Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Teaching organisation

150 hours of focussed learning

Unit rationale, description and aim

In an increasingly complex context for the human services, many people need help to manage a range of personal and structural problems. Individuals might, for example, experience a range of mental health problems, disability, issues of homelessness and poverty, with related family problems including child protection. Working with such individuals and their families requires an understanding of the complexity of need, and how complex needs can be addressed to get good outcomes for clients. The purpose of this unit is to develop competence in assessment and intervention for people with complex needs. This unit aims to provide students with the knowledge and skills to work with people who have complex needs.

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 - Understand the nature, extent and impact of a range of complex needs on the wellbeing of individuals and families (GA1, GA2, GA5, GA8)

LO2 - Demonstrate critical, logical and reflective thinking skills appropriate to understanding and working with people with complex needs (GA3, GA8).

LO3 - Articulate and deal with the ethical dilemmas that emerge in working with people with complex needs (GA3, GA4, GA6)

LO4 - Apply a framework for assessment and intervention in working with people with complex needs, including the limits of such intervention and the need to refer to specialist services for specific specialist interventions (GA1, GA2, GA6, GA7). 

LO5 - Write and speak in clear, correct language appropriate to the discipline and context for human services practice (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 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

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

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

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

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


Topics will include:

  • Models of complexity of need.
  • Case management models for assessment and practice.
  • Specific contextual problems and issues: disability, alcohol and other drugs, ageing, family violence and abuse.
  • Gender, sexuality and ageing as dimensions of human need.
  • Ethics of case management

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of learning with 36 hours of face-to-face lectures and tutorials. Teaching and learning strategies for this unit will include guest lectures, small group discussions and case studies.

Lectures will provide detailed content about models of complexity of need and case management and an exploration of specific contextual problems and issues: disability, alcohol and other drugs, ageing, family violence and abuse, gender and sexuality. Ethical frameworks and how to professionally work through ethical dilemmas will also be presented. 

Tutorials will incorporate case scenarios for the students to practice their application of theory to practice and prepare for their unit assessments. Students will be expected to take responsibility for their learning and to participate actively in class discussions.

This unit may also be offered on or off campus in intensive mode or multi-mode for sponsored / special cohorts, with the learning and teaching strategies being equitable with on campus mode offerings as endorsed by the School Curriculum Implementation Committee.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy is based on the use of case studies to demonstrate the interactions among various aspects of complexity of need. We will use individual cases as a stimulus for searching the research literature to identify knowledge for practice, and the way that various knowledge bases contribute to an overall understanding of complexity. The first case study encourages students to explore and understand complexity, while the second case study addresses the need for intervention. The oral presentation provides a focus for developing understanding and sharing and testing that understanding in the classroom. It will focus on one specific aspect of complexity and how the knowledge base around that specific aspect of complexity contributes to an overall understanding of the individual and their family.

Intensive and multi-mode assessment of this unit will be transparently equitable with on campus mode offerings as endorsed by the relevant Course Implementation Committee.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Case Study One: Enables students to build an understanding of complexity.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8

Oral Presentation: Students are required to deliver a 15 minute presentation to the class on a specific aspect of complexity. Enables students to demonstrate critical, logical and reflective thinking skills and demonstrate their ability to speak in clear, correct language appropriate to the discipline


LO1, LO2, LO5

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA5, GA8, GA9

Case Study Two: Enables students to translate information from theory to practice and identify service approaches to working with people with complex needs.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA2, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA7, GA8

Representative texts and references

Chenoweth, L., & McAuliffe, D. (2014). The Road to Social Work and Human Service Practice with Student Resource Access 12 Months (4th ed.). Melbourne: Cengage Learning Australia.

Coleman, S., & May-Chahal, C. (2013). Safeguarding Children and Young People. (The Social Work Skills Series). Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

Davies, M. (2012). Social work with children & families. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Ellem, K., Chui, W., & Wilson, J. (2017). Social work and human services best practice. (2nd ed.). Annandale, NSW: Federation Press.

Kemshall, H., Wilkinson, B., & Baker, K. (2013). Working with Risk Skills for Contemporary Social Work (SCSW - Skills for contemporary Social Work). Hoboken: Wiley.

Martin, M. (2011). Introduction to human services: Through the eyes of practice settings (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Pardeck, J., & Murphy, J. (2012). Disability Issues for Social Workers and Human Services Professionals in the Twenty-First Century. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

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