Classism, Poverty and the Regulation of Australian Social Work Education
Keywords:Social work education, Classism, Poverty, Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW), Intersectionality, Institutional Ethnography
Given the stated concern of social work with inequality and social justice, it is important to consider if the regulation of social work education aligns with these goals. The impact of the regulatory functions of professional accreditation on the democratisation of social work education is an issue perversely slow to gain recognition. Drawing on a data sub-set from a larger Australian institutional ethnographic study, selected narratives of social work student and academic informants concerning class and poverty are discussed. These narratives reveal how key texts of the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) used to regulate social work education influence who can become a social worker, and how the study and work of the informants happens. The extra burden of poverty was documented for some groups of students in social work, particularly when undertaking unpaid placements. Experiences of classism and poverty were found to combine with racism and caring responsibilities to create extra practical, emotional and financial work for some students. While this article reports on an Australian context, the issues raised are relevant for social work education across many parts of the world. I conclude with drawing out implications for social work education, regulation and policy advocacy.
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