Social Work

The SVHM Social Work Department is uniquely placed to contribute to the broader agenda of social responsibility, health equity and safer communities. We are committed to the pursuit and maintenance of physical and social wellbeing for people impacted by hospitalisation. Social workers collaborate with the medical, nursing and allied health teams to promote the development of human potential and improving social circumstances.

The Social Work Department comprises of approximately 35 social workers who work in conjunction with the interdisciplinary team to meet the many needs of the populations and the communities we serve. St Vincent’s Social Work Department offers opportunities to social workers seeking employment who have:

  • Graduated with a Bachelor or Masters (entry level) Degree in Social Work
  • Eligible for membership of the Australian Association of Social Workers and observes the Code of Ethics and Practice Guidelines
  • Willing to work within the mission and values of St Vincent’s Hospital
  • Utilise social work theory that values the unique circumstances of the patient and considers social, cultural and emotional issues; as well as their physical wellbeing
  • Through a clinically reasoned lens, supports patients’ autonomy and rights to self-determination; respecting their wishes regarding healthcare, lifestyle and wellbeing.

In addition to clinical care the Social Work Department manages a number of collaborative programs including:

  • Strengthening Hospital Responses to Family Violence (SHRFV) – Royal Women’s Hospital
  • Health Justice Partnership – Justice Connect
  • SVHM Responding to confirmed or suspected Elder Abuse initiatives

The Social Work Department has undertaken a number of project partnership initiatives including:

  • Royal Women’s Hospital - Family Violence System Audit Tool Evaluation (SAFE) pilot site
  • Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH) – Responding to Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery in Health
  • St Vincent’s Health Australia (SVHA) - Creating conditions for change: promoting and supporting Trauma Informed care in health social work practice.
  • St Vincent’s Health Australia (SVHA) – Caring for an older person who is violent: carer’s perspective
  • University of Melbourne – Health and Mental Health Social Work Evidencing the complexities of practice
  • National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) AuSI tool elder abuse screening pilot
  • North East Melbourne Area (NEMA) and Young Persons in Nursing Home Alliance (YPINHA) SVHM Social Work Department collaborative discharge trial.
  • Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Bouverie – Integrated Model of Care


The Social Work Department is comprised of three teams; acute medicine, chronic illness and sub-acute care. We provide a comprehensive and flexible professional development program, as well as structured supervision and support for clinical decision-making. In addition to this, we are able to assist our team to develop their skills and support plans for career progression. This includes opportunities for varied clinical rotations in a wide range of practice areas across different programs and sites within SVHM. Our clinicians are encouraged and supported to pursue further education with several staff currently completing post-graduate studies.



Student Group from the University of Melbourne (2017)

St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne is a leading tertiary public health service in Victoria with a demonstrated commitment to student education and training. The Social Work Department offers an innovative education program designed to incorporate the principles of the social work profession, the AASW Code of Ethics and organisational values. The program provides a stimulating and supportive environment for student learning and development.  SVHM considers teaching and training as an essential investment in the future of the social work profession in health care.

The training of students demands the development of effective work force skills and practices that can meet these demands and enable emerging clinicians to thrive in a changing health environment. Our “Work Ready” student placement model represents a significant shift in the practice of learning in field work education. The SVHM Social Work Department “Work Ready” student placement model integrates three approaches; Adult Learning Theory, competency based education and incremental professional skill progression. The placement is supported by a “live” learning framework to develop social work competencies and focusses on the clinical application of professional skills and knowledge.

St Vincent’s social work placements provide;

  • A culture that welcomes the student team and is committed to their placement experience
  • Rotations across two practice settings with two different supervisors across clinical areas.
  • Students are supported with a multi layered supervision approach through participation in formal and informal supervision, access to task supervisors and a coaching program.
  • Supports skill acquisition in continuous improvement and research activities
  • Established seminar series supports students with incremental learning in key practice areas of health
  • Organisational and department orientation provided
  • Future career opportunities with the new graduate program

Student Experience

“Social work placement at SVHM has presented as an invaluable opportunity, as an emerging social work student in integrating social work theory into practice. The student unit within the social work department offers a well-structured course with a comprehensive orientation program, weekly group coaching with the grade 4 social work coordinator of education and training and practical exposure to a diversity of case work within a health setting. Students at SVHM are provided with experienced social work supervisors who impart their expertise and facilitate a supportive environment to develop an emerging skill base. Placement at SVHM is a platform for students to incorporate key social work values into practice and consolidate knowledge of organisational context, interpersonal skills and the capacity for self-learning and critical reflection.”

Louise (past student)

University affiliations

The Social Work Department provides clinical placements for qualifying Masters and Bachelor of Social Work students. Research placements are also available. SVHM Social Work Department is affiliated with the Department of Social Work, Melbourne School of Health Sciences, at the University of Melbourne, where a formal link was established in 1992.  Fieldwork placements are undertaken across all St Vincent’s campuses.


The SVHM Social Work Department is committed to practice based research and quality improvement projects to promote reflective practice and inquiry based learning. Creating a culture that is evidence informed and data driven fosters improved patient experiences and informs systems redesign. The research agenda of the department focuses on:

  • Improving the psychosocial experience of patients, families and carers when accessing health services
  • Review systems that impact the outcomes for patient groups with a focus on wellbeing, systems redesign and workforce efficiencies
  • Evaluate social work practice and clinical interventions
  • Workforce support and competency development
  • Working within the mission and values of the Ministries of Mary Aikenhead and the Sisters of Charity to contribute to health equity and social responsibility for vulnerable groups in the community.
  • Contribute to health literature through publications and conference presentations

The research undertaken by the SVHM Social Work Department is in line with both best social work practice and the St Vincent’s Health Australia strategic plan (enVision 2025) which focuses on five main areas–people experiencing mental illness, substance misuse, homelessness, identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and prisoners. Social work research and continuous improvement activities aims to improve equity experience, access and outcomes in relation to health care for all vulnerable populations.

Current projects and publications

There are several recent and current projects and publications that the Social Work Department are leading or supporting.  More recently social work at SVHM has been published in peer reviewed journals such as; BioMed Central (BMC) Health Services, Journal of Emergency Medicine and Healthcare, Oncology Social Work and Palliative Health Care.  In 2018 the Social Work department was integral in the publication of a university text, Social Work Practice in Health (M. Petrakis, 2018).  Current research focuses include leading SVHM Strengthening Hospitals Responses to Family Violence (SHRFV), supporting people to reduce substance dependency, Aboriginal health, well-being for people experiencing cancer, aged persons mental health crises, supporting people with complex needs in hospital, engaging with people experiencing homelessness, cultural diversity, and older persons experiencing family violence. 


Social Work Department
St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne
Building C - Healy Wing, Level 1
Fitzroy, VIC, 3065

Tel: (03) 9231 3436

Fax: (03) 9231 3439

Hours: 8.30 – 5.00

Monday – Friday (closed on public holidays)

Social Work Department
St Georges Health Service
283 Cotham Road
Kew, VIC, 3101

Tel: (03) 9816 0444

Fax: (03) 9817 5323

Hours: 8.30 – 5.00

Monday – Friday (closed on public holidays)