The Educational Publishing Awards are committed to rewarding excellence and innovation in the publishing industry at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. We have put together a series of interviews with the publishers, editors and authors involved in the creation and development of educational resources.
We caught up with Phillip Mendes, the author who has teamed up with UNSW Press to create Australia’s Welfare Wars: The Players, the Politics and the Ideologies 3rd Edition, a shortlisted entry for the Tertiary (Wholly Australian) Scholarly Resource award.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and the shortlisted entry?
I am the Acting Head of Social Work and the Director of the Social Inclusion and Social Policy Research unit in the Department of Social Work, Monash University. I have been a social work and social policy practitioner and educator for 30 years, with particular experience in the fields of income security, young people leaving state care, social workers and policy practice, and illicit drugs.
Little has been written about the impact of ideologies and interest groups on the contemporary debate surrounding the Australian welfare state. Many local texts emphasise major historical developments and key policy initiatives rather than the political debates, ideologies, and interest groups which influenced these outcomes.
In contrast, this text concentrates on the role played by ideology and advocacy groups in determining welfare outcomes, with specific reference to up-to-date theories about globalisation. Students are provided with relevant case-study and source material which is used to analyse and explain contemporary policies and outcomes in the Australian welfare state, and to assist readers to predict future policy directions.
What was your motivation for developing this resource?
Many of the ideas in this text are drawn from my experiences as a social work and social policy practitioner and educator over the last 30 years. During this period, I have noted with grave concern the increasing harshness of government and community attitudes towards the poor and disadvantaged, and the corresponding growth in social and economic deprivation and inequity. Most policy makers today don’t even pretend to view the welfare state as an instrument to promote greater equity and social cohesion.
This text represents an attempt to question many of the key values and assumptions that underpin contemporary social welfare policies. In particular, it is intended to be a critique and expose of the neoliberal ideas currently dominating welfare debates locally and internationally, and an opportunity to reaffirm the continued relevance of social democratic/welfare state ideals such as social justice and fairness.
Why do you think this text will be appealing for students to engage with in their students?
It provides lots of case studies on real-world social welfare policy debates and outcomes, and also places Australian policies in a global context utilising comparative perspectives from the Nordic states and Singapore.
What challenges do you think teachers face and how can this resource solve these challenges?
[The challenge is] how to teach social policy as an interesting and practice-based discipline, particularly when educating diverse groups of local and international students who come from different political and cultural contexts. Many texts talk about theory and abstract issues, but don’t explain the range of real world factors – including ideologies and lobby groups – that impact on policy options and decisions. This text does so in detail.
What impacts have this resource made in the classrooms? Is there a need for teachers to use this resource?
It appears to be widely regarded given the large number of University social work and social science departments across Australia that utilize the text.
Why does your product deserve to win at this year’s EPAAs? Is there anyone you would like to acknowledge and thank for making this product the success it is?
It is an accessible and user-friendly text that seems to be valued by students. [If it is to win], personally, it would be very exciting, and confirm the value of social policy education for those practising in human service fields.
Particular thanks to the numerous Monash University social work students emanating from many corners of the globe who have alternatively challenged and inspired over the past 20 years.
Good luck and all the best to Phillip and the UNSW Press team!
The Educational Publishing Awards are held at The Pavilion, Arts Centre Melbourne on Wednesday, 20 September 2017.
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