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What is social work?

The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) currently adheres to the following draft definition of social work that is jointly endorsed by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and International Association of School of Social Work (IASSW):

The social work profession facilitates social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledges, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance wellbeing. (March 2013).

What do social workers do?

The social work profession in Australia is broad and diverse but consistent to all practice is a commitment to human rights and social justice. Social workers work with individuals, families, groups and communities in the context of their physical, social and cultural environments, their past and current experiences, and their cultural and belief systems.

In all contexts, social workers maintain a dual focus on both assisting with and improving human wellbeing and identifying and addressing any external issues (known as system or structural issues) that may impact on wellbeing or may create inequality, injustice and discrimination.

Social workers may undertake roles in casework, counselling, advocacy, community engagement and development and social action to address issues at both the personal and social level. Social workers also work in areas such as policy development, education and research particularly around issues of social justice, disadvantage and the marginalisation of people in their communities or in society.

Questions about social work

For more information, download our Questions about Social Work brochure. It answers questions such as:

  • What is social work?
  • How can I become a social worker?
  • Where do social workers practice?
AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers