Written out of history: invisible women in intellectual disability social work

Bigby, Christine and Atkinson, Dorothy (2010). Written out of history: invisible women in intellectual disability social work. Australian Social Work, 63(1) pp. 4–17.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03124070903482949


The field of intellectual disability is an important field of social work practice in both Britain and Australia. Yet this is also a multidisciplinary field in which the role of social workers, particularly women, in contributing to the lives of people with intellectual disability and their families has largely gone unnoticed. Focusing on England and Victoria, Australia in particular, this paper uses oral history interviews with long-standing social workers and documentary evidence including government reports and newspaper coverage to explore the similarity in the roles of social workers in intellectual disability. It covers the period between the beginning of social work in this field, which in the case of Britain was 1929 and in Victoria 1952, until the end of the 1990s. Work with families is identified as being central in both countries, as well as mediating relationship between institutions and services, families, and the community, and service development and advocacy. The paper concludes by asking questions about the disappearance of identified social work positions in this field and how their previous roles are fulfilled.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions