Over the past two days I have attended the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria (YACVIC) ConnectFor conference in Melbourne. During this time I was surrounded by many amazing youth workers who passed on knowledge and many researchers who called us to action. Most of all the young people, many of who had been in the child protection system, called us to CHANGE the sector for them.
Charles Leadbeater stated that we don’t need to give young people more education, but better and different education. He went on to say that we need more innovators… people who are bonkers and creative to change the system. He went on to state we need to stop doing things ‘to & for’ and start doing things ‘with & by’ young people in our practice. Finally he urged us to assume ambition & capability in young people.
Professor Mark Rose urged the Youth Workers to be AUDACIOUS if the face of overwhelming trends.he also urged us to not let political correctness get in the way of doing good work. finally he urged educators to provide high quality education as it is through education that people’s minds are opened to the future.
Dr Hilary Tierney discussed the state of the youth sector in Ireland with a focus on how it is working towards professionalisation. She spoke of how the Irish youth sector is legislated as a ‘Voluntary’ sector; meaning that young people volunteer to attend, adults volunteer to staff services and organisations are voluntarily managed and funded. The main gist of the presentation was that Ireland is struggling with all the same questions about professionalising that Australia and many other countries are. Amazing seminar!!!
After many years of work Mr Bill Scales AO presented the finding of the Vulnerable Youth Inquiry. He stated that a child born in Victoria has a 1 in 4 chance of being referred to Child Protection and that the economic cost of child abuse in Victoria is over $1.6 Billiion. He spoke of the need for an independent monitor for the vulnerable children in Victoria and how youth workers need to do their job WELL as it is critically important to the success of the sector.
Prof. Rob White spoke of the need for youth workers to be frontline warriors in times of change. He stated that the key attribute of a Youth Worker is their identity first and foremost as Youth Workers. He went on to say that the need for Youth Workers to be treated as whole people would reduce burnout with the need to continue professional development for longevity in the field.
It was today that the government announced that they were going to consult with the youth sector on the need to professionalise.
Finally, a group of young people asked us to BELIEVE in them. They asked us to be CONSISTENT and they asked us to be more EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT.
At Ultimate Youth Worker we believe that the sector is seeking a change. Youth Workers are seeking to be more than they have been and expecting their peers to be more than they had been taught in their courses. The winds of change are blowing, lets make the youth sector the most professional, emotionally intelligent and AUDACIOUS sector in Australia.
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Whilst this is still not completely sorted out (there is currently industrial support for the reestablishment of the course and the sector has also stated it worry about having the course dropped) i asked my colleagues what they thought.
My psychologist friend thought that this was not a complete loss. If anything having youth work come under the social work banner lends some credibility to the degree and the sector and even more so if the degree is folded into social work eg. a Bachelor of Social Work (Youth Work). Her argument was that by doing this youth work will gain some professional standing by standing with a current “semi-professional” body.
My social work friend stated that she thought it would De-value the social work program as they had fought for years to get as far up the professional ladder as they had gotten and now by virtue of attendance youth workers will now get that. she also stated that there are vast differences in their courses and youth work would need to do more case work and ethics subjects to truly be part of social work.
My youth work mates were mixed. One stated that by losing the strongest youth work program in Australia it sends a message to the educators and the sector that youth work is devalued. Also by losing some of the most qualified and well recognised staff the sector is taking a huge blow to gaining a body of knowledge that is substantiated. If this body of knowledge is left unsubstantiated the argument for professionalisation of the sector takes a monumental step backwards.
My other youth work mate suggested that as over 50% of youth workers are certificate IV qualified or less the hit to the sector will be minimal. As we have no Professional Association we are not losing “professional” standing. As there are only four degree level qualifications throughout Australia it is to small a collegiate to worry about and youth workers will do what we have always done and practice anyway.
Personally as a youth worker i am distressed to hear that the largest and most recognised youth work program in Australia could be disestablished so easily. To lose such a body of knowledge and resources is a huge blow to the sector… and to the push for professionalisation. As a stand alone industry Youth Work will take a long time to recover from such a hit. However, perhaps this is the beginning of something new. Perhaps we are looking at the beginning of the College of Youth Workers of the Australian Association of Social Workers. perhaps if we come under the banner of Social Work we can build a strength for the profession of Youth Work that we could not gain as a stand alone industry.
I do not know what the future holds for the Youth Work industry. I hope that we gain the recognition we deserve as experts in the field of human beings aged 12 – 25. i also know that which ever way the discussion at RMIT goes this is a hit to the core of youth work as a “profession” that will take years to get over.
Child Protection is a contentious issue in Australia and indeed around the world. late last year the debate around the effectiveness of the Victorian Child Protection System hit boiling point.
With child deaths being investigated, cases of known Paedophiles having access to children because of DHS procedural inadequacies and reports of child abuse rising many people wayed into the debate.
The Australian Association of Social Workers called for in a media release:
- A Government and Community Sector workforce strategy which includes accreditation of
staff. This will ensure high quality and committed staff work with vulnerable children and
their families in the public and community sector;
- An increased investment in those professionals working with children and their families,
including measures to increase the training and recruitment of high quality staff into child
protection services and industry plans to retain experienced professionals in the sector;
Along with many of my fellow Child Protection colleagues we believe that a well trained and invested in workforce would be a really great start. In Victoria around 200 position will be funded to “fiil the gaps” in the Child Protection system, however as these 200 come into the sector the statistics would say at least that number will leave.
What would it take to retain Child Protection staff for the long term? What does youth work training have to offer this collegiate?
I was speaking to a group of youth work educators this week when the question of professionalising came up. I was interested to hear their perspectives on the current situation in Victoria.
Some of the issues that were brought up included:
- Why diploma and certificate four students would not be able to have full membership when in the field their work is generally the same as that of degree qualified workers.
- How a committee looking at professionalising can have good governance and oversight if they only have a select few people invested in the development of an association.
- That there has not been a thorough sector consultaton, particularly in rural settings; and
- That many students at certificate four and diploma level feel they are being left out of the discussion
Is it best practice to not involve the entire sector in the development of a “Professional Assocciation?”.
Western Australia had many issues in the inception of its professional association that Victoria seems destined to repeat. The sad fact is that not everybody will be happy if a professional association of Victoran youth workers is set up. However, Victoria’s committee should take a page out of WA’s book and consult the sector more widely and network more strongly so as to have more support for an association.
New Zealand spent a much longer time consulting and trialing the ideas of professionalising. To date it is working well. Maybe a longer and more thorough consultation is required.
Visit www.redcross.org.au/aftertheemergency to see stories from teenagers who’ve been through emergencies, share your own story, find information about trauma recovery and get music and messages of support from Aussie artists like Lisa Mitchell and Bluejuice.
The Office for Youth has published Investing in Australia’s young people: A stocktake of Australian Government initiatives for young people. This 251-page report is a detailed listing of the ‘programs, services, payments and policies’ available to Australia’s 3.5 million young people aged 12–25.
Large- and small-sale programs ‘to support young Australians to maximise their educational opportunities and participate productively in the workforce’ are listed. They range from petrol-sniffing prevention programs in remote areas of Australia to the Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative to the Community Street Soccer program. Those who work with youth, young people themselves, policymakers and the wider community will find the report a useful resource.
The report is divided into three parts.
Part 1 contains an introduction and methodology.
Part 2 outlines the Australian Government’s role as it relates to young people. It contains a comprehensive description of each ministerial portfolio’s role in youth affairs.
Part 3 contains the listings of activities and services; it is divided into six headings: Expressing yourself, having fun and being active; Family, community and communication; Health, wellbeing and development; Pathways, work and money; Learning and skills development; and A productive and sustainable Australia.
The report can be viewed at the following link:
Youth work in Australia has changed a lot in the ten years I have been involved in it.
As a collegiate we are at a cross roads. Should we follow the path that our fellow workers from WA have taken and professionalise? Should our training become more specialist? Are THEY right when THEY say youth workers just drink coffee and play pool with young people but have no real use? It is tough being a youth worker today.
This blog will track the changes that are happening across Australia and keep youth workers up to date with news and event as they come.
I hope you join me on the Journey.