Social Work Practice: Legal Context

Unit code: ASW3103 | Study level: Undergraduate
(Generally, 1 credit = 10 hours of classes and independent study.)
Footscray Park
Online Real Time
96 credit points of first year core ABSW units.
(Or equivalent to be determined by unit coordinator)


For a community or society to function, there needs to be a range of structures around power, rights and responsibilities and processes that help define how individuals, communities and organisations behave and are regulated. Wherever social workers practice, they should have a good appreciation of the legal system and how it will impact on their clients as well as their professional practice.

In this unit, students will be introduced to the fundamental features of the Australian and Victorian legal system and will interrogate critically reflect upon and analyse the roles and responsibilities of the social worker within these legislative, judicial and administrative contexts. Students will also research and analyse the various systems that are available to support people with legal issues and how the principles of social justice and human rights are applied. In addition, students will demonstrate their working knowledge of the Australian legal system and the importance of legal knowledge to competent social work practice through the preparation of report writing. Students will also consider the Australian Association of Social Workers Professional Practice Standards and Code of Ethics that guide professional behaviour in a range of social work scenarios.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Explain the principles and functions of the law as relevant to the social work context;
  2. Identify and apply relevant legal frameworks in context and respond using appropriate professional communication skills;
  3. Interrogate and analyse the legal, ethical and practice considerations and dilemmas confronting social workers when complying with their statutory obligations to the law; and
  4. Critically review the role of legal systems in the context of social justice, human rights and cultural diversity.


For Melbourne campuses

Assessment type: Test
Grade: 10%
Open-book knowledge audit (30 minutes)
Assessment type: Report
Grade: 20%
Case summary and critical commentary(750w)
Assessment type: Assignment
Grade: 50%
Critical analysis of frameworks guiding social work practice (1500w)
Assessment type: Presentation
Grade: 20%
15 minute group presentation and individual submission of observational template.

Required reading

There are no required texts for this unit; a range of resources will be available via VU Collaborate.

As part of a course

This unit is studied as part of the following course(s):

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