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The consideration of animals within australian social work curriculum

By Angella Duvnjak, Ashleigh Dent

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ABSTRACT There is growing impetus for social work to move beyond a human-centric social justice orientation to include the consideration of animals. Social work programs in Australia are currently not required to include content related to animals within the curricula and little is known about the extent to which this content is currently being taught in Australia. The aim of this study was to explore how consideration of human–animal relations has been incorporated into Australian social work programs. Fifteen social work educators were surveyed with three of these participants also undertaking semistructured interviews. The findings revealed that where animal-related content was included it predominantly took an 'instrumental' or 'anthropocentric' focus related solely to human wellbeing. Exceptions to this focus were found to exist within some ethics and theory units under topics such as 'green social work'. Participants report barriers to including such content citing factors related to challenges within the university context and the perceived relative importance of other topics within a crowded social work curriculum. Despite an upsurge in interest in animal-related content reflected in the literature and a broader shift in societal attitudes towards animals, the findings of this small study indicate that Australian social work curriculum currently does not reflect this increasing interest. IMPLICATIONS As a social justice–oriented profession social work has an ethical responsibility to expand its focus to include consideration of human–animal relations within the Australian social work curriculum. There is evidence that inclusion of content related to animals is limited and is often a reflection of the educator’s commitment and passion for the topic rather than curriculum priorities or requirements. Further research is needed to gain a better understanding of the extent to which human–animal relations content is included within Australian social work curriculum and what barriers may exist to its inclusion. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved)

Publication Title Australian Social Work
ISBN/ISSN 0312-407X1447-0748
Publisher Taylor & Francis
DOI 10.1080/0312407X.2023.2238697
Language English
Author Address Duvnjak, Angella
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal rights
  2. Animals
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Australia
  5. Curriculum
  6. Human-animal relationships
  7. open access
  8. Social Casework
  9. social justice
  10. welfare
  11. Well-being
  1. open access