Doctor Michael Houlbrook

Doctor Michael Houlbrook

Social Work & Communities


Mick Houlbrook has worked at Western since 2000 – teaching in adult education and social sciences (community services). As a former director for the Centre for Community Welfare Training, Mick was involved in the development of a graduate degree delivered in work-based mode, which formed a substantial part of his imitial research at the university and led to his boook The Politics of Work-based Learning.

In previous employment Mick has worked in several trade unions as an educator/organiser as well as Community Legal Centres, Dept of Community Services (WA) and several schools in WA and the UK. He also has strong connections with the community sector through his previous work and activities as a political activist. He has also worked as a consultant to organisations including NSW Child Protection Council.

Mick describes his practice as informed by Critical Social Pedagogy – which is a form of learning centered in critical theory and social justice. He sees the aim of learning as a means of social transformation based on informed, participatory and democratic activity. Mick’s recent work and publications are focused on issues of recognition of high levels of experience for people who may not have formal qualifications and on accountability issues in the community sector.

In 2017 Mick developed an interest in Compassionate Pedagogy and the practice of kindess in higher educational settings.This has informed his most recent work on Compassionate Pedagogy as an act of resistance.

This information has been contributed by Doctor Houlbrook.


  • PhDSocComOrg University of Western Sydney
  • MEd University of Technology, Sydney
  • GCertEd University of Technology, Sydney
  • PGDipEd University of London
  • BSc University of London

Organisational Unit (School / Division)

  • Social Work & Communities


Phone: (02) 9772 6348
Location: 3.7.10

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Previous Teaching Areas

  • 101632 Community Work & Development, 2019
  • 102392 Leadership in Organisations, 2019



  • Houlbrook, M. (2009), 'The Politics of Work-Based Learning: Experiences from the Australian Community Sector', : Lambert Academic Publishing 9783838301297.

Chapters in Books

  • Houlbrook, M. (2022), 'Neoliberalism and suffering in higher education : compassionate pedagogy as an act of resistance', Social Suffering in the Neoliberal Age: State Power, Logics and Resistance, Routledge 9780367675554.
  • Houlbrook, M. (2019), 'An imaginarium for socially just ideas : making sense of visual (and other non-textual) practice : a reflection', Visual Communication for Social Work Practice: Power, Culture, Analysis, Routledge 9780815374534.

Journal Articles

  • Hall, N. and Houlbrook, M. (2019), 'Idiosyncratic social determinants of wellbeing for middle-aged men who play over-35s soccer', International Journal of Sport and Society, vol 11, no 1 , pp 43 - 58.
  • Bridges, D., Drake, G., North, R., Houlbrook, M. and Mears, J. (2015), 'The "write" conditions : how to overcome writing for publication barriers through academic development', Advances in Social Work and Welfare Education, vol 17, no 2 , pp 23 - 38.
  • Houlbrook, M. (2012), 'RPL practice and student disposition : insights from the lifeworld', Journal of Education and Work, vol 25, no 5 , pp 555 - 570.
  • Houlbrook, M. (2011), 'Critical perspectives on results-based accountability: practice tensions in small community-based organisations.', Third Sector Review, vol 17, no 2 , pp 45 - 68.
  • Wagner, R., Childs, M. and Houlbrook, M. (2001), 'Work-Based learning as critical social pedagogy', Australian Journal of Adult Learning, vol 41, no 3 , pp 314 - 333.

Conference Papers

  • Drake, G., North, R., O'Sullivan, M. and Houlbrook, M. (2020), 'Becoming and being a field educator : social workers's experiences of providing social work placements', Australian and New Zealand Social Work and Welfare Education and Research. Symposium, Online.
  • Houlbrook, M. (2019), 'Neoliberalism and higher education : compassionate pedagogy as an act of resistance', Social Suffering in the Neoliberal Age: Classificatory Logic and Systems of Governance, Western Sydney University, Parramatta, N.S.W..
  • Houlbrook, M. (2007), 'The 'Hard Shoulder' Of Highway 61: Uneven Pathways In Work-Based Knowledge Production', The Times They Are a Changing: Researching transitions inlifelong learning., Stirling, Scotland.
  • Houlbrook, M. and Wagner, R. (2005), 'Reshaping the lifeworld - work-based learning and the dialectics of lifelong learning in a community sector example', What a Difference a Pedagogy makes; Proceedings of the Centre for Research into Lifelong Learning. International Conference, .
  • Houlbrook, M. and Wagner, R. (2004), 'Learning contracts as dangerous pratice', Doing Thinking Activity Learning: 12th International Conference on Post-compulsory Education and Training, Surfers Paradise, QLD.
  • Houlbrook, M. and Wagner, R. (2004), 'Learning Contracts as Dangerous Practice', Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Post-Compulsory Education and Training, Gold Coast.
  • Houlbrook, M. (2003), 'Work-based learning as counter hegemonic practice? Examples from community sector', Creating Spaces: Interdesciplinary Writings in the Social Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra.

Compassionate pedagogy, Sport and wellbeing, Access in Higher Education, Accountability in community organisations, Work-based learning, Critical pedagogy.

This information has been contributed by Doctor Houlbrook.

Previous Projects

Title: Developing Critical Practice in Results Based Accountability
  • University of Western Sydney
  • Western Sydney Community Forum
  • Community Resource Network (CRN) Inc
  • Family Worker Training and Development Programme Incorporated
Western Researchers: Michael Houlbrook and Michael Darcy
Years: 2009-01-13 - 2011-04-30
ID: P00016464
Title: UWS WSCF SONG - Identifying, evaluating and recording the importance of process in small community organisations
  • University of Western Sydney
  • Western Sydney Community Forum
Western Researchers: Michael Houlbrook and Rosemary Leonard
Years: 2009-11-23 - 2012-10-06
ID: P00017593


Doctor Houlbrook is available to be a principal supervisor for doctoral projects

Current Supervision

Thesis Title: Breaking the Limits: Deconstructing the Experience of Physical 'Disability' from the Perspective of Young Adults
Field of Research:

Previous Supervision

Thesis Title: The Influence of Evaluation on Human Service Practitioner Learning: An Analysis of Two Case Studies of Practitioners' Experiences of Evaluation
Field of Research: Social Work; Welfare Studies
Thesis Title: Taking Control: A Case Study of the National Aboriginal and Islander Health Organisation (NAIHO)
Field of Research: Community Health
Thesis Title: A human rights and social justice perspective of disability and participation in higher education.
Field of Research: Social Work

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