SWM5260 - Social work in post disaster sites - 2017

12 points, SCA Band 1, 0.250 EFTSL

Postgraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.


Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences

Organisational Unit

Department of Social Work


Professor Margaret Alston

Quota applies

This unit is quota restricted. Selection is on a first-in, first enrolled basis

Unit guides




In recent decades significant climate and environmental disasters and threats have impacted on the way people and communities live.

As a consequence our ability to live sustainably will be one of the challenges of the twenty-first century. These changes have significant social impacts and this unit provides a social work perspective to this new field of practice - social work in post-disaster sites.

SWM5260 provides an international and national focus on emerging threats such as climate change, water and food insecurity, environmental disasters, terrorist actions, migration and social movements.

It also examines their gendered impacts and how these affect people and communities.

Research from across the world reveals that impacts vary significantly between women and men and across the lifespan and that these factors will affect the abilities of individuals, families and communities to adapt.

Social workers will be critical workers providing the link between people, communities and the policy environment in uncertain times.

This unit will prepare social workers to be critical change agents working in post-disaster sites.


Upon completion of this unit students should be able to:

  1. Identify types of disasters and explain the nature and their impacts globally.
  2. Identify and assess emerging global challenges that compound the impacts of disasters.
  3. Critique the international and national policy environment concerning disasters.
  4. Interpret the historical links between social work practice and the environment.
  5. Critically analyse the nature of vulnerability, adaptive capacity, resilience and social sustainability in the context of disasters.
  6. Summarise and interpret the Social Development Goals and their link to social sustainability in the context of disasters.
  7. Articulate a critical understanding of the impacts that disasters have on the environment and how these might differ in rural and urban locations.
  8. Critique the relevance of social movements to global sustainability.
  9. Explain relevant social work responses to current and emerging social impacts of environmental disasters in local, national, and international contexts.
  10. Recognise the language of trauma and grief in the context of disasters.
  11. Analyse gendered and other factors that shape vulnerability in the context of disasters.
  12. Explain social work theories and their applications to social workers attending environmental disasters in relation to people's well-being.


  • On-line quizzes (10%);
  • Social impacts poster (35%)
  • Analyse of emerging theories (5,000 words) (55%) (hurdle)

Chief examiner(s)

Off-campus attendance requirements

The unit runs for 13 weeks. For a 12 point unit, off-campus students are expected to spend 24 hours per week completing set tasks outlined in the Unit Guide, undertaking set readings and private research. Online contact such as discussion groups will be initiated by staff.

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study

Additional information on this unit is available from the faculty at: