What’s the Problem with Gender-Neutral Regulation of Australian Social Work Education?



Feminist social work education, Regulatory requirements, Gender, Bacchi, WPR, Advocacy, Compulsory attendance, Special Consideration


This article examines the question of the gender-neutral accreditation regulations of the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW), and of the Special Consideration policy of Australian universities where social work education happens. The focus is on the AASW’s 20 days’ mandated on-campus attendance and the requirement for off-campus social work students to apply for special consideration for an alternate task from the university if they cannot attend. Carol Bacchi’s “What’s the problem represented to be?” (WPR) framework is used to provide a feminist policy analysis. The WPR analysis identifies an unstated assumption that the campus mode of delivery is superior to on-line modes. Further, equity problems are identified due to the lack of a gender analysis informing both the AASW regulations and university Special Consideration policies. Off-campus social work students are represented in the identified AASW compulsory attendance and Special Consideration policies as a particular kind of problem – one that is predicated on outdated stereotypes of the genderless university student and the privileging of traditional face-to-face education. The argument is made that WPR can be used by social work academics, and others, to reveal, resist and improve oppressive regulatory requirements of social work professional associations and universities. 

Author Biographies

Norah Hosken, Deakin University

Health & Social Development, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia

Sarah Epstein, Deakin University

Health & Social Development, Deakin University, Geelong, Australia


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