Document Type



Centre for Disability Research & Development, Edith Cowan University

Place of Publication

Joondalup, Western Australia


Faculty of Health and Human Sciences


School of Community Studies / Centre for Disability Research and Development


Wiles, D. (1998). Human services: A discussion paper. Joondalup, Australia: Centre for Disability Research & Development, Edith Cowan University.


Human services is an emergent field of study and work in Australia. Its definition is complex, needing continuing theoretical and empirical clarification. Despite the contemporary decline of the Australian welfare state, human services has emerged in cultural congruence with historic Australian notions of a 'fair go', of social equity, and of social egalitarianism. Human services constitutes a nascent profession, which - in the main - helps people with problems, particularly including members of the social 'underclass'. With much of its origins in volunteerism and the voluntary sector, human service organisational theory is now developing, and is helping workers and students to understand agency environments. Human services draws upon a variety of practice models, but the generic 'problem-solving' methodology applies across all its fields of service. Thus human service interventions seek to alleviate immediate problems, such as locating resources or addressing crises, mainly through counselling and short-term therapy. However, human services also includes longer term case management, along with sweeping social development in its professional agendas. Arising out of present issues and challenges, in many ways the future of Australian human services remains open to speculation.