The giving and receiving of support and care is intensely personal and intimate. At the same time, support and care is formed by context and history. Its ethical, political and philosophical dimensions are highly contested.

In Australia, there is a growing demand for attention to support and care, for example in relation to future provision for older people, the contribution of unpaid carers, and the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Parallel developments are seen in many other countries. Support and care is rapidly emerging as an urgent research and education challenge for the coming decades.

Social Policy & Practice Research Program brings together researchers and educators within RMIT’s Social and Global Studies Centre. Its objective is to create new understandings and practices that benefit citizens and communities in situations of vulnerability and precarity.


The key aims of the Social Policy & Practice Research Program are to

  • Advance social justice and promote social, economic and cultural inclusion
  • Engage in collaborative research that impacts on policy, practice and services
  • Create social innovation through user-centred design and place-shaping
  • Foster cross-disciplinary approaches and learn from experts-by-experience
  • Achieve benefit with and for the most disenfranchised and precarious populations


The program engages with the complexities that give shape to the lives of people in situations of vulnerability.  Inter-disciplinary perspectives and principles of inclusive research are central.  Members of the research program are drawn from across RMIT University.  The research proceeds through strong collaboration with community service organisations and consumer groups.

The research interests of the program span support and care in relation to older people, people with disabilities, mental health, children, youth and families, unpaid carers, and Indigenous communities.  It attends to multiple identities and interdependency in our social relations.  Integrated models of policy, planning and service delivery are of special concern.

Particular areas of research focus include:

  • Health, wellbeing, and critical care studies
  • Geographies and technologies of support and care
  • Marketisation in the support and care landscape
  • Precarity, resistance, and community capacity building
  • Consumer directed care and flexible funding models
  • Service design and co-production
  • Diversity, equity and access


The main activities of the program include

  • Generating shared discourses through inclusive conversation
  • ‘Meet and share’ events
  • Accessible and quick communication updates
  • Promotion of emergent research opportunities and recruitment of internal (RMIT) and external (academic and industry) project team members
  • Linkages to aligned RMIT research networks
  • Mentoring opportunities
  • Connecting with international research groups and thought leaders

Recent Publications 


RMIT University & CPA Australia (2018), Mergers, Amalgamations & Acquisitions in the Australian Not-for-Profit Human Services Sector; N Subramaniam, A Lowe, Y Nama and R West, School of Business-GAL, RMIT University, Melbourne



Durham, C.,Ramcharan, P. (2017). Insight into brain injury: Factors for feeling and faring better, Springer, Singapore

Commissioned Reports

David, C.,Nipperess, S.,Maylea, C. (2017). Submission to the Joint Standing Committee Inquiry into Transitional Arrangements for the National Disability Insurance Scheme In: Refugee Council of Australia Canberra, Australia

West, R.,Ramcharan, P. (2017). Evaluation of the Financial Consumer Rights Council – dignity and debt: financial difficulty and getting older initiative In: Financial Consumer Rights CouncilMelbourne, Australia

Journal Articles

Connolly, M.,Williams, C.,Cooper, L. (2017). Strengthening the knowledge base: a research framework for social work education? In: Advances in Social Work and Welfare Education, 19, 25 – 36

David, C.,West, R. (2017). (In Press) NDIS self-management approaches: opportunities for choice and control or an Uber-style Wild West? In: Australian Journal of Social Issues, , 1 – 16

Egan, V.,Maidment, J.,Connolly, M. (2017). Trust, Power and Safety in the Social Work Supervisory Relationship: Results from Australian Research In: Journal of Social Work Practice, 31, 307 – 321

Grant, G.,Pollard, N.,Allmark, P.,Machaczek, K.,Ramcharan, P. (2017). The social relations of a health walk group: an ethnographic study In: Qualitative Health Research, 27, 1701 – 1712

Rollins, W.,Egan, V.,Zuchowski, I.,Duncan, M.,Chee, P.,Muncey, P.,Hill, N.,Higgins, M. (2017). Leading Through Collaboration: The National Field Education Network In: Advances in Social Work and Welfare Education, 19, 48 – 61

West, R.,Ramcharan, P.,Basser, L. (2017). Apparently we have human rights to health? Health and human rights frameworks of people with disabilities in Victoria In: Australian Journal of Human Rights, 23, 24 – 41

David, C. & West, R. (2017) NDIS Self-Management Approaches: Opportunities for choice and control or an Uber-style wild west? Australian Journal of Social Issues, 52:4 pp331-346

West R A and Jones M (2017) ‘Support & Care Research Program: Opportunities, barriers and strategies for cross-disciplinary collaboration’, Feb 2017; School of Global, Urban and Social Studies (GUSS); College of Design and Social Context (DSC), RMIT University, Melbourne


Book Chapters

Costello, S.,Raxworthy, J. (2016). Educating for urban social work In: Social Work and the City: Urban Themes in 21st Century Social Work, Palgrave Macmillan, London, United Kingdom

Westhorp, G.,Stevens, K.,Rogers, P. (2016). Using realist action research for service redesignIn: Evaluation, 22, 361 – 379

Williams, C. (2016). Beyond the soup kitchen In: Social Work and the City: Urban Themes in 21st-Century Social Work, Palgrave MacMillan, United Kingdom

Williams, C.,Graham, M. (2016). Emergent theory for practice In: Social Work in a Diverse Society, Policy Press, Bristol, United Kingdom

Williams, C. (2016). Making sense of the city In: Social Work and the City: Urban Themes in 21st-Century Social Work, Palgrave MacMillan, United Kingdom

Williams, C. (2016). Reconstructing urban social work In: Social Work and the City: Urban themes in 21st Century Social Work, Palgrave Macmillan, Australia

Williams, C. (2016). Social issues and the city: New directions in practice In: Social Work and the City: Urban Themes in 21st-Century Social Work, Palgrave MacMillan, United Kingdom

Williams, C. (2016). Social work education and the challenge of race equality In: Routledge International Handbook of Social Work Education, Routledge, Abingdon, United Kingdom

Williams, C. (2016). Social work and the urban age In: Social Work and the City: Urban Themes in 21st-Century Social Work, Palgrave MacMillan, United Kingdom

Williams, C. (2016). Social work research and the city In: Social Work and the City: Urban Themes in 21st-Century Social Work, Palgrave MacMillan, United Kingdom

Journal Articles

Egan, V.,Jane, M.,Connolly, M. (2016). Who is watching whom? Surveillance in Australian social work supervision In: British Journal of Social Work, 46, 1617 – 1635

Egan, V.,Maidment, J.,Connolly, M. (2016). Supporting quality supervision: insights for organisational practice In: International Social Work, , 1 – 15

Laragy, C.,David, C.,Moran, N. (2016). A framework for providing information in individualised funding programmes In: Qualitative Social Work, 15, 190 – 208

West R A and Ramcharan P (2016) Evaluation of the Financial Consumer Rights Council (FCRC) – Dignity and Debt: Financial Difficulty and Getting Older Initiative Report, Centre for Applied Social Research (CASR), RMIT University, Melbourne

Research assistant on disability workforce report ‘making it work’ – Laragy C, Ramcharan P, Fisher K, McCraw K, Williams R (2016) MAKING IT WORK A workforce guide for disability service providers: A Practical Design Fund project funded by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, RMIT University Melbourne, Australia.



Establishing core competencies for change in aged care services at Sumner House

Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) received funding from the Department of Health and Ageing and wish to engage RMIT to conduct research in accordance with the TRACS Funding Agreement.

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Auditing the Victorian Charter: Australian and international perspective on applied human rights

This ARC Linkage project will investigate one or more aspects of areas which are specific to disability and human rights

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Best practice guide for Disability Support Providers employing support workers within NDIS

The disability sector is experiencing a shortage of support workers and the deficit will worsen with the NDIS

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Evaluation of the Dignity and Debt Financial Difficulty and Getting Older initiative

An increasing proportion of the Older Person population are requiring specific supports to manage financial literacy

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First person disability narratives of human rights

This project uses secondary analysis of 96 narratives from people with disability based upon human rights frameworks specific to disability.

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Strengthening evidence base for using prizes, challenges and competitions

Prizes, challenges and competitions are becoming increasingly popular among government and philanthropic organisations as a way of promoting innovation

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Social care and support opportunities for RMIT

The aim of the study is to propose strategies for RMIT University in terms of teaching and research to position us as leaders in this new arena of social care and support.

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Precariousness in Law and Labour Markets: The Case of Temporary Migrant Workers

This project aims to analyse the implications of temporary migrant work in contemporary Australia.

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Making a Difference for Children and Families

The Department of Human Services has partnered with RMIT to undertake a three year participatory, action-research project in Bridgewater, Tasmania.

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Knowledge Sector Initiative

The project aims to develop Indonesia’s knowledge sector, specifically the capacity to develop and use knowledge to inform policy development.

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Impact Evaluation Methods Lab

The Methods Lab aims to develop, test and institutionalise flexible, affordable approaches to impact evaluation (IE).

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Consultancy to develop and deliver webinars on impact evaluation to UNICEF

UNICEF Research methods used for evaluating the impact of interventions are important to UNICEF's work, but are sometimes met with limited understanding.

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Community accountability, empowerment and education outcomes in low and middle income countries

This systematic review summarised evidence about community accountability and empowerment interventions (CAEIs in low and middle-income countries).

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Accommodating DisabilityCare: Maximising Housing Choice in a Reformed Disability Sector

This project will analyse existing individualised disability service funding programs in Australia and internationally.

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Key People

Lead researchers

Associate Professor Paul Ramcharan

Associate Professor Paul Ramcharan

Senior Research Fellow

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Dr Christina David

Dr Christina David

Lecturer Social Work

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Professor Charlotte Williams

Professor Charlotte Williams

Deputy Dean, Social Work

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Associate Professor John Whyte

Associate Professor John Whyte

Deputy Dean of Policy Practice and Social Innovation, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies and the Deputy Dean of the Indigenous Studies Unit

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Dr Raelene West

Dr Raelene West

Research Assistant

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Carmel Laragy

Carmel Laragy

Senior Research Fellow

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Kaye Stevens

Kaye Stevens

Research Fellow

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Dr Susie Costello

Dr Susie Costello

Senior Lecturer

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Associate Professor Ronnie Egan

Associate Professor Ronnie Egan

Associate Professor, Social Work

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HDR student researchers

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News & Blog

Victoria invests in social service change

The Victorian Government is investing in the future of social services, with new funding to support a leading research and teaching institute at RMIT University.

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Understanding the NDIS: a history of disability welfare from ‘deserving poor’ to consumers in control

Society hasn't always seen people with disabilities as having the same rights at everyone else. So how did we get to the NDIS, which offers people with disabilities with choice and control?

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PhD partnership to explore community sector

Liz Hudson has been awarded the inaugural RMIT-VCOSS PhD scholarship, enabling her to examine the experiences of people with episodic disability under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

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New partnership to explore critical social issues in Victoria

A recently-launched partnership between RMIT University and VCOSS will focus on promoting research into the causes and impacts of poverty and disadvantage in Victoria.

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Home help

Guy Johnson was only 24 and fresh out of university when he walked into his first boarding house to scenes that would change him forever.

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A matter of choice

Aaron has hopes and dreams. He dreams of being a dancer. He hopes to save enough money to go to Africa and to get his bathroom renovated.

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