Heather Boetto

Proposed Title

An ecologically centred approach in social work: Towards transformative change


In the context of an accelerating global environmental crisis that threatens life on Earth for humans and non-humans, there is an urgent imperative to reposition social work as an ecologically-responsible profession. This thesis aims to explore how an ecologically centred approach can transform social work, particularly in relation to education, professional practice and the developing conceptualisation of eco-social work. Using a critical research paradigm, qualitative research methodologies are used to examine eco-social work education strategies and potential practice frameworks. Key findings indicate the need for transformative change within social work involving a fundamental re-orientation away from human-centred perceptions, towards a worldview that reflects humans as interdependent with the natural world. A range of elements central to eco-social work, as well as concerns that impede the development of eco-social work are identified. Implications for social work centre upon the need to challenge fixed assumptions, articulate a holistic philosophical base and develop approaches in education and practice that challenge the prevailing dominant modernist discourse.

Why I chose Charles Sturt

I am employed as an academic and lecturer in social work and am permanent staff member of Charles Sturt. I know the staff well, and I was keen to work with my supervisors on my PhD.


  • Boetto, H., & Bowles, W. (2017). Eco-social transitions: Exploring the wisdom of our elders (pp. 190-205). In A. Matthies & K. Narhi (Eds.), Ecosocial transition of societies: Contribution of social work and social policy. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
  • Boetto, H. (2016). A transformative eco-social model: Challenging modernist assumptions in social work, British Journal of Social Work. Advance access published November 5, 2016. doi: 10.1093/bjsw/bcw149
  • Boetto, H. (2016). Developing ecological social work for micro level practice. In J. McKinnon & M. Alston (Eds.), Ecological social work: Towards sustainability (pp. 59-77). Houndmills, ENG: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Bowles, W., Boetto, H., Jones, P., & McKinnon, J. (2016). Is social work really greening? Exploring the place of sustainability and environment in social work codes of ethics. International Social Work. Published online 25 July 2016. DOI: 10.1177/0020872816651695
  • Boetto, H., Inch, J., Lloyd, S., & Barber, N. (2015). Exploring food security in social work field education: Analysis of a food relief program. Advances in social work and welfare education, 17(1), 52-67.
  • Boetto, H., & Bell, K. (2015). Environmental sustainability in social work curricula: A pilot study of online course content. International Social Work, 58(3), 448-462.

    Boetto, H., Moorhead, B., & Bell, K. (2014). Broadening the 'environment' in social work: Impacts of a study abroad program. Critical Social Work, 15 (1), Retrieved from http://www1.uwindsor.ca/criticalsocialwork/broadening_environment_SW
  • Boetto, H., McKinnon, J. (2013). Rural women and climate change: A gender inclusive social policy perspective. Australian Social Work, 66 (2), 234-247.
  • Boetto, H., & McKinnon, J. (2013). Gender and climate change in Australia: A review of differences. Critical Social Work. 14 (1), 15-18. Retrieved from http://www1.uwindsor.ca/criticalsocialwork/system/files/Boetto_McKinnon.pdf
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