Issues in defining "universal social work": Comparing social work in South Africa and Australia

Mel Gray, Jan Fook

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    In this paper we discuss the issues involved in making generalisations about social work across different contexts by comparing the development of social welfare and the practice of social work in South Africa and Australia. Given that the idea of the profession is, to some extent, constructed in historical, social and cultural contexts, we next look at what this means for the idea of a universal definition of the social work profession and its implications for indigenous practice. We argue that while the discourse of social work might be similar across countries, the actual form and expression its practice takes may be quite variable. We end by appealing for a grounded approach where flexibility allows for relevant and appropriate practice responsive to local contexts yet still allows for accountability, connectivity and a common professional identity across countries in the belief that "because the form that social work takes is so intimately related to any society's or country's goals for itself and its people, its values, its mores, it is inevitable that forms of social work should differ from country to country, and that its patterns of social work education should differ from country to country".

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)363-376
    Number of pages14
    JournalSocial Work
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2002


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