Easter Sustenance for the Senses 2 – Community Education, Mental Health, Military Schools, Queensland and Civil Society


As ever a stimulating array of pieces from our friends at CONCEPT.


Vol 9 No 1 (2018): Spring




This article poses more than a few questions with regard to youth work’s growing infatuation with a skewed and individualised notion of mental health, well-being and indeed happiness – see the reference to NCS.


Jennie Bristow argues that government plans for ‘Mental Health First Aid’ risk pathologising ordinary childhood while doing little for those with more serious difficulties.

For a brief moment, I thought this was an April Fools’ story.

Government to consider plans for ‘military schools’

The government is considering the introduction of a ‘military ethos’ in schools across the UK to help children from deprived backgrounds. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has commissioned MP Robert Goodwill to review the benefits of an education inspired by the ‘values and disciplines’ of the Armed Forces.

Across the oceans, our friends at Youth Affairs Network Queensland [YANQ] have published the findings of a 2017 Youth Sector survey. The following brief excerpt is likely to ring a bell or two.

                  Sivayash Doostkhah, YANQ

Findings of Queensland Youth Sector Survey 2017

Survey responses repeatedly identified that services are under-funded and under-resourced
to meet the level of service demand (both in terms of intensity of service provision and numerical demand). Funding agreements are overly prescriptive and restrictive, dictating short-term, output-focused service delivery models. As such, services are hamstrung from achieving their full potential to be innovative and respond effectively to the real needs of young people within the context of their individual circumstances.

The combination of funding criteria and competition-based tendering were seen as creating a sector culture that encourages ‘siloed’ service delivery. Organisations become inward focused and are increasingly operating independently of other services. Service delivery becomes focused on narrow, specified outcomes at the expense of addressing the inter-related needs affecting young people’s long-term outcomes. Funding criteria also effectively preference funding to large NGO’s at the expense of experienced, specialist local agencies that typically have a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of local community and youth needs.

Respondents also described the constant change imposed by the lack of funding security inherent in short-term contracts and defunding of programs. This impacts support relationships with young people and inhibits services’ capacity to offer ongoing support over time for young people with multiple complex needs. It also
fosters a sector culture plagued with uncertainty that makes it difficult for organisations to undertake long term agency-level planning and offer job security to staff.

Staying in Australia a searching article, Whatever happened to civil society by Vern Hughes echoes the findings of the NCIA Inquiry into the Future of the Voluntary Services. to which IDYW contributed.

In the last 40 years the architecture of voluntary citizen action has been transformed. Why aren’t we fighting back?

He begins:

At the annual meetings of the World Economic Forum in Davos, ‘civil society’ is referenced in virtually every presentation and fireside conversation. The world, it seems, no longer consists of two sectors—public and private, state and market—there is a third: NGOs and INGOs, charities and philanthropists, human rights watchdogs, aid and development agencies and global environmental campaigns to name but a few. The ‘Third Sector’ has arrived, and Its CEOs now mingle seamlessly with those from banks, energy companies, media giants and government agencies.

The problem with this embrace of ‘civil society’ is that it bears little resemblance to what civil society actually is or means. Most of civil society is not constituted formally or headed up by a CEO. Just 40 years ago, very few not-for-profits or charities had CEOs at all: that term was associated with the corporate sector, and few community groups or charities had even contemplated mimicking the language and culture of such a different sphere. But in just four decades all this has changed, and it has changed at an extraordinarily rapid rate, with very little public discussion or scrutiny of the enormity of the organizational transformation involved and its social and political impact.

He suggests in a provocation to many of us:

The principal factor, however, in driving both the transformation of the social sector and the relatively low level of critical public debate about it has been the global rise of the managerial class and its capture of much of the not-for-profit world. In the wake of the 1960s/1970s social movements, governments invested heavily in a plethora of welfare state programs and services, and universities churned out an army of social science practitioners with an insatiable demand for things to manage.

Not-for-profits and charities were easy pickings, so voluntary associations of all kinds were transformed into instruments of service delivery, ‘community representation’ and ‘therapeutic welfare’ in the public interest. Traditional bodies such as the Red Cross, the YMCA, church missions and voluntary health societies fell like dominos to ‘management capture’ and quickly became unrecognisable to those who knew them a generation before.




Campaigning against the torture of young people in the Australian justice system


In recent days Australia has been shocked by growing evidence of the abuse of  Indigenous children and young people at the Don Dale juvenile detention centre in the Northern Territory.

The treatment of Indigenous children in a Northern Territory youth prison could amount to torture under international criminal law, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, has said.

Mendez said any public officials who covered up the treatment of children at Darwin’s Don Dale youth detention centre could also be guilty of torture as defined in the convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, which includes acts done “with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity”.

Speaking on the ABC’s Radio National on Thursday, Mendez said the acts shown in footage broadcast by Four Corners, which included children being thrown, stripped, assaulted, teargassed, held in solitary confinement, and hooded and tied to a “mechanical restraint” chair, “can amount to torture or to very cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment under any circumstance”.

Our friends at Youth Affairs Network Queensland have widened the debate to draw attention to the continued incarceration of young people in adult prisons and urged support for an emergency rally in Brisbane this coming Saturday.

Siyavash Doostkhah, Director of YANQ, comments,

The shocking 4Corners story is not limited to the Northern Territory, here in Queensland the authorities have been brutalising young people for a long time. YANQ has been campaigning to stop this violence against young people in Youth Detention Centres as well as Prisons. We have released information and demanded a halt to the use of excessive force, physical and chemical restraints. In response to our advocacy the government first banned us from entering prisons and then cut YANQ’s entire funding. It looks like both LNP and Labor would like to pretend these issues do not exist in Queensland by trying to gag the voice of the only youth peak body in the state.

In sending a heartfelt message of support we are very conscious that the abuse of young people within detention centres and prisons is an issue in this country too.

Scandal of G4S-run Medway youth jail

SIv prisons

brisbane rally

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.

Ta to yeskimberley.com

Ta to yeskimberley.com

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.

Articulating Youth Work : Youth Narratives Research in Queensland


2014 Youth Narratives Research Report

I was privileged to meet the students, Kate Willis, Alexandra Rose, Anya Rudolphy and the Youth Narratives facilitator, Howard Buckley, when I contributed to last year’s Youth Affairs Network Queensland’s 2014 conference in Brisbane. Thus I am delighted to link to the final research report, which makes for fascinating reading, not least in terms of the Collective Narrative Practice methodology used. I wonder if any of our Higher Education institutions might follow this path in encouraging social science students from outside of youth work, to explore our practice as part of Research Methods? The resonance with our own Story-Telling initiative is striking.


This report investigates the experiences of young people in their contact with community youth services across the Sunshine Coast region in Queensland. The central aim of the project is to determine what difference youth work makes in the lives of young people. Collective Narrative Practice (CNP), a qualitative technique of data collection, was selected as the most appropriate way to engage with this form of social inquiry, as it is participatory and collaborative and known for its appropriateness to obtain insightful and engaging narratives. The data is in the form of 15 youth narratives and 7 youth worker narratives, forming a collection of diverse experiences and voices about youth work and outcomes. Discussing elements of successful practice and the benefits of working according to integrity guidelines, the report ultimately concludes that in encouraging self-worth and providing support, youth work helps vulnerable young people overcome numerous challenges such as completing education, dealing with family conflict, becoming independent and finding employment. The significance of this research is in evidencing the unique value of youth work and highlighting the critical importance of youth workers in supporting, respecting and assisting marginalised young Australians.


This project seeks to reveal the difference that community youth work makes in the lives of vulnerable youth by allowing the voices of young people to come to the fore. In order to do this successfully the Youth Narratives Project depended on a methodology that fulfilled several criteria. Firstly, we desired an approach which avoided an exclusive focus on an individual’s experience and instead situated data in a common social and political context. Secondly, we needed an approach to data collection that did not hide the diversity of experiences and finally, being youth ourselves, we wanted to conduct research according to values of advocacy and empowerment.

Collective Narrative Practice (CNP), a qualitative methodology that recognises the value of individual’s narratives as meaningful data, was chosen as the most appropriate method to guide the social inquiry.

CNP is located within an interpretivist paradigm which understands reality as socially constructed rather than objectively determined. It follows that narrative analysis understands people as active social agents, and seeks to uncover their interpretation of a particular incident and the meanings they have attached to it. This kind of analysis connects narratives to a broader context by creating a body of collective. As Willis points out, “the objective of a narrative approach is to reveal how individuals’ actions and interpretation coexist with broader social structures and patterns” (Willis, 2013, p. 328).

Read the report in full – YOUTH NARRATIVES RESEARCH

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

ta to guardian.au

ta to guardian.au

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
Email: director@yanq.org.au

Beyond Outcomes Based Funding and Results Based Accountability – Thoughts from Queensland



The following paper by Liz Archer has been written as part of the preparations for the Youth Affairs Network of Queensland [YANQ] State Youth Affairs conference, August 21/22, to which our campaign has been invited. It’s well worth a read, giving a sharp insight into how the assault on a process-led practice with young people is global as well as national.

It opens:

Are you starting to get as fed up with Performance Indicators, Outcomes based funding and concepts like results-based accountability (RBA) in Queensland as I – and pretty much everyone I speak my mind to – am here in the NT?  Every service agreement I can think of across youth, health and community services is now expressed in ‘outcomes’ – the number of “clients” we visit, meals we provide, hours our service is open, jobs we assist job-seekers to find and so on with performance indicators, events and milestones adding more layers of restriction to what young people are able to access from our program or service.  And in this new millennia where the youth (and allied) sector has become an “industry” increasingly driven by governmental, contractual and at times organisational pressures to “Professionalise,” we have now entered the era of “results based accountability,” (RBA) imported from the For Profit sector and pioneered by the likes of Friedman.

I’ve been an avid part of and defender of the community driven youth sector and its allies since the mid-80s and I’m now truly alarmed by the increasing spread of government influence upon our ideologies, our practices, our agendas and dispirited by a convergence of attacks on these impacting at many different levels.  In the 80s and 90s the youth and women’s services sectors in particular were forces to be reckoned with, nationally.  We had a plethora of peaks (so many that there were even territorial disputes on occasions!), a robust, diverse and dynamic community sector and a view that encompassed much, much more than the provision of set services as being necessary to overcome the marginalisation and oppression which threatened young people, women or any other dispossessed group, for that matter.  Sure, there were many community based agencies and individual practitioners who were more conservative than yours truly but we debated and hotly contested one another’s views and encouraged one another to be able to justify our respective positions from coherent, internally consistent, evidence based positions and in the end we (largely) respected and valued the idea of a diverse, practical, no nonsense sector with the combined aim of improving the lot for those who most mattered – young people.  In fact, the strongest imperative back then was for all of us to place young people at the forefront of what we were trying to do and to stay true to their visions, their aspirations and above all to social justice however we saw it for our constituents.

It closes:

I have been thinking about this a lot and it troubles me, deeply.  It is my firm belief that with solidarity comes power.  There are things we can do individually, at an agency level and at a sector-wide level to stem the tide of attacks on young people and on our NGO sector.  I’m keen to discuss these more widely and am looking forward to hearing more from Tony Taylor, one of the instigators of the In Defence of Youth Work movement when we meet at YANQs State Youth Affairs Conference in Brisbane in August.

In the 80s one of our catch cries as feminists was turn fear into anger and turn anger into action.  Let’s converge at YANQs Conference in August 2014 and together let’s develop real strategies to address the increasingly entrenched, individualistic policies and strategies so often imported from the “for profit” or business sectors, such as RBA and Outcomes Based funding and which are undermining the very constituents they claim to be supporting.

Outcomes and RBA – Liz Archer