What is Youth Work?
In our previous cast “What is Youth Work – 002” we looked at the broadest overview of youth work. We spoke to the most broad understanding of the youth sector and the term youth work that is surrounding the sector. We also looked at the broadest definition of youth work that we use at Ultimate Youth Worker. If you are paid or volunteer in your capacity to provide support to young people as your primary concern you are doing youth work.
Recap of previous podcast “What is Youth Work – 002”
- The main reason for a definition = Professional status
- In Defence of Youth Work = Emancipatory and democratic youth work that is voluntary and starts with their concerns (link to open Letter)
- National Youth Agency = Non-formal education in various forms (link to NYA)
- RMIT = Youth work is about Justice and Human Rights (link to RMIT)
- YACWA = Youth work is about providing formal and informal support to give young people a voice in their community (link to YACWA)
- YACVIC = Working for and with young people, young people are your primary concern (link to YACVIC)
- European commission on youth = Opportunity for young people to shape their own future (link to EU Youth).
- Department of Children and Youth Affairs = Youth work is complimentary to formal education (link to DCYA)
- Judith Bessant = Engaging with young people as our primary constituency in their social context
- Infed = A history of youth works development (link to Infed)
Today we want to speak about the definition of youth work that is most accepted in Australia.
In Australia we have been debating the core work of youth workers for decades. The earliest clear definition of youth work as a distinct industry came through the Jasper Declaration 1977.
The most current definition used within Australia is from the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition 2013. After a consultation that brought together thoughts from all over Australia a whole day was devoted to defining youth work in Australia at the Australian Youth Affairs Conference 2013. The best part of 100 youth workers argued and debated for the day to craft a definition for our sector. After the conference there were a few more consultations and the definition was set.
A caveat to this – There are many in Australia who do not agree with the definition. Particularly many from the North believed that the professionalisation debate was overshadowing good youth work. That the Southern and eastern states had hijacked the definition for their own. Funnily enough it is those states which have Degree programs.
Thought to end on
Youth work in Australia is still a contested site. The question of qualification is still at the forefront of the debate. From volunteer to PhD there are many who call themselves youth workers whether qualified or not. Another contested area is whether people are paid or not. There are thousands of people who volunteer to work with young people across Australia without who the youth sector would be considerably understaffed. Until we clarify as a sector what we mean by the term “Youth Work” we will be at the mercy of other definitions. We need to clarify professional paid youth work from volunteer work and other forms of youth support. This clarification does not need to reduce the amazing contribution of people to the sector, but it does need to focus our attentions.
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