Case study

profileSalman Wahid

SWK313 Engaging with Individuals and Families

Module 3: Week 5

Anti-Oppressive Practice

Module 3: Online Learning Activity

Reflection on the first interview: the client's perspective

Listen to the recording of Erica's reflections on the first meeting with the worker at the community centre.

Drawing on the information provided in the recording, critically examine how Anti-Oppressive Practice and Strengths Based Practice could inform your understanding of Erica's situation and your approach to working with this client and her family. 


Back to an Integrated Framework

Anti-Oppressive practice


Organisational context


Phases of helping

Maidment, J., & Egan, R. (2009). Practice skills in social work and welfare: More than just common sense. Allen & Unwin.

Evolution of AOP

1900- 1970s development of social work movements

The emergence of radical social work in mid-1970s

Structural social work

Feminist perspectives

Anti-racist practice

Postmodern approaches

Critical social work


What is AOP?

Umbrella term for a number of social justice oriented theories

A ‘set of politicised practices that continually evolve to analyse and address constantly changing social conditions and challenges’(Baines 2011, p. 5)

Social change


Systems of Oppression





Oppression - “the domination of subordinate groups in society by a powerful group” (Mullaly 1997)

Structures of oppression are reflected in and reproduced in everyday lives


In the news…

“Doctors, health professionals support Safe Schools program” (WA

Beyond Blue Initiative




Multidimensional & intersecting

Differences in power can be explicit or hidden and difficult to identify

Power can be reflected in economic, social, cultural structures

Oppression can be internalised



History is important

Legacies of oppression includes lateral violence, intergenerational disadvantage and trauma

Oppressive relationships exist at structural (macro) and individual levels

Power and oppression can be reproduced and reinforced within practice (worker-client relations)


Identifying oppression…

How is reality being constructed (discourses)

Who is making decisions (and how)

Whose interests are being served?

Who is advantaged?

Whose voice is being heard?

Whose voice is silenced or absent?

Where are the imbalances?




Relevance of AOP?

“The social work profession promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being.

Utilising theories of human behaviour and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments.

Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work.”

Definition of the social work profession, adopted by the International Federation of Social Work (IFSW) at its General Meeting in Montréal, Canada, July 2000

Key Principles

Encourage, support, the knowledge and perspectives of those who have been marginalized and incorporate these perspectives into policy and practice

Articulate the multiple and intersecting bases of oppression and domination.

Conceive of social work as a social institution with the potential to either contribute to, or to transform the oppressive social relations which govern the lives of many people.

Support the transformative potential of social work through work with diverse populations



For practice

Social work is not a neutral, technical profession, but an active political process

Social workers needs to build allies and work with social causes

Participatory approaches between practitioners and clients are necessary

For practice

Understand power, oppression & marginalisation as it affects clients and communities

Self-reflexive practice and ongoing social analysis are essential components of social justice-oriented social work practice

Actively look for assumptions and seek different perspectives

Minimise intervention, maximise client control

Reduce isolation & marginalisation - validate, normalise, strengthen connections

For practice

Ensure appropriate resourcing, training, and tools are available

Ensure transparency and accountability – clear account of role, complaints mechanisms, avenues for appeal, feedback, information freely available, rights of people are protected

Identify and address constraints of practice context

For practice

Advocacy, brokerage, resource creation

Information sharing

Power of groups, consciousness-raising

Policy feedback, policy development

Know your rights and act to protect the rights of others



Principles for action

Critical reflection of self in practice

Reflection of our own membership of social categories

Critical assessment of service users’ experience of oppression

The language of power and its effect on clients

Empowering service users

Levels of oppression:

Personal, institutional, cultural, structural

Working in partnership

Obstacles – power relations in social work, need to maximise collaborative possibilities

Minimal intervention

Early intervention, linking services, prevention


Challenges of having so many concepts within the umbrella term of AOP

Challenging to put into practice

Tensions for statutory contexts of practice

Dealing with the rise of new manageralism and risk management – impact on discretion, choice and rights


Case study

An Aboriginal man has begun attending a drug counselling program. He is not communicative in interviews and does not maintain eye contact. He says he has come to counselling because his lawyer told him to. The worker challenges him by stating that he is not serious about wanting to rehabilitate. The client responds by becoming aggressive, abusive and departing the program.

How is AOP relevant to understanding this case study?