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About this book

This exciting new textbook introduces students to the key aspects of the law and legal frameworks essential for social work practice in Australia. Simple and easy to read, it communicates the complex legal concepts in practice in ways students can easily understand. With a focus on human rights and ethical conduct, it’s both concept based, examining the ways of thinking and understanding law and social work interactions, and topic based, exploring the different specific areas of law which social workers are most likely to come into contact with.

This is essential reading for any student taking a unit in Social Work Law. Specific to Australia, it accounts for Australian jurisdictions, and can be easily integrated into the classroom context, with case studies, questions for discussion and links to further resources, including interactive resources and a website to support further learning and provide updates to changes in the law between editions.

Table of Contents

1. INTRODUCTION

Abstract
In fact, this social worker did not do everything they could have done to help Jenny. With a better understanding of legal processes and frameworks they could have done a lot more and been a genuinely effective social worker.
Chris Maylea

2. The Australian legal system

Abstract
Like much of Australia’s colonial history, Waltzing Matilda is a political cover-up.2 The lyrics of a song describe a swagman who steals a sheep and when faced with justice chooses suicide rather than capture.
Chris Maylea

3. Legal Research

Abstract
Much of the legal system is based on expert lawyers fighting over what the law is, so it is no surprise that it can be difficult for social workers to follow along. It is also constantly changing, sometimes in conflict with itself and at other times silent on important issues.
Chris Maylea

4. Ethics, justice and the law

Abstract
Law, as we know it today, is a relatively new concept across the scope of human history. While there is evidence of Ancient Egyptian law codes dating back 5000 years, throughout history most humans have lived in small communities without the need for complicated written laws.
Chris Maylea

5. Working in involuntary settings

Abstract
For social workers working in involuntary settings, there is an inevitable ethical tension. The values base of social work requires social workers to empower people, whereas many of the roles social workers work in require social workers to control people.
Chris Maylea

6. The legal obligations of social workers

Abstract
Social work practice is bounded on all sides by obligations –ethical, practical, organisational and legal. Usually, these obligations are invisible, only becoming apparent when the boundaries are transgressed or tested. Even when they are visible they are often fuzzy, poorly defined and filtered through the layperson’s misguided conviction of the certainty of the law.
Chris Maylea

7. Going to court and giving evidence

Abstract
There are few aspects of legal social work practice as intimidating and important as attending court and giving evidence. Social workers will support people through the court process, attend court as witnesses, and provide other evidence such as court reports that will influence the court process.
Chris Maylea

8. Working with lawyers

Abstract
Francis Zemljak, the Children’s Court magistrate who co-authored Chapter 11, told me that ‘social workers and lawyers make a good salad – they’re oil and vinegar’. While this is an excellent line, I think it reflects how things have been rather than the potential.
Chris Maylea

9. Human rights and anti-discrimination law

Abstract
Human rights are central to social work and feature heavily in social work literature and discussions about social work.
Chris Maylea

10. Social work in the criminal legal system

Abstract
Social workers work with people throughout the criminal legal system in a variety of roles. This may be entirely incidental, such as when working with someone on an unrelated matter and they come into contact with the police, or it may be essential to the social work role, such as working in post-release reintegration programs or supporting witnesses providing evidence.
Chris Maylea

11. Families, children and young people

Abstract
Families, children and young people can come into contact with the law in many ways, but the areas most relevant to social workers are family law (regarding divorce, property and parenting orders), usually heard in the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court, family violence and child abuse, which is mainly dealt with in the criminal legal system, and child protection, which is usually heard in state and territory children’s courts.
Chris Maylea

12. First Nations People and Communities and the Law

Abstract
The history of social work practice with Australia’s First Nations people and communities has been at best problematic and at worst horrendous. The legacy of social work’s participation in the Stolen Generations and the continued role of social workers in contributing to the overrepresentation of First Nations’ children in child protection attaches to every social worker by association.
Chris Maylea

13. Adult Guardianship Law

Abstract
All adults have the right to make their own decisions, including people with disabilities. For most decisions, from choosing what home to live in or choosing what to have for dinner, people will consult with, seek support or share the decision with others.
Chris Maylea

14. Mental health law

Abstract
Mental health law is an area that poses some very difficult issues for social with, but mental health law is designed to do just the opposite. It takes away a person’s right to make their own decisions.
Chris Maylea

15. Refugee and asylum law

Abstract
In other decades and in other countries there would be little need for a distinct chapter on refugee or asylum law for social workers. There is little need, for example, for social workers to have a detailed understanding of general migration law.
Chris Maylea

16. Ethical social work around the law

Abstract
Key figures in the historical narrative of human rights and social justice, including figures such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Chris Maylea

17. Changing the legal system

Abstract
Social workers cannot be complicit in environments and practices that inhibit social justice and violate human rights and still call themselves social workers –unless they are also working to challenge and change those environments and practices.
Chris Maylea
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