Local government youth work: Placation or proliferation?

In my illustrious career I had the privilege of being a coordinator of a small local government youth service for the lengthy duration of seven months. As I was transitioning to this role I was warned by a number of colleagues that this would be a difficult role for me to hold due to my own philosophical and professional beliefs in youth work. I wish I had have listened to my advisers then. Whilst I made some amazing friends and worked wit some extremely dedicated staff the constriction on youth service provision made the role untenable.
I have spoken to a number of my youth work colleagues who have worked for councils and have had a mixed response to my feelings. Many of my colleagues stated that council youth work provided them with the best possible framework for strengthening young people and providing opportunities for growth and development. That advocacy and participation are held as core duties and that programs work fills a gap in service provision.
I have also spoken to a number of youth workers who see council youth work as no more than placating residents and disenfranchised young people. They see the idea of program work and generalist work as proliferating disenfranchisement in young people. That at best council youth services provide a way of keeping young people off the streets and at worst provide an oppressive program keeping young people out of public life.

From my own experience I would say that the later is probably a bit far fetched, however many councillors and senior managers in local government have little understanding of the importance of young people in their municipalities. Local government youth workers need to be less constrained than they are at the moment so that they can provide locally focused responses to local issues. Youth workers in local government are often reminded that their client isn’t their community it is their councillors. This does place a clear line in the sand that youth workers must grapple with… especially when our profession believes that young people are our primary client.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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