Details of Thesis

Title Transforming Professions: a case study of social work in the Australian Defence Organisation
Author Hughes, Roslyn Denise
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2006
Abstract The research investigated the impact of cultural change on the professional identity and practices of social workers in the Australian Defence Organisation (ADO). The researcher sought to understand both the nature and impact of change. The literature was reviewed with regard to the research and understanding of the concept of profession. The review highlighted the ideological nature of profession and the way in which the dominant culture impacts on professionals’ understanding of their identity and practice. The culture impacts on the development of the professionals’ relationship with clients, professional values and practices, practice boundaries, autonomy and status, accountability and knowledge and skills. The analysis of the literature illustrated that professionalism reflected the cultural impact of industrial capitalism while the emerging new professionalism reflected the impact of late capitalism. The research was undertaken from 1995 to 2004, a time of significant reform and change in Australia. The changes were reflected in changing relationships in the political economy and subsequent government and societal reforms. The cultural hegemony or dominant discourse changed from industrial capitalism to late capitalism and this change challenges professional identity and practice. The thesis argues that, an analysis of the case of ADO social work, particularly ADO social workers’understanding of their identity and practice demonstrates the impact of professionalism from 1957 to the mid-1980s. From the mid-1980s to 1996, it is further argued, it is possible to discern the impact of new professionalism as ADO social workers pursued their identity and understanding of practice in terms of the cultural reforms, that is, the emerging new professionalism. The thesis identifies six areas in which both professionalism and new professionalism impact on professionals, their identity and practice together with six features of both professionalism and new professionalism. These features are reflected in the professional projects. A case study of ADO social work was undertaken. The case study was constructed so that it satisfied the tenets of the qualitative method: describing, understanding and explaining. The case data was analysed in terms of the framework established. This framework identified six features of professionalism and new professionalism. Documentary data was analysed, that is, the public statements, reports and evidence given by ADO social workers, which articulated their understanding of their professional identity and practice. The case study confirmed the impact of professionalism on ADO social workers’ identity and practice. However, the data did not demonstrate that ADO social workers pursued their professional project in terms of the emerging new professionalism. Three explanations are suggested as to why ADO social workers resist cultural change and continue to pursue professionalism. The first reason is the finding that the profession of arms, the dominant profession in the organisation, resisted many of the reforms. This enabled ADO social workers to continue to understand their professional identity and practice in terms of professionalism. A second reason is ADO social workers’ focus on the organisational restructuring of ADO social work services, a project pursued by many ADO social workers from 1973. The organisational restructuring is understood to be part of ADO social workers’ professionalisation project in terms of professionalism. A third reason is that ADO social workers view the changing culture as a significant threat to their understanding of their professional identity and practice. Bureaucracy, hierarchy, the state, service, tradition, monopoly, institutions, authority, supervising were giving way to market, flexibility, outcomes, performance, competition, teams, entrepreneurialism and choice. Along with many professional colleagues ADO social workers view the changes as the ‘deprofessionalisation’ of professionals in the ADO. The thesis argues that new professionalism will increasingly impact on the identity and practice of ADO social workers as members of a socially constructed occupation. Attempts by ADO social workers to continue to develop and maintain a professional identity and practice in terms of professionalism will mean that social workers will become irrelevant to the needs of the ADO and its Members and families. Professionalism is no longer part of the hegemony of the dominant culture. The thesis argues that the future for ADO social work lies in the pursuit of a critical professional project in terms of the emerging new professionalism, understanding that new professionalism like professionalism ‘masks’ the oppressive nature of the capitalist project.
Thesis 01front.pdf  102KB
02whole.pdf 805KB

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