The Future of Youth Work in Australia? Telling its compelling story

Next week we will be launching a discussion paper, ‘Is the tide turning?’, which seeks to reimagine a youth work freed from the shackles of neoliberal dogma. Looking ahead we hope to organise a number of regional meetings to coincide with the National Youth Agency’s Youth Work Week, the theme of which is ‘Youth Services: youth work for today and tomorrow’.

Meanwhile, across the oceans in Australia, the Youth Affairs Council Victoria is staging a major conference, grappling with much the same questions and dilemmas.

Victoria conference

Front + Centre
The role and future of youth work 

18 – 20 October 2017
The Pullman Hotel, East Melbourne

The conference will explore themes around the changing nature of youth work, the complexities of our practice and how we tell the compelling story of youth work and its positive impacts.

Front + Centre will bring together youth workers from community, government and for-purpose agencies to shape the future of the youth sector.

We’ll explore the hot topics, tackle the big questions and discuss new research and good practice.

We’re talking three days jam-packed with inspiring presentations, thought-provoking conversations and hands-on workshops from some of the most renowned thinkers and doers in youth work.

A snapshot of key topics in our program:

Day 1 – Our Practice: today and beyond

The big picture — youth work now and in the future
Ending family violence and promoting respectful relationships
Youth justice is everybody’s business

Day 2 – Using data and telling stories

Studying young Australians’ lives to help shape the future
Telling powerful stories of youth work
Sparking change through collaborative arts

Day 3 – Inclusive engagement

Young people, gender and sexuality
Are you ready for the NDIS?
Meaningful youth engagement and participation

Each day will provide interactive workshops on a range of topics, across research, policy and advocacy, youth work 101 and practice masterclasses. You will learn from ground-breaking researchers, thought-leaders and practitioners; share ideas for navigating the ever-changing challenges and complexities of our practice; develop ways to articulate and communicate the value and impact of youth work and, build meaningful connections with passionate peers


I think you will find the packed conference programme full of resonance.


And, amidst its diversity of workshops, given our long-standing advocacy of Story-telling as a vital way of understanding our practice, you will find the following:

Telling powerful stories
Powerful stories help us articulate the value of youth work and make us better advocates. Storytelling skills help connect and engage us with young people, influence decision-makers and make sense of our own lives. Learn fundamental principles of storytelling and campaigning: how to tell stories of youth work that are authentic, compelling and impactful.

We’ll keep an eye out for a conference report.



Youth Work, Outcomes and Non-formal education in Australia

At a moment when we are being thrown into a critical, collective debate about the relationship between youth work as informal education and youth work as non-formal education, never mind the continued emphasis on outcomes and impact, it’s interesting to note this forthcoming conference in Australia.


Image credit: Sketchnoting style graphic Siiri Taimla (Joonmeedia)

The Conference “Youth Work and non-formal education: evidencing outcomes for young people” celebrates 20 years of Youth Work at Victoria University, 19/20 July

We have partnered with the Youth Workers Association to hold a two-day conference for the youth work sector and our graduates.

The conference will focus on the concepts of learning and non-formal education within the context of youth work and evidencing the outcomes of youth work.

It is targeted at:

  • youth work professionals
  • people responsible for the development of youth policies in state and local governments
  • not for profit youth work agencies
  • youth work education providers.

Conference objectives

As a conference participant, you will:

  • be introduced to Youthpass – (external link)the Europe-wide validation strategy for non-formal learning within Youth Work – into the Youth Work practice in Victoria
  • gain a better understanding non-formal learning and its application to Youth Work practice
  • understand how to better evidence the impact of Youth Work, particularly in an environment of rate capping and scarce resources
  • have an opportunity to network with other youth workers
  • learn about new and innovative programs.

One of the keynote speakers is

Paul Kloosterman (Netherlands/Italy)

Paul Kloosterman is a trainer, consultant and author on youth work and non-formal education.

Paul has been instrumental in the development of Youthpass concept since its launch in 2007. He has co-authored numerous books on Youthpass and non-formal learning within the context of youth work. In 2012-2013 he co-authored theYouthpass Impact Study(external link).

Total* 474,295 36,515 17,125

Youthpass is a part of the European Commission’s strategy to foster the recognition of non-formal learning. It is available for projects funded by Erasmus+: Youth in Action (2014-2020) and Youth in Action (2007-2013) programmes. As a tool to document and recognise learning outcomes, it puts policy into practice and practice into policy:

  • While creating their Youthpass Certificate together with a support person, the participants of the projects have the possibility to describe what they have done in their project and which competences they have acquired. Thus, Youthpass supports the reflection upon the personal non-formal learning process and outcomes.
  • Being a Europe-wide validation instrument for non-formal learning in the youth field, Youthpass contributes to strengthening the social recognition of youth work.
  • Describing the added value of the project, Youthpass supports active European citizenshipof young people and of youth workers.
  • Youthpass also aims at supporting the employability of young people and of youth workers by documenting the acquisition of key competences on a certificate.


At times I’m an ignorant soul so I’ve missed completely the significance of the European Youthpass programme and as usual I’m a touch cautious about what sort of individual-focused practice it leads to. Leave that aside it would be very enlightening to hear from youth workers in the UK, who have utilised the programme.


Radicalisation Awareness in Australia : Greens dubbed terrorists again!

At the beginning of September we posted re the dodgy consequences of the UK PREVENT agenda in Are you a youth worker, who’s a Green and anti-capitalist? Beware of PREVENT! Indeed there have been a flurry of articles this last week as the government makes Preventing Violent Extremism [to give PREVENT its full title] a statutory duty for schools: along with prisons, local authorities and NHS trusts. These bodies are now under a legal obligation to “have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. According to the government’s guidance, the day-to-day responsibilities of teachers and even nursery staff now include being able to spot children who might be vulnerable to radicalisation, and dealing with them – if necessary, by referring them to the government’s anti-radicalisation programme, Channel. And we presume youth workers are under similar manners.

You worry they could take your kids’: is the Prevent strategy demonising Muslim schoolchildren?

School questioned Muslim pupil about Isis after discussion on eco-activism

Student accused of being a terrorist for reading book on terrorism

Not to be outdone the Australian federal government has produced a Radicalisation Awareness Kit in the form of a 32-page booklet, launched by.the Orwellian-titled ‘Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Terrorism’, Michael Keenan. Predictably, as is the case in the UK, the Minister argues the main targets of the booklet are young people at risk of being radicalised by Islamist groups such as Islamic State. Islamophobia continues to be stirred. And yet the single case study under the heading ‘Violent Extremism’ is a young woman, Karen. And what’s this dangerous individual been up to? ‘ Well, whisper it softly, Karen becomes involved in the “alternative music scene, student politics and left-wing environmental activism” when she leaves home. Thankfully though, for the anxious anti-terrorist Minister, Karen comes to her senses and returns to conformist orthodoxy and her loving family. Follow her story below.


Understandably green activists and educators are up in arms about linking environmental concern and alternative music to violent terrorism.

Jonathan La Nauze from the Australian Conservation Foundation said the booklet was misleading and potentially dangerous.

“This is very disappointing,” 

“It sounds like something that’s been dreamt up in the cigar room of the Institute of Public Affairs. There’s no resemblance to the way that people in Australia feel about their environment and the need to stand up to protect it.

“To link standing up for the places that we love, standing up for the future of our children, to violence and extremism and terrorism, does nothing to combat a real threat to the safety of people or to respect the very peaceful and very meaningful protests that people engage in from all walks of life to ensure that we have a safe future in this country.”

Although, for the time being, it’s probably best to give up going to the local folk club on a Sunday. All those bloody songs about resistance and rebellion are bound to attract the attention of the thought police. And just to be on the safe side, I’m going to hide all my old Sex Pistols records.

Joking aside [ and I’m not sure I’m jesting?] this continued effort to monitor and judge the content of conversations between young people and whomever has serious implications for a young person-centred, process-led youth work. How on earth can a trusting, critical dialogue be created if a young person thinks the worker is duty-bound to grass him or her up at the first sound of a controversial opinion? And what happens to the very notion of radical youth work praxis? Methinks we should be making a much greater fuss about this authoritarian, prejudiced propaganda both Up Above and Down Under.

Ta to Maureen Rodgers of Yes….Another Youth Work Network for the link

And Over in Australia Youth Week and Youth Engagement Cuts

Thanks to our friends at Youth Affairs Network Queensland for this news, which resonates across the oceans.

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National Youth Week and Youth Engagement cuts

What has happened to National Youth Week?

As part of the Federal Budget 2015, the Australian Government has cut the amount it spends on ‘youth engagement’. This means there will be no more federal National Youth Week activities:
the National Youth Awards have been cancelled;
the National Youth Week organising committee will not meet;
the National Youth Week website, e-news and social media will be removed.

For the next two years, the Australian Government will give some money to states and territories to run their own local National Youth Week activities. But from 30 June 2017, the Australian Government has said there will be no money for any National Youth Week activities. Unless it gives future funding commitments, the Australian Government has essentially cancelled National Youth Week from this date.

What are other effects of these youth engagement cuts?

The Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies (ACYS) has been defunded and will be forced to close at the end of June 2015. For 30 years, ACYS has provided good practice information to youth workers. Losing ACYS will mean youth services and policy makers lose access to resources and knowledge, which means poorer outcomes for young people and their families.

How else will the Australian Government include and celebrate young people and youth workers?

It’s not clear. The Abbot Government has no Minister for Youth or a dedicated youth portfolio. It has already defunded the national youth peak body, the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC) and removed the Australian Youth Forum. So the Australian Government currently has no way of hearing or working with young people and the youth sector.

In May 2014, Senator Scott Ryan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education and Training, said the government was planning a “focused and targeted approach” to consult with young people. However, this hasn’t yet happened and the youth engagement cuts suggest it will never take place.

What can I do?

Contact your local Member or Senator. Ask them to put pressure on the Australian Government to re-invest in young Australians and those who support them. You can also contact Christopher Pyne, Minister for Education and Training, via Facebook or Twitter.

Australia’s national, state and territory youth peak bodies will continue to campaign about the government’s lack of engagement with young people and youth workers.

REFUGEE WEEK, JUNE 14 – 21 – Steve Skitmore Bikes the Border

News from our friends at Youth Affairs New Queensland [YANQ] of an initiative within the UK to draw attention to the inhumane and deeply ignorant policies across the globe, in this case Australia, towards refugees and migrants.

refugees Leicester

REFUGEE WEEK – visit the web site for more info on events

This year Refugee Week will be celebrated from Sunday, 14 June to Saturday 21 June, which includes World Refugee Day on 20 June.

Steve Skitmore (previous employee of YANQ) is currently visiting UK. While he is in the UK, he is going to be cycling the border of England and Wales from the 7th-10th July to raise awareness on Australia’s inhumane refugee detention policies. There’s a huge amount of activity on refugee issues in the UK, and getting international attention is a key part of putting pressure on the Abbott Government.

At the moment, Steve is busy contacting the Refugee Council of Britain, Refugee Action UK and other charities to see they can support the ride with publicity to their networks.

Please visit and like Steve’s Facebook page for this campaign:
Bike the Border – ride for refugee rights

In Steve’s words:

Why Bike the Border? Well, it’s a journey, along and across country borders. It shows solidarity with those doing this for their and their families’ lives, when we can just do it for fun. It shows how some people have the privilege to depart and arrive at will, for the luck of being born in the right place at the right time. It shows the surreal nature of stopping some (and especially those who are most in need) from crossing arbitrary lines, while others such as ourselves can cross them dozens of times a day.

Sidelined and scorned: young people are set up to be soft targets in Australia


We are pleased to link to this article, Sidelined and scorned: young people are set up to be soft targets, by Michael Emslie, Lecturer in Youth Work at the RMIT University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Surveying a range of policy proposals relating to poverty, unemployment and family violence he notes that young people are either ignored or treated as children. He concludes:

The treatment of young people can be understood as an example of what sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called symbolic violence. The omission of young people is an example of unequal age relations that are just taken for granted. Bourdieu suggests this is more insidious than the more obvious forms of prejudice……, because it normalises adults as those who get to say what can be said about and by young people and when. And those adults are oblivious to the pervasiveness of their dominance.

If we are serious about tackling the challenges facing many young people, such as poverty, unemployment and family violence, then we need to take a serious look at age-based prejudice. And this includes examining the understanding of and interventions in the lives of young people that such ageism engenders.

Michael would welcome response either here or on Facebook. Interesting that a few weeks ago Graeme Tiffany explored the notion of ‘childism’ in the post, Working with or doing to? Graeme Tiffany on childism, exploitation and youth work

A sense of deja vu – welfare reform in Australia, young people amongst its victims

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In the pre-election circus here in the UK Cameron pledges to slash benefits cap to £23,000 and remove housing benefits for under 21s within first week of a general election win. Meanwhile the Australian government seems to be inspired by Ian Duncan-Smith’s failed attempt to revolutionise welfare by means of ‘universal credit’. The commissioned McClure report places its faith in Information Technology. Perhaps no one has noticed that it is estimated that a full roll out of the scheme in the UK will take more than 1,500 years. The latest Audit Office update stated the net cost to government would be £138m  over 10 years. Meanwhile the usual victims of welfare rationalisation – the unemployed, the disabled and young people are ignored.

Our friends at Youth Affairs Network Queensland have issued the following statement of anger and concern

25th February 2015

New welfare model fails young Australians

State and national youth peak bodies have expressed their strong concern about the Final Report of the Reference Group on Welfare Reform to the Minister for Social Service (the McClure Report), released earlier today. The McClure report proposes a simplification of the income support system, including changes to the Youth Allowance payment.

Mr Siyavash Doostkhah, Director of Youth Affairs Network of Queensland (YANQ) slammed the report as shallow and divisive. “The McClure report considers all young people under 22 years to be engaged in some form of education or employment. This is based on a false assumption that the current education and training systems are working adequately and that we are not facing very high youth unemployment rates across Australia” he said.

“In recent times we have lost some great youth employment programs which the Federal Government must reinstate if it is to be taken seriously. For example the Youth Connections program helped around 30,000 young Australians back into study and training each year, and showed a much higher success rate than Work for the Dole” said the YANQ Director.

At present, young people under 22 years who are studying, doing an apprenticeship or looking for work may still be eligible for some Youth Allowance, depending on their parents’ income. Under the proposed model, unless a young person under 22 was deemed fully independent, any income support would go to their parents. The report proposes this ‘Age of Independence’ as 22 years, on the grounds that young people are living at home longer.

The youth peaks from across Australia reject this arbitrary “age of independence”. The peaks also call for recognition of the reasons why young people are living at home longer: because they can’t access the housing market or can’t find enough secure employment. “Young people are trapped into depending on their families because there aren’t enough jobs for them to earn in their own right,” said Australian Youth Affairs Coalition’s National Director, Leo Fieldgrass. “We also need to do more to address the severe shortage of affordable housing, which is holding many young adults back” said Mr Fieldgrass.

CONTACT: Siyavash Doostkhah, Director, Youth Affairs Network of Queensland
Phone: 0407 655 785