Building the knowledge base, 1965.

In 1915,  Abraham Flexner M.D. made a speech to the National Conference of Charities and Corrections in Baltimore USA on the topic Is Social Work a Profession? He concluded that it was not.  In what has been described as an “infamous and inflammatory speech” (Tice, 1998, p.54), he advanced several arguments for this position one of which was that:

A profession must find a dignified and critical means of expressing itself in the form of a periodical which shall describe in careful terms whatever work is in progress; and it must from time to time register its more impressive performances in a literature of growing solidity and variety. (p.23)

Flexner (1915) also insisted that a profession needs to be knowledge based, that professionals must:

…resort to the laboratory and the seminar for constantly fresh supply of facts; and it is the steady stream of ideas, emanating from these sources, which keeps professions from degenerating into mere routine from losing their intellectual and responsible character. (p.6).

That the newly formed NZASW was intent on building the knowledge base of its members is clear from the early publication of the New Zealand Social Worker: News and Opinions in August 1965.  The pages of the journal gave considerable space to the topic of social work education and training.  As Nash (2007) highlights, “Its second issue contained an article encapsulating perennial themes.  Training (or the lack of it) is described as: ‘the most important problem the Association is confronted with.  It is also a unifying theme in the Association.’  (Wadsworth, W. (1965). Training for social work.New Zealand Social Worker, 1 (2) 45.).” 

NZSW News and Opinions, 1965.
NZSW News and Opinions, 1965.

The Education and Training Committee, one of the first standing committees to be set up by the NZASW, was formed in 1964 and became a key standing committee of the Association. The year 1965 was a busy one for the NZASW as they set about negotiating with the powerful State Services Commission to contribute to social work training in the form of the Templeton Course for Workers in Institutions.

Course for Workers in Institutions 1965
Course for Workers in Institutions, 1965.

Mary Nash (1998) informs us that:

The month long Templeton Hospital Course for Workers in Institutions, was held in Christchurch late in 1965. This joint effort by the three groups of interested parties involved planning meetings between the NZASW (the secretary, Merv Hancock and Colonel Abel) and Messrs. King, Waite and Austin from the SSC, during which the course outline was developed (secretary, report of visit to Wellington, NZASW archives, 17/2/65). A planning committee was formed in Christchurch, comprising a number of people who together, give an idea of the spread of interest and the range of residential institutions at that time. (p.123)

Course leaders of the Templeton Course for Workers in Institutions.
Course leaders of the Templeton Course for Workers in Institutions.

Nor was this the only effort by the NZASW, in May of that year the association convened an interdisciplinary seminar on The Basis for Family Therapy led by Dr Don Jackson of the world renowned Palo Alto Mental Research Institute.

Don Jackson

Nash (1998) comments that reactions to the seminar tell us something about the influence of the new association:

…in March 1965, the NZASW organised an interdisciplinary seminar on The Basis for Family Therapy led by Dr Don Jackson, Director of the Palo Alto Mental Research Institute, California. Members of the Association were invited from all over New Zealand. One member, based with the Marriage Guidance Council, Wellington, wrote to the Rev Archie Elliffe, then secretary of the Association to point out that there were some “rather irate” people in the State Services Commission who were “rather upset that they have not been informed to what is going on” (L. Webb to A. Eliffe, pers. comm. 12/3/65).

Theirs was not a petty concern, but one which affected the SSC in that NZASW members who were also public servants wishing to attend the seminar were contacting the Commission to ask if it would give them leave and funding to attend seminars and courses. It showed that the SSC expected to be involved in the organisation of training and education for social work and would very likely guard this area of responsibility. (p. 188)

You can download the programmes of the Course for Workers in Institutions and the Interdisciplinary Seminar by clicking the images above or the links below.


Flexner, A. (1915). Is social work a profession? Chicago: Hildmann. Retrieved from

Nash, M. (2007).The New Zealand Association of Social Workers: Origins and early years. Retrieved from

Nash, M. (1998). People, policies and practice: Social work education in Aotearoa/New Zealand from 1949 – 1995. PhD Thesis. Massey University, New Zealand, Palmerston North, New Zealand..

Tice, K. W. (1998). Tales of wayward girls and immoral women: Case records and the professionalization of social work. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.