Welfare and criminal justice systems manifest different goals, cultures, values and working methods. In Australia, the welfare sector has a culture of empowerment and concern for victims' rights, within which social workers focus on social justice and social change. In contrast, the criminal justice sector (police) is patriarchal and para-military in structure, focusing on enforcing and maintaining community order and safety. These differences can create tension when social workers and police need to work as partners in response to violence against women, in particular violence against women from bikie gangs. This article addresses the issue of partnerships between social workers and police when working with abused bikie-gang women. It presents the findings of recent research into social work practice with such women in South Australia, in conjunction with a brief exploration of the international literature on social work and police cultures, and partnerships. It concludes that whilst there is a great need for genuine collaboration and partnership between social workers and police in the complex context of domestic violence with links to organised crime, the cultures and mandates of these different professions make this difficult.
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