Not currently offered
Course code



10 units


3000 level

Course handbook


This course examines debates surrounding the appropriate role of human rights in social policy and human services practice, the theoretical arguments for and against the concept of human rights, the debates concerning the appropriate scope of human rights and how content is prioritised and made concrete in very different contexts of place and time across the globe. It explores the extent to which UN Covenants have influenced domestic policy in western and non-western countries, especially Australia, the ways in which analysts have developed human rights based principles and guidelines for the main types, fields and stages of human service practice, and points to the potential for human service workers, inspired by human rights principles, to engage in wider activism for social justice.


Not currently offered.

This Course was last offered in Winter - 2019.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

1. Identify and communicate the theoretical foundations and challenges of the concept of human rights

2. Critique the role of the UN in the development of recognised human rights

3. Analyse the extent to which UN Covenants influence domestic social policy

4. Assess the extent to which a particular social policy is consistent with or violates principles of human rights

5. Develop responses, informed by human rights principles, to problems facing clients of a human service program


The course will include the following topics:

  • Theoretical concepts - Rights and human rights; critiques, including competing discourses (needs; obligations; utility; power; markets)
  • The scope of human rights - Civil and political rights; Economic rights – labour rights and transnational corporations; Social rights; Human rights and women; Cultural rights and cultural relativism – ‘Asian values’; Contemporary developments – indigenous peoples; people with disability; sexuality
  • International human rights treaties and nation-state autonomy - UN Covenants and international law; Human rights, power-based international relations and national sovereignty; Incorporating human rights into domestic law and policy: reality or facade?
  • Human rights from below: human rights and human service practice Anti-oppressive and rights-based approaches in human services work; Rights of clients and of workers; Rights and the stages of intervention; Casework; Groupwork; Community development; Organisational and professional dimensions; Rights activism and the political process
  • Human Rights, Activism and Social Change - Human rights and other sources of social justice activism; Human service workers and wider social activism



If you have successfully completed SPSW2001 you cannot enrol in this course.

Assumed knowledge

HUSE1001, HUSE2001

Assessment items

Quiz: Online - multiple choice - 20%

Written Assignment: Short Answer Questions - 40%

Project: Social Policy Assessment - 40%

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.