Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Science


School of Community and Behavioural Studies


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. H. S. Kim

Second Advisor

Ms. J. Grant


As the population of Australia ages, social policy and human service practice in the field of aged care is increasingly important and relevant. The Home and community Care (H.A.C.C.) Program was established in 1985 by the Labor Government as a response to a demand for more community services for the frail aged and was designed to reduce the incidence of institutionalisation by increasing home care services. In this way the Home and Community Care Program is seen as linchpin in the Federal Government's initiative to create an efficient and cost-effective aged care policy to contend with the future growth of Australia's ageing population. This thesis argues that there are several assumptions intrinsic to the H.AC.C. Program that are potentially jeopardising and undermining its usefulness. These assumptions are based on familial ideology and nostalgic conceptualizations of 'the community’ and 'the family'. In addition, these assumptions also involve stereotypic attitudes to women as primary carers and nurturers that ignore, to a great degree, the needs of women themselves. These assumptions, combined with an increasingly neo-conservative view about a reduction in the role of the State and a corresponding increase in family responsibility in welfare, have major implications for Australian women. This socialist-feminist analysis argues that women who are providing care for aged spouses or relatives are doing essential, hard and stressful work, work which is unpaid and often unacknowledged, and that the Australian welfare system is now structured around the invisible labour of such women. Consequentially, the assumption that a social policy program such as H.A.C.C. makes, that is, that there will always be women who care, requires further analysis. This research has revealed that such assumptions have implications for the future development of social policy for the aged in Australia and on the future roles of women in this country. Particular questions which this thesis addresses include, firstly, who actually provides care? Empirical research indicates that the majority of care is provided by one individual, usually the spouse, daughter or daughter-in law. Secondly, what are the assumptions underlying the development and implementation of Home and Community Care social policy in relation to the social construction of caring? Such assumptions are found to include, that the H.A.C.C. Program is premised upon an erroneous concept of the 'community' and consequentially 'community care' and that traditional 'family' and familial values are a precondition to H.A.C.C. service delivery. A socialist-feminist critique offers a deeper analysis of such assumptions by disclosing that the Home and Community Care policies assume that service delivery can be best undertaken by extending the traditional domestic role of women, thus utilising them as an unpaid, or poorly paid, labour force. This analysis also discloses the explicit rejection of the informal service system as having any real economic significance but rather being viewed as ‘complementary’ to the formal service system. Finally, there are future implications of such assumptions for women as primary carers, services users or paid staff within the H.A.C.C. Program which require urgent cognisance in order to develop a future aged care policy in Australia that avoids exploitation of women.

Included in

Social Policy Commons