The development of social work

Historical knowledge plays a key role in the development of social work identity. It holds  a central position in the social policy and social work in Australia. It can be evaluated that there are varied complex set of relationship which helps in marking history of country over centuries (Goodwin and Huppatz, 2010). The present assignment provides an understanding of development of social work in Australia focusing on the historical foundations in United Kingdom and United States of America. In this study, historical events that took place in United Kingdom (UK) & United states (US) and their role in shaping and defining social work in Australia is explained. Further, government focuses upon preparing social policy and thus depend upon extreme factors i.e. globalization and exert pressure upon competing in international market. The social work and policy emerges from the particular society or community in which it exists.

Social work is carried out within society in regard to attempt and deal major problems in society i.e poverty and inequality. Also, such work is linked with the ida of charity and thus it organises various events so that better practices could be carried out in order to improve social work profession (Becker, Bryman & Ferguson, 2012). Australia is influenced from the historical events occurred within UK and USA. Therfore, it is essential for Australian government to identify the important events that has been conducted within UK and USA and thus it influences the social work carried out by Australia. Therefore, through evaluating the different historical events in relation to poverty and inequality helps in overcoming certain beliefs and values so that equal treatment could be given to every individual. The social work in UK is carried out in order to reflect that it helps in sharing common features in relation to models, practice and training approaches and helps Government of UK help in carrying out social work in relation to education of children (Teate, Leap and Homer, 2011). Thus, it can be assessed that Australia government helps in shaping their culture in such a form that they carry out effective social werk in regard to accomplish desired goals as per UK and USA.

The history of social work in Australia focuses on UK and US and emphasizes on social reforms and movements in 19th and 20th century. The two major forerunners of social work of UK and US – the Settlement Movement and the Charity Organisation Society (COS) were both unsuccessful in Australia. The history of philanthropy in Australia is quite long and emphasises on social control of poor class, personal responsibility and child saving (Epstein and Buhovac,  2014). During the period between 1800 to 1850, there was huge involvement of colonial women and men in more than 18 philanthropic and social reforms causes in Australia. This included establishment and management of women only organisations such as the Sydney Dorcas Society in 1830, the Female Friendly Society and the Female School of Industry in 1826 (Epstein and Buhovac, 2014).

The origin of social work can be traced back to 19th century when the economy of Australia was at peak due to proficiency in trade, agriculture, fishing, finance, industry and forestry (Kalliath,  Hughes and Newcombe, 2012). This brought immense satisfaction and pride in the citizens and poverty was considered to be self inflicted and unfortunate necessity and was not noticed by the law. COS focuses on individual casework and it is evident from Victorian London that there were massive, poverty, begging and crime. The COS opined that poor law agenda was not adequate and moreover, it deteriorated the situations of poor (Kalliath, Hughes and Newcombe, 2012). It can be evaluated that people living in the country were demoralised and harassed that affects their deserving as well as non deserving people. Thus, because of this people begun to exploit and became dependent upon the poor charity instead of reinventing them in regard to become independent. Thus, it impacts upon society and thus bring changes that influences society in regard to weaken the environment. The people were demoralised and engaged in emancipator strategies as there was no distinction between deserving and non-deserving, as a result people became complacent and begun to exploit and became dependent on poor charity rather than reinventing themselves to become independent. This greatly impacted the society and led to weakening in family structures (Becker, Bryman and Ferguson, 2012).

For projecting the changes in the society and introduction of principles of less eligibility, the Poor Law Ammendment Act, 1834 and the Workhouse came into force (Baron-Cohen,  Lombardo and Tager-Flusberg, 2013). The previous Poor Law was inadequate and unable to meet the present demands and needs of the society as it was based on local parishes relief. The main cause was the shifting to industrialisation and urbanisation from agriculture. The principle of less eligibility was enforced through workhouse test that worked in consultation with Poor Law Authorities to decide whether an individual seeking support was genuine and prefer to face the harshness of workhouse. The role of social work can be highlighted in this context in helping the deserving needy against the undeserving person within the workplace. The social work played a role of gate keeping and acted as deterent for unregulated charities that were emerging as duplicates and created confusion within the charities. These small charities were undermining the genuine philanthropic efforts reinforced by charity which enforced discipline (Baron-Cohen, Lombardo and Tager-Flusberg, 2013). Therefore, the transformation of philanthropic from Charity Organisation Society was the main cause of social work business. This transformation was necessary to prevent chaos and misguided principles within the society.

It has been noticed that during 18th and 19th century, there were drastic changes in social, economic and political changes in the UK (Robinson, Shaver and Wrightsman, 2013). Thus, as a result of this, government introduces new economic relations and identify social problems, legislation and stability that results in improving social control and stability. With the help of increasing urbanisation and changes in population it helps in improving employment opportunities so that it could attain the objectives till 19th century. In regard to this social work, involves several other external factors and thus possess great impact upon society. There was change in family structures to factory work and family from subsistence work and family due to industrialisation. The invention of machineries led to shift of people from farm to factories. More people were attracted towards working in cities which caused overpopulation and urbanisation (Mendes,  2011). The emerging industries, factories, minng and manufacturing led to decline in agriculture, fishing and forestry.

Another significant attribute of social work is acknowledgement of training systematic programme by COS. The Settlement Movement marked the beginning of social work as social action which was established in 1880 by Canonm Bernett but this was not successful in Australia. The social welfare work in the 19th century was varied. Basic social services like hospitals, free schools, services for working women and refuges and accomodation were established (Early Australian social work milestones, 2017).

One of the major social issue in 19th century was education specially for poor people. For this purpose, Catholic congregations were founded to provide education which was a mix of fee paying schools, free education for poor and government subsidised denominational schools and elite. But even after these efforts and Education Act of 1870s and 1880s, the promise of free, secular and compulsory education was not fulfilled as there were still children who were not able to attend school due to poverty or lack of home care.

During the period of 1880s to 1990, there were two major aspects around which Australian social activism and debate revolved – the women's question of women access to social and political powers and suffrage rights and workers' right to fair wages (Featherstone, Morris and White, 2014). The rise of Australian Labour party raised question about tariff protection for domestic industry, regulating wages by using arbitration, maternity allowance in 1912, social policy reforms for providing Old age and Invalid Pensions led to creation of National Settlement which brought together farmers, manufacturers and workers. Women's Christian Temperance Union raised voice against use and abuse of alcohol and for improving social status of women.Moreover, The Womanhood Suffrage League was established in Sydney in 1891 with the aim to get equal voting rights to women as men.

Social work in Australia has been formed on the basis of UK and USA as it has certain past effect on the culture of Australia. These countries and then develop themselves in every field i.e poverty relief, education, private philanthrophy, social action, medical social work and thus work upon such factors in relation to accomplish the social work in relation to improve the society so that best results can be attained. Evaluating all such developments within UK and USA helps in improving the social work in Australia and thus lead the country towards success. Through identifying and implementing development it helps in leading the country towards success. Therefore, it helps them to improvise their environment which assists them to provide better living conditions to individuals and thus enhance social work culture in Australia.

The Australian Association of Social Workers possess commitment to the international social work community and thus carry out effective social work so that proper standards could be set in regard to meet the objectives. However, UK and USA sets benchmarks for other countries in terms of social work from past hisotical periods therefore, it is essential for Australia to undertake it as a base and thus improve the social life within country (Kalliath, Hughes and Newcombe, 2012). Through overcoming poverty, improving education level and providing better health and safety social work assists in improving the Australian culture in world.


  • Baron-Cohen, S., Lombardo, M. & Tager-Flusberg, H. eds., (2013). Understanding other minds: Perspectives from developmental social neuroscience. OUP Oxford.
  • Becker, S., Bryman, A. & Ferguson, H., (2012). Understanding research for social policy and social work: themes, methods and approaches. Policy Press.
  • Epstein, M.J. & Buhovac, A.R., (2014). Making sustainability work: Best practices in managing and measuring corporate social, environmental, and economic impacts. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
  • Featherstone, B., Morris, K., & White, S., (2014). Re-imagining child protection: Towards humane social work with families. Policy Press.
  • Goodwin, S. & Huppatz, K., (2010). The good mother: Contemporary motherhoods in Australia. Sydney University Press.
  • Kalliath, P., Hughes, M. & Newcombe, P., (2012). When work and family are in conflict: Impact on psychological strain experienced by social workers in Australia. Australian Social Work. 65(3). pp.355-371.
  • Mendes, P., (2011). Towards a community development support model for young people transitioning from state out-of-home care: A case study of St Luke's Anglicare in Victoria, Australia. Practice: Social Work in Action. 23(2). pp.69-81.
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