A. (2009). Social policy in the post welfare state. (3rd ed.) Sydney: Pearson Education Australia Port Melbourne

Maddison, S., & Denniss, R. (2013). An introduction to Australian public policy: Theory and practice. (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press

McClelland, A. & Smyth, P. (2010). Social Policy in Australia – Understanding for Action (2nd Ed), Melbourne: Oxford University Press

Mendes, P. (2017). Australia’s Welfare Wars : The Players, The Politics and The ideologies, (3rd ed). UNSW. 

Kennedy, R., Richards, J., & Leiman, T. (2013). Integrating human service law, ethics and practice. (3rd ed.). South Melbourne, Victoria Australia: Oxford University Press.

Rice, S. & Day, A. (Eds.) (2014). Social work in the shadow of the law (3th ed.) Annandale,  NSW Australia: The Federation Press.

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