Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Social Work Honours


Faculty of Regional Professional Studies

First Advisor

Dyann Ross


The impetus for this research followed my social work placement in a rural high school in the Southwest area of Western Australia. The aim of this research is to identify a role for school social work in relation to practice in rural schools, and to develop a conceptual framework for practice. The literature review sought to demonstrate a need for such services by demonstrating the issues for youth in rural areas. The claim was that providing such a service in rural areas would address issues of access and equity, in line with social justice principles. The results of this research indicate that staff and students of the study school, in partnership with the researcher recognise there is a role for social work within rural schools. However, it has also raised questions as to whether such a concept can work in schools and how might this look. The study has also revealed schools have been identified as ideal sites for intervention, but that ideology may need to change to embrace such a concept (Chamberlain and MacKenzie, 1998; Kemmis and Lynch, 2001; Department of Education, Western Australia, 2001; Cohen, 1995). There is a strong focus on the disadvantage experienced by rural people in relation to access and equity and in this respect there is an emphasis on social justice as needing to be valued and struggled for on behalf of rural youth. The concept of rural being complex and contentious was also acknowledged and is shown to be a productive lens for discerning inequities within secondary education in rural areas. Critical ethnography was the methodology utilised, as this stance provided a focus that allowed more than simply a description of social work practice within a school, it required analysis and action aimed at addressing issues of social justice (Kemmis and McTaggart, 2000). Young (1990: 5) suggests that without a "critical stance many questions about what occurs in society, and why, who benefits, and who is harmcd, will not be asked and social theory is liable to reaffirm and reify the given social reality". My feminist ideology, which primarily sits within a Marxist framework and a postmodem lens framed the direction of the project. The desired outcome is to inform educational policy and practice in the context of school social work in rural areas; in order to assist in addressing the recognised issues related to access and equity for rural youth. As suggested, effective and ethical research is that with intent to make changes to existing structures (Crotty, 1998; Alston and Bowles, 1998). It is also hoped this project will serve as a starting point for further research in this area.