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Putting ethics on the organisational agenda: The social work ethics audit on trial


Donna McAuliffe, PhD, BSW(Hons), is Senior Lecturer, School of Social Work and Applied Human Sciences, The University of Queensland. Email:


Findings are presented from an Australian study on the implementation and evaluation of a Social Work Ethics Audit Risk Management Tool. The aim of the research is to determine the extent to which ethics audits are useful and applicable to Australian human service organisations. Over the period of the study, social workers and other human services staff and volunteers used the ethics audit to achieve outcomes that included provision of legitimate space for discussion of ethics in the workplace, and identification of gaps in knowledge and skills about ethical practice, and the policies and procedures that support and enhance such practice. The paper provides an analysis of how practitioners and managers grapple with the concept of ethical risk management, and outlines strategies that were developed in an effort to move towards greater accountability and ethical reflection in practice.