The Federation Press

In the Shadow of the Law

The legal context of social work practice


This third edition draws upon the professional experiences of the law and legal systems, of over 30 academics and practitioners in the social sciences. Like its predecessor editions, it is written by and for social workers, and examines a wide range of practice settings and user populations where social work practice typically entails interaction with the law and lawyers.

It begins with foundational chapters considering the place and influence of Aboriginality, of language and culture, and of ethics, on social work practice.

The second section considers the legal context and its influence on social work practice. It particularly identifies key aspects of the legal system and its parameters that social workers need to consider as they seek to work alongside courts, tribunals and legal personnel, and examines the importance of record keeping, the place of administrative law in social work practice, and the evidentiary rules to which social workers will be subject as matters of concern are brought to legal attention.

In the third section of this book, practice with a series of particular populations from across the community who typically have idiosyncratic interactions with the legal system, are considered. Here chapters variously examine such areas of practice as domestic violence, child sexual assault, adoption and post adoption practice, juvenile justice, the elderly and persons with a disability.

In the fourth section a variety of contributors draw upon their experiences of working in specific jurisdictions — including those charged with decision making in relation to family law matters, social security entitlements, offenders, housing and homelessness, and the criminal justice system, refugee review processes, housing entitlements, and psychiatric care - to identify the difficulties and pathways through what at times seem to the inexperienced user to be an impenetrable maze of courts and tribunals. In the final section of the book, the different perspectives of lawyer and social worker, and their areas of common interest and commitments, and drawn together to conclude this volume.

The third edition represents a complete revision of content from the earlier editions. In addition to a number of contributors to the earlier editions who have prepared new chapters in the light of contemporary practice, the new edition brings twelve new contributors and new chapters in relation to such areas as domestic violence, working with interpreters, social work and sexuality, housing rights, adoption and post adoption practice, family law, and social work and Indigenous Australians. It is a critical resource for the social work student and practitioner, and indeed for practitioners generaly in the human services area.


The third edition includes chapters from 12 new contributors. New chapters cover issues such as domestic violence, working with interpreters, social work and sexuality, homelessness and housing rights, adoption and post-adoption practice, family law and social work and Indigenous Australians. ... The book refers to case law and legislation and provides case studies throughout each chapter. References to articles, statistics and law reform committee reports and other relevant government reports in particular areas are useful. Both state and territory legislation in each area is canvassed so the guide is useful nationally. - Law Institute Journal of Victoria, December 2009

Table of Contents

Preface - Why social work and law?
Phillip Swain and Simon Rice
List of Tables and Figures
List of Abbreviations
List of Contributors

Foundations for practice

Social work practice and Indigenous Australians
Linda Briskman and Terri Libesman
Social workers, the law and interpreters
Uldis Ozolins
The ethics of social work practice
Phillip Swain

Legal considerations in social work practice

Recording and social work practice
Phillip Swain
Procedural fairness and social work practice
Phillip Swain
Courts and tribunals
Simon Rice
Simon Rice

Practice with diverse populations

Domestic violence intervention, the law and social work
Raquel Aldunate
Child sexual assault - the contribution of social work to the legal process
Jan Breckenridge and Kerrie James
COut-of-Home care: addressing the support needs of vulnerable children
Susan Tregeagle and Louise Voigt
Lesbians and gay men – (un)equal before the law?
Jude Irwin
The changing context of adoption
Cas O’Neill, Paul Ban and Phillip Swain
Juvenile Justice
Wing Hong Chui
Social Work following sudden and unexpected death
Dorothy Ford, Anne Giljohann and Viv Bateman
Elder Abuse and the Law
Elizabeth Ozanne
The Neverending Story: Deinstitutionalisation and people with an intellectual disability
Kelly Johnston and Anna Marriott

Practice in diverse jurisdictions

Social work practice with migrants and refugees
Mary-Anne Kenny and Lucy Fiske
Mediation of disputes in the Australian family law system
Dale Bagshaw
Social Security Appeals, advocacy and the SSAT
Phillip Swain and Chris Bigby
Social work and corrections
Eileen Baldry and Mindy Sotiri
Social work practice and debt problems
Martin Ryan
Housing and Homelessness
Nola Kunnen and Sally MacKay
Law, psychiatry and social work
Lisa Brophy and Bill Healey

Towards a Reconciliation of Legal and Social Work Practice
Spencer Zifcak
Table of Cases
Table of Statutes

Of interest...