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In Malaysia, professional social work was introduced by the British Colonial Administration as early as the 1930s but it was mainly focused on problems of migrant labourers from India and China. It was only after World War II, when social problems of displacement, juvenile delinquency and poverty became more prominent, that a Department of Social Welfare was formerly established in 1946. Social work services were introduced in terms of financial aid for the needy, probation programs for juvenile delinquents, protection homes for women and girls, and residential care for the disabled and the aged.

The first specialisation in social work began in the early 1950s with British expatriates posted to local government hospitals as ‘Almoners’ until local trained social workers replaced them following the end of British administration. A second specialisation was in probation work with juvenile delinquents, where welfare officers were sent overseas for special training.

The British Almoners had formed the first professional body for social workers, the Malayan Association of Almoners (MAA) in 1955. In the late 1960s it was re-named the Malaysian Association of Medical Social Workers (MAMSW) which successfully fought for a professional scheme of service within the civil service. In the early 1970s, medical social workers thought it was necessary to establish a national body to include their peers from social welfare, prisons and social work education programmes.The Malaysian Association of Social Workers (MASW) was thus formed on the 3rd of March 1973, and registered with the Registrar of Societies on the 28th March 1974 (ROS 1387 Selangor), while the MAMSW was dissolved on the 16th of May 1975.

MASW is registered as an affiliate member of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) since July 1974. A couple of our Past Presidents, P.C. Sushama and Anthony Tan, have been active on the international and Asia Pacific committees of IFSW. Currently we have a representative, Elsie Lee on the Asia Pacific Committee as Publications Secretary. MASW is also an Organisation Member of the Malaysian Professional Centre (BIM) since July 1975, and its current President, Teoh Ai Hua sits on the Board of Management. One of our Past Presidents, Anthony Tan co-founded the Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work in 1993 with David Jones of the BASW. We also have members actively involved with the Asia Pacific Association of Social Work Educators and the International Association of Schools of Social Work.

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