QUT’s Social Work Integrated Supervision
Support (SWISS) website is an innovative
interactive resource for field educators
of Social Work and Human Services

Social Work Integrated Supervision Support

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Supervisor profile

Selina McGarrigle

Selina McGarrigle – Operations Project Coordinator Open Minds

Selina was delighted to receive her Certificate of Appreciation from QUT for the support she has provided to our Social Work students, she is pictured here with Glenys Smith (External Social Work Supervisor) and Fotina Hardy (Coordinator Field Education Unit QUT).


Dr Fotina Hardy

I'd like to welcome you to the QUT SWISS (Social Work Integrated Supervision Support) website.


This project was possible due to funding made available by Health Workforce Australia as an Australian Government Initiative

Health Workforce Australia An Australian Government Initiative


The next thing I thought it would be useful to talk about is how we are going to use the time.

You would think we have a lot of time; we have an hour and a half but it can often go really quickly once you start getting talking and you really get bogged down in an issue.

I think it is a good idea to think about how we are going to use that hour and a half.

Maybe come up with a bit of an agenda.

Does that sound alright?

There is a requirement from the Uni that we talk about some things so if we put around about an half an hour aside to talk about your learning plan and where you are at with your assignments and how you are feeling about your Uni work.

Then the rest of the hour we have to discuss what is happening here in placement.

So what do you think might be some important things we might like to discuss during that time?


I was very nervous about going on my first placement I had a quite a lot of expectations about what I was going to be in my first placement.

I wasn’t quite sure what exactly a social worker was or what a framework looked like or what they expected I was going to be able do and what skills I was going to bring to first placement.

So I had a lot of fear and anxiety going there but also a great load of excitement that I was going to put some of those theories and perspective and some skills I had learnt at uni into practice.

So it was a time of great excitement and tremendous anxiety for me going into first placement.

Going into second placement was a different feeling.

Coming from coming from working in first placement, having a idea about frameworks and an idea of what I wanted to do outside university, final placement was an opportunity to work as a practitioner with support around you.

Its embarking as a practitioner into the organisation, into the environment but having a safety net underneath very excited about going in and very excited about using those skills I had learnt.

And there was reduced anxiety from 1st placement so it was being able to go in and do as much as I could do in a supportive environment.


I always tell students their job as a student on placement is to ask lots of questions.

That is their opportunity to ask questions.

A good supervisor, if we talk about what a good supervisor might do, a good supervisor is willing to hear those questions and it is part of them being critical and reflective practitioner.

So I tell students it’s their job to ask questions.

Not just to go "ohhhh this is how it is done because they are telling me this is how it is done" but to ask why?

What do you do about?

How do you fit in these theories I am learning?

Or this way of understanding what help is or ethics or social justice is?

How do these core theories and concepts I am learning fit into this placement I am in?

Because that then help makes sense of it.


At the undergraduate level I teach the Legal and Ethical dimensions of practice Unit and at the Postgraduate I teach the Legal, Ethical and Organisation dimensions of practice.

I will talk about how we talk about how we approach legal and ethical dimensions of practice. Human services and social work is inheritably complex work. It’s complex because people are complex and systems are complex. Student’s have a massive challenge in front of them as do workers and agencies in this field generally. And that challenge is that there is no rule book, there is no one way of doing it, there is no one size fits all way form of practice. So we are informed by broad values, which are translated into principles. But at the end of the day a good worker needs to be able to appreciate the context they are working in and come up with practice that is situationally appropriate and relevant and useful. There are whole pleather of ethic challenges in that. So what we do in this Unit is try and give students literacy about ethical issues and approaches to thinking about ethics.

There are a few key points that I think we try and make. One is the best thing to do to work ethically is to design ethics into how you work in advance. Not simply to think of ethics as a reaction to a problem you are have. Thinking ethically begins when you walk in the door. Thinking ethically is about what sort of challenges are we likely to face in this type of particular practice environment and have we given some thought about how we are going to deal with those challenges.

We know that practice situations vary enormously. So there is complexity not only at the level of people we work with, for want of a better term the client level. But there is complexity at the systems level. Indeed some people would suggest there is greater complexity at the systems and institutional level then there is at the client level.

What we do is develop frameworks with the students of various questions they ought to be posing. Those questions allow them to work through some of the different considerations that they need to make when they are in a practice situation. For example: What is the situation I’m concern about here? Am I clear about that that situation is?

What’s my mandate?

What responsibility do I have in this situation?

Is it my job?

Who is it that I should be talking to to clarify what the situation is and what my mandate is and what my role is in this particular situation?

We ask students to think about what the legal contexts of the situation is. There could be many. There could be statutory requirements; there could be common law requirements; there could be issues around duty of care and negligence, and not exposing the worker, the client or the agency to risk.

We ask students to look at what organizational issues there are. Are there policies and procedures they need to be aware of?

We ask the students look at what their practice framework would say. What do the practice approaches and theories and concepts they have learnt have to say about how they should precede?

We ask students to put themselves into the picture. To understand that they bring values, and histories, and cultures and cultural perspectives to their practice. They need to consider what those are. We ask that they consider what sort of processes might be appropriate. The ethical response may be to talk to somebody, to seek more information, to talk to his or her supervisor. There could be a whole range of things they need to consider.

What we want students to do is rather than simply react to a situation from one particular demand or perspective they are able to look at a range of considerations. They are able to pause, they are able to stop, and they are able to think – What is important to think about here? What are the various contextual influences I need to take into account as I am making a decision or engaging in a particular aspect of practice?