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Thursday, 3 May 1973
Page: 1686

Mr COATES (Denison) - I want to refer mainly to one of the 3 Bills that we are considering together, namely, the States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill 1973. Firstly, I should tike to make a couple of comments on some matters which the honourable member for Warringah (Mr Mackellar) mentioned. He referred to the development of the concept of colleges of advanced education by the previous Government. I think that the development of this concept has not really happened. The concept W:.s hastily introduced. I think that if the previous Government had taken more time to think about what it intended colleges of advanced education to be we would not have the present generally unsatisfactory situation. The honourable member for Warringah referred also to fees being only a small part of the costs of a university student or a college of advanced education student. Of course this is true. But the honourable member failed to gather that all students at universities and colleges will be eligible for a means tested universal living allowance. Better off students will not be eligible for any living allowance but from next year on needy students will be supported.

The States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill has 3 main purposes, namely, to provide money for libraries, for needy students and for a social work course in Hobart. Firstly, it provides $5m for libraries in colleges of advanced education. Colleges of advanced education have a great lack of library material - much more so than universities, and I do not think that we can say that universities have no need in this area. This grant is to enable college libraries to build up their stocks of books and other resource material. The third report of the Australian Commission on Advanced Education last year recommended that this sum be made available for this purpose. In the chapter of the report dealing with college libraries, the Committee stated:

The library represents a central and essential facility for the college as a whole. It is clear to the Commission that the quality of the educational program in a college will be directly influenced by the standards of library provision in bookstock, accommodation, and services. If these are of a high order they will act as a stimulus to staff and student effort; if they are less than adequate, there will be dissatisfaction and reduced incentive.

The report goes on to mention the quality of libraries and the need for libraries to be involved centrally in the educational process. It also mentioned bookstock provision. The report states:

We further express our conviction that the existing levels of allocations must be increased substantially if the college libraries are to provide adequate support to the educational program, and we urge that all colleges try to accelerate their libraries' development in order to attain more educationally satisfactory bookstock levels.

The report then refers to a lot of other matters connected with CAE libraries such as microfilm, audio-visual and other non-book materials of special need to colleges of advanced education which have a high proportion of part time students and thus also have a greater need for multiple copies of much used reference books. The report recommended:

That the Commonwealth Government provide a sum of $5m to be made available to the States on the basis of need and on the advice of the Commission, for the development of library materials In colleges of advanced education.

The previous Government, in its shortsighted way, cut the figure of $5m back to $500,000, or 10 per cent of the sum recommended. This Bil] sets the situation right by acknowledging the need for this sum and by implementing the Commission's recommendation. I maintain that even $5m will be insufficient to provide completely adequate library materials, but it is a start and it is 10 times more than the previous Government was prepared to allocate. The Bill provides a total of $806,000 as aid for students in need at colleges of advanced education. One of the other 2 Bills we are considering provides more than $2m for needy university students. " The object of this assistance is to bridge the gap for students who would otherwise be unable to continue their courses or who would find difficulty in doing so, or who would endanger their success by the necessity perhaps to spend too much of their time earning enough money to keep themselves while they continue their courses. We will not be able to implement our policy on abolition of tertiary education fees until 1974. Meanwhile, students are experiencing hardship because of their financial circumstances. This assistance is to be distributed, or already has been distributed, to such needy students by the colleges and universities by grants or loans or by covering the costs of fees. No one should be prevented by lack of finance from taking or continuing a tertiary course if he is qualified to do so. But many are prevented. These grants will alleviate the situation.

The third purpose of this Bill is to provide the finance to cover a special need in Tasmania at the Hobart College of Advanced Education. That need is a course in social work. Until now there has been no means by which social workers can be trained in Tasmania. We all know that there is a great need for trained social workers throughout Australia but this need is particularly evident in Tasmania because people trained in this field have to be attracted from others States.

The third Bill we are considering is the States Grants (Universities) Bill (No. 2) which provides assistance to the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne to allow them to train more social workers in their courses. This serves to emphasise the diversity in the method of training social workers in each State. Education for social work is conducted mainly by the universities, 4 universities providing under-graduate degree courses while 2 universities provide post grad uate diploma courses. One university provides a master's degree in social work. One university and 2 colleges of advanced education provide sub-graduate diploma courses. There are only limited facilities for higher degree work. In other words, the situation is inconsistent. There is no clear idea uniformly held about how or where social work should be taught. However Tasmania, which has had no facilities for educating social workers, is now to have a post graduate course at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education because of the proposal in this Bill. I am not saying that all diversity is necessarily a bad thing or that diversity in education in general is necessarily a bad thing. But this lack of uniformity is a reflection of the unclear attitude of educational institutions, employers of social workers, the community in general and probably social workers themselves about what sort of people social workers are, what their job is to be and the kinds of qualifications they should- have.

So we have this rather unsatisfactory uneven situation of a wide variety of means available for becoming a social worker. It is unsatisfactory mainly because the training is supposed to lead to a professional qualification. This results in the inevitable arguments within and outside the profession about who is or who is not a social worker, and about who is or who is not a properly trained social worker. The same sort of thing has happened in the past with pharmacy. The truth is that all of the social workers trained by these various courses are all pretty well trained for their job, a job which is so necessary these days in the expansion of social welfare services and agencies involved in social welfare. I am certainly not one to say that a person trained in a university is better than one trained in a college of advanced education or that a person with a degree is better than one with a diploma. This does not follow at all.

However, the problem is further complicated by the existence of other people and the courses which train them. I am referring now to welfare officers and the courses, which would probably be described as subprofessional, which train welfare officers. These courses are usually at technical colleges as I know is the case in Tasmania, or within social welfare departments such as the certificate courses run by the Victorian Social Welfare

Department. Tasmania's Mental Health Services Commission runs a course for welfare officers. Such courses get very little recognition or financial assistance despite their valuable contribution to the community. Neither do their students get as much recognition or financial support as do those doing social work. I believe that we have to look at the relative place of social workers and welfare officers. Is a welfare officer just a less welltrained social worker, or is a social worker just a better-trained welfare officer? Are they 2 entirely different people each making a valuable contribution in a different way? I believe that there is a difference and that there should be a clear difference in the way they are trained and in the work they do. By this 1 do not mean that social workers should be put up on a pedestal. This would be bad for them and bad for the people they serve. So far 1 have not mentioned the word 'status' but it does come into it. I am not knocking social workers by saying that because they do a fantastic job.

I think that the time has come to make a fairly generally accepted decision about the type of course required for social workers, the sort of level al which they will operate on graduation and the relationship between social workers and welfare officers both in the work they do and in the relative numbers of each, and the relative numbers of each to be trained with governmental support. Should the welfare officer qualification be used as a stepping stone to a later qualification as a social worker, if desired? There should be some planned relationship between the two but I suggest that very few people have more than a vague idea of what is best. The whole system has grown up in au ad hoc fashion which only makes matters worse. As I said before, there is a wide range of course levels in the various tertiary institutions throughout the country even for social workers only. A lack of co-ordination in this field can lead to a great inefficiency in the use of resources in training and in the employment of workers in the welfare field. I know that many of those involved are thinking about these problems and I hope that the situation can be rationalised.

Nevertheless I am extremely pleased that Tasmania is to get a course in social work. Given that it is a long term process to rationalise the system, the special Tasmanian need must be filled as soon as possible, and it must be remembered that it will be 2 years from the beginning of 1974 before the first graduates finish their diploma course. I think that a degree followed by a post graduate diploma is probably the preferred type of course for training social workers. In a letter to the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), the Tasmanian Minister for Education, who was kind enough to send me a copy of the letter, said: 1 am writing to you to express thanks for the very beneficial action you have taken in respect of three of the requests which have come recently from Tasmania.

He then refers to the assistance given in the training of more pre-school teachers, and continues:

I also feel extremely pleased at the action you have taken in relation to social welfare. For some years this course has been needed in this Stale and it is only through your reasonable attitude that this has become possible.

I endorse those remarks about this action and support the Bills, particularly the provisions in them for social workers, the money made available for libraries in colleges of advanced education and the assistance for tertiary students in need.

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