RMIT youth work program

Recently i had a conversation with some colleagues about the current situation at RMIT. The short version is that the youth wok program which has been a stand alone program at RMIT for over 10 years is currently being folded into the social work stream.

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.

What extra standing will i have if Youth Workers professionalise?

I was recently chating with a bunch of social workers about their professional association and it became clear to me that even after all the work that has gone into the AASW as a professional association their membership still have the professional standing of a monkey with an organ grinder.
Why do I think this you may ask??? Basically because anyone can call themselves a social worker and there is nothing that they can do about it. For all intents and purposes the AASW is a registration board for all those social workers who want to be members. there is no requirement of them to be members and no legislative power to make it a requirement.
The difference in a professional association such as the APS, the Victorian Institute of Teachers or the Nurses Board of Victoria is that they are legislated and mandated by the Government and as such are able to “register” and “qualify” their membership. You cannot call yourself a Psychologist, Teacher or Registered Nurse if you are not one, and you can be held accountable by the law if you do so without their authority. It also means that you can be removed from practice if you are deemed to have broken the rules of the association.
If Youth Workers are to reach the level of PROFESSIONALS we need to take our campaign to the next level. Social workers are starting to move this way through the provision of Medicare provider numbers to those in their membership who qualify, however even this needs to go a step further. Members must be required to register with the association to practice.
This is the same for Youth Work. At the present anyone can call themselves a Youth Worker. Some of my best mates and closest colleagues are unqualified Youth Workers, however if we are to become a body of professional workers then we need to be required to register.
The only way a person can be required to register before practice is if they are legislated to do so. You don’t often see people practicing as a doctor without registration for long before they are caught and arrested. The same should be said for Youth Workers and Social Workers.
We need to advocate for this intervention if we are ever to be taken seriously as a profession. What extra standing will I have if Youth Workers professionalise? Little if any, because at the moment the current form of association in Victoria will render us little more than a club.

Child Protection

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?

The debate rolls on.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. That there has not been a thorough sector consultaton, particularly in rural settings; and
  4. 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.

Australian Government releases Investing in Australia’s young people, a comprehensive listing of services available to Australian youth

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:

Beginning of a new era

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.