Leading Through Collaboration: The National Field Education Network


  • Wendy Rollins Australian Catholic University
  • Ronnie Egan RMIT University
  • Ines Zuchowski James Cook University
  • Mary Duncan Flinders University
  • Phyllis Chee Griffith University
  • Patricia Muncey University of South Australia
  • Nicole Hill The University of Melbourne
  • Maree Higgins University of New South Wales


Leadership, Collaboration, Placement, Field, Quality, Social work education, Social work


Social work field education is under pressure across the globe, including in Australia. Current application of neoliberal principles to education and human services policy and service delivery impact on social work practice, social work education and the availability and delivery of practice placements. Social work educators are concerned about delivering quality social work education so that students can engage in supervised service delivery in preparation for professional social work practice. Field education staff in universities across the country experience significant challenges in ensuring and organising increasing numbers of quality student placements.

The formation of a national leadership group was triggered by a collective realisation that all university field education programs were facing similar challenges. The purpose of a national group was to better respond to the identified challenges and identify directions for research. Collaboration has been effectively used across university-based field education programs as a leadership approach, in the development of the Australian National Field Educators Network (NFEN). This paper reports on the formation of the NFEN and the resulting identification of six themes affecting provision of social work field education as an example of collaborative leadership. The paper concludes with an appraisal of the opportunities and challenges of taking a collaborative approach in developing a national response and working as a unified national organisation.

Author Biographies

Wendy Rollins, Australian Catholic University

National Professional Practice Coordinator

Mary Duncan, Flinders University

Manager Field Education

Patricia Muncey, University of South Australia

Field Education

Maree Higgins, University of New South Wales

Manager Work Integrated Learning


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