What will youth work look like in 2013? The finale.

Its been a month and a half in the making but we are finally there. The finale of our series looking at the next twelve months or more in youth work. We have had blogger’s and professor’s of youth work from one end of the globe to the other. We heard from Shae and Stephen from youthworkinit.com, Sam Ross from teenagewhisperer.com, Professor Dana Fusco from CUNY and Professor Howard Sercombe from the University of Strathclyde. Each had their own perspectives on the current and future trends in youth work. Each brought a different perspective on what forces were pushing and pulling youth work. Each one had a particular pearl of wisdom for us. Today’s post is a wrap up of these posts with a focus on the similarities between them all. We will also give our view of the year ahead.

Wrap up

Our amazing guests spoke about a number of areas in which youth work will develop over the coming year. They spoke about youth worker education, technology, the economic situation and the need to be holistic in our practice.

Youth Worker Education

Dana Fusco spoke of the changes developing in youth work education world wide. In the US there has been a 900% increase over the past four years in youth development courses offered by higher education facilities. In the UK and Australia These courses are in decline. Dana laments the decline in youth work education, “In 2013, it is hard to predict where those who want to study youth work and youth studies in these countries will go. If they go into existing, related disciplines, e.g., social work, then youth work will too likely become case management; if they go into education, then youth work will become para-teaching“.

Howard Sercombe also laments the current education setting for youth worker’s. From developing a cozy little home for ourselves throughout the sixties and seventies to becoming a mainstream course in the nineties we sold our soul to the devil of higher education. Like all good corporate conglomerates the universities shafted us. Taking a subject area steeped in the tradition of practice wisdom and narrative and turning it into a McDonaldised cookie-cutter model of research-based best-practice. However true to our history we steered away from research which ultimately is leading to our higher education downfall. Conversely, Howard states, “For the first time, I can run a course for youth workers using a selection of books on youth work written by youth workers“.

Technology

In her response to the question Sam Ross states that she always thinks of the new technology on the horizon. Sam speaks of the massive uptake of mobile and smart phones by young people. She shows the statistics of American young people’s use of their phone and how much of their attention it takes…Are you on social networking sites? They are! Sam speaks of the need for youth workers to use this love of mobile technology to keep the attention of young people focused on what we want them focused on.

However Sam also implores us, “So while 2013 may be technologically more advanced and our ways of connecting and engaging may expand we shouldn’t forget that good youth work was the same in the past as it is today and will be tomorrow“. Its all about the relationship.

The economic situation

There is not a person alive today that can’t attest to the effects of the global financial crisis on the hip pocket. Everything seems to cost more today than it did yesterday. Even in countries like Australia which have had some reprieve from the tidal forces of the economic collapse the financial situation is difficult.  As Howard put it “Austerity measures have required significant cutbacks in local funding and this has carried through, often disproportionately, to youth work services“. But we are not the only ones feeling the pinch. Our young people are finding employment harder to gain, University fees have shot through the roof and the general cost of business has increased significantly.

For youth workers this means difficulties at every turn. Shae and Stephen state, “Over the last 25 years, the cost of university education in the US has more than tripled, which has resulted in 1 in 11 people defaulting on their student loan repayments within two years of making payments“. Many of our guests stated that this cost was prohibitive and that if you are one of those who are entering a university to study youth work then you are likely to pay through the nose and then struggle to pay it back.

If you rely on government funding or philanthropic support to run your organisation you may be short on funds for a while. Many governments are finding their budgets significantly in the red. Many philanthropic organisations have seen their investments dip over the past few years as well and are giving out less to allow for their continuation. Its not happening everywhere yet but as Howard said, “2013 may well be the year when the expected decimation actually happens“.

The need to be holistic in our practice.

Gone are the days where youth work happens in a silo. On any given day we are expected to hold a number of roles. Sam points out that our ability to build relationships with young people is core to our work and that this foundation is what we build on in our context. Shae and Stephen point out that young people do not live in silos but have lives with intersecting and overlapping parts. Work on one without the other areas being addressed is ineffective.

Dana states, “In the United States, youth work is not a unified or singular practice; rather, it has been described, and still is, a family of practices“. Its not just the states, its world wide.  We work from the same base but in different contexts. Our young people need us to have an understanding of more than how to run a good game. As copious as the needs of our young people are, the knowledge of a youth worker must equal… at least enough to refer to other professionals.

What will 2013 look like???

At Ultimate Youth Worker we have loved the guest posts over the last month and a half and have been pouring over them and a bunch of other research and have come to many of the same conclusions.  Technology is going to be more important this year than ever before. 12 months on from the death of Steve jobs saw the smart phone war at its highest. Exponential growth in mobile, web and personal technology has meant that the ability to communicate or gain information has never been more accessible. Youth workers need to become more tech savvy just to survive. New web applications, social media and even the ubiquitous email are more important than ever to our relationship building. As youth workers we believe there will be a shift to online training, both formal and informal. Blogs, webinars, podcasts, university course and professional development groups are all starting to toy with developing a solid presence on the web. With the hardware never more than arms length from most young people and youth workers we need to be there.

Youth work education will need to adapt. Aside from becoming more tech enabled we need to gain more breadth and more depth in our education. Young people are changing so fast that we need to keep up with the trends. We hang our shingle on our ability to develop relationships with young people. Good. But we need to develop this skill set. We are a relatively emergent human services field and as such need to develop our purpose, values and critical approach. This is depth. We also need to gain an understanding of where we fit in the multidisciplinary field that young people now frequent.  We need an understanding of who and what our colleagues in other field bring to the table. We need to understand their language, their approach and their skill sets. It is the only way we will be able to speak into their work and intervene for our young peoples best.

Money has never been more important and less relevant. The affect of the financial crisis is all around us and will continue to mess with us for years to come in ways we can’t even imagine yet. IT DOESN’T MATTER. The most effective tools in our toolkit are FREE or really cheap. Building relationships takes time. A facebook page can be accessed by free wi-fi at McDonald’s. A mobile phone plan is cheaper than ever. The tools to build relationships are time, energy and interest. Most youth workers have that in trumps. But that means we need to have them around. Youth workers need to feed their families too. With lay-offs happening throughout the sector worldwide there is fear of being cut. Like Howard says, its happened before. The cycle will return. Be the best you can be with what you’ve got and you will be one of the last to get chopped. 

Be more!!! Be holistic. What do you do when you have that relationship? We believe youth workers need to see young people as whole people in their context. We need a biopsychoscialspiritual focus. We need to understand the person, their context and their pathways out of their situation. We need to support our young people in every way we can. We also need to look after ourselves. As the stress builds and we are asked to become more and do more we need to have the reserves to keep going.

We also agree with Dana and Howard, Now is the time for an international presence developing the practice of youth work. We are seeing great international youth work research, texts, blogs, conferences etc coming to the fore. We need to build on this.

2013 holds possibilities and risks. We have  tried to play it safe for the last decade or more and have seen the rug being pulled out from under us. No more politically light weight youth work. We must band together and do it differently or we will see the death knell of what we hold dear… relationally based critical youth work.

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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What will youth work look like in 2013?

It is with great pleasure and a sad heart that we come to our final guest post in this series. We have heard from a number of truly inspirational and well qualified youth work professionals as to what they believe youth work will look like in 2013. Over the last three weeks we have had Shae and Stephen from youthworkinit.com, Professor Dana Fusco of CUNY and author of “Advancing Youth Work: current trends, critical questions” and fellow blogger and youth work professional Sam Ross the teenage whisperer. This week we have the distinct pleasure to hear from Professor Howard Sercombe of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.

Howard has researched extensively in the area of youth studies, including studies of the future of youth, young people and public space, and community development with young people. He is interested in how we think about young people, and is currently working with colleagues from neurophysiology and developmental psychology on the implications of the brain architecture research on our understanding of young people. Professor Sercombe has had a major role in the development of youth work as a profession. His scholarship around this area includes writing the Australian Code of Ethics for Youth Work which has been adopted or adapted in three Australian States and the Australian Capital Territory and is under consideration nationally. He also wrote the Code of Ethics for the profession in Scotland. He has lectured extensively across the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Zambia on professional ethics and professionalisation, and his book Youth Work Ethics (Sage, 2010) is a milestone in the field. He is currently developing approaches to research methodology that take seriously the ethical commitment to justice and development.

So Howard what’s your take on the future of youth work?

Realities, as always, are contradictory.  Mixed.  From the perspective of the UK,  things look grim. The fiscal crisis has hit the traditional funding sources of youth work hard.  For the last fifty years, local government has had a statutory responsibility to make provision for youth work, though local authorities have had a lot of latitude about how, and to some extent if, they carry this out.  Austerity measures have required significant cutbacks in local funding and this has carried through, often disproportionately, to youth work services.

But this picture is mixed.  Some authorities have actually increased funding to youth work, in recognition of the impact of the recession on young people.  Others have cut provision completely.  As a generalisation, however, cutbacks have been widespread and often deep.  In Scotland, where I live, cutbacks have been worrying but not catastrophic, at least not everywhere. 2013 may well be the year when the expected decimation actually happens. The real concern is that this fiscal crisis is not a temporary adjustment, and future cutbacks look like coming on top of the existing ones. Even when the recession is over, we face the fiscal time bomb of an ageing population. Some are proclaiming the death of youth work as we know it in the UK.

Some of us have been here before, however. Political economists in the 1970s talked about the contradiction between accumulation and legitimation: the need for the State to continue to guarantee profit and private accumulation, while reassuring the general population that the system was still working in their interests.  It is typical in the early phase of a fiscal crisis for the State to pull back from areas of expenditure it sees as optional, in order to support capital in its restructuring and rebalancing.  Youth work is politically lightweight, so we tend to fall into that category.  Then, two years in, the entirely predictable spectre of youth unemployment starts to raise its head.  That is followed by a crime wave, or a moral panic about one, and there is a panic reinvestment in youth work to deal with it.  I’m expecting the same pattern.  The London riots came too early in the process to have that effect, and was able to be dismissed by the political class in terms of a cultural moral deficit and individual criminality.  A repeat may not be as easily dismissed.

But all recessions are different, and this one different to most.  Most come on the back of an economic boom, leaving the State with at least some financial capacity to manage the recession.  The need to bail out the banks right at the beginning of the crisis meant that affected governments hit the recession already broke.  That means that the capacity of the State to reinvest is limited.  Youth work will continue to be done, but we might see a significant return to voluntary labour to get the hours in.  In fact we already are!

Youth work education is in a difficult place as well.  Youth work found a place in professional education in the universities from the 1960s, with real growth in the 80s and 90s.  In the last decade, however, the situation has shifted.  The focus on research has diminished the respect for practice wisdom in professional education, and youth work (along with other professional areas like teaching) has not kept up with the research agenda. Corporatisation in the university sector has meant more aggressive pursuit of objectives that promote the university as a corporation rather than the objectives of public service: and that means either high status or high earning activities.  Youth work is not a natural contender for either.  The poorly thought out introduction of fees in England has meant that training for low-earning professions like youth work are charged at the same rate as high earning professions like law, with a significant impact on demand.  The number of universities who have decided to close youth work courses is still a trickle rather than a flood, but some of those courses (including my own) were strategic and long-standing.

But that isn’t the whole story.

Beyond the question of funding and institutional support, there is a growing level of maturity in the youth work profession in the current environment, and a clearer assertion of identity.  Paradoxically, even while the funding base contracts, for example, the Scottish Government continues to insist that community learning and development, which embraces youth work, sits at the centre of its anti-poverty and inclusion strategies. The House of Commons Education Committee inquiry into youth services also provided a ringing endorsement of youth work, though noted the lack of a credible evidence base for its effectiveness.  The Irish and South African government has a very active division working on the professionalisation of youth work, government does too.  Several governments have established youth work in law, with more heading in that direction.

The consolidation of youth work practice through codes of ethics and other core constitutive documents has been progressing across the globe in the last decade. Professional organisations for youth workers are springing up everywhere.  Globalisation has meant an international community of youth workers, with more international conferences, policy conversations, research and collaboration.  There are more books published on youth work, by major commercial publishers, than ever before. Routledge has just commissioned a new series of books on youth work practice. Sage has taken over the locally-published Learning Matters series.  For the first time, I can run a course for youth workers using a selection of books on youth work written by youth workers. This is mirrored in journal and on-line publication as well.  Youth work is moving beyond the parochial, and is recognising its common core beyond local expressions of it.  It is becoming an international profession.

And there is a bigger picture.  The modern category of youth is an artefact of modernisation itself. At other times and in other places, young people were much more integrated intergenerationally, and had a clear role.  Modern industry required fewer workers, and more educated, literate and disciplined workers.  What happened was the quarantining of people by age into educational institutions, their isolation from the relations of production and from contact with adult social institutions and the subsequent emergence of a (now global) youth culture.  This creates a youth population which is significantly, but incompletely contained by the school and other educational institutions.  There are also key developmental processes around people becoming autonomous and self-directed which total institutions like the school are not good at facilitating.  Youth work exists in all modern societies, under whatever guise and however resourced, because it is socially necessary.  It emerged during the Industrial Revolution, and has a continuous presence ever since.

The industrialisation and modernisation process is spreading apace throughout the world: particularly in the new economic powerhouses: the  ‘BRICS’ countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa).  All of them have huge, underemployed youth populations, and are very aware of the political time bomb that involves.  In the next decade, all of them will need to make decisions about youth policy, and divert resources towards young people.  How youth work positions itself within that process remains to be seen.


Howard Sercombe

Professor Sercombe is an experienced youth work practitioner, trainer, consultant, analyst, media commentator and researcher in the youth studies area.  He has primary experience in street-level youth work with homeless and street-present young people as well as a developed academic profile with expertise ranging from social policy analysis to adolescent development to professional ethics.  He has worked in urban settings as well as remote outback towns, with Aboriginal and mainstream young people, and across a range of methodologies.

Notwithstanding his current position in the university, Howard sees himself as first and foremost a youth worker, as he has for the last thirty years. His current work is focuses on how youth workers can understand their role and their work, how conceptions of young people shape their practice, on the peculiar ethics of youth work as a profession, and how truth is created and translated between policy, research and practice.  He is also working on the implications of the adolescent brain research for our understanding of young people and the practice of youth work.  He rides a Yamaha 1200 VMax motorcycle with a sidecar, is married to broadcaster Helen Wolfenden, and has three sons.

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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Develop your own professional development plan.

Between the staff at Ultimate Youth Worker we have over fifty different jobs throughout the breadth of youth service provision. The differences in theoretical frameworks, policy imperatives and staffing heirarchies are phenomenal. However one thing was the same in every organisation and career path… Professional Development was bleak and at best ad-lib. Aside from a handful of bosses who would give occasional “advice” noone had a clear plan for professional development. This also leant itself to a lack of career planning and support.
Whether you are in your first two years of your career and looking to the long future ahead or in your last two years and looking to retirement it is helpful to have a plan. Generally, we recommend to organisations that they develop a 3 year focus as to really develop a strong team that can weather the storm of a great leader moving on. We also ask each individual and their management to develop a 3 year plan to address the needs of the organisation, the career objectives of the individual and the potential paths that they could take. This is a very simplistic view of what we do but basically we tell people and organisations that if they don’t plan they will live in perpetual crisis.
So what can we as individuals do if our organisation isn’t planning and supporting our careers?

Develop your own plan!

Where do you see yourself in 3 years??? Team leader? Manager? Still at ground level? A new service path perhaps? Are you wanting to move from resi work to drug and alcohol? From local government to a small NGO??? Whatever the end goal you need to know what it takes!!! Check out position description for the role. Ask a person currently in that role what they do. Gather your data so you know what the end goal really looks like. When you have done all of this then you are ready to complete our four step process to develop a plan for your future.
Next you need to draw up a four by five table. The four areas you need to add to the table are qualifications, skills, behaviours and abilities.

Qualifications

Skills

Behaviours

Abilities

1

2

3

4

5

In each of these 4 columns you add the knowledge you have gained from your data gathering activity.
Lets say you want to move up from an outreach youth worker to a team leader. How would you do it??? Lets use the table and go from there.

 

You probably need some qualifications.

Here in Australia that is usually a diploma in youth work (a 2 year qualification) as a minimum. You may also need some management training. Also in Australia the Diploma in Frontline Management has become the standard. You may be asked for more specific qualifictaions…Just add them to the list.

Qualifications

Skills

Behaviours

Abilities

1

Diploma of Youth Work 

2

 Diploma Frontline Management

3

4

5

    

What skills might you need?

You will more than likely be asked to have a solid understanding of the basics of youth work and if you are going into a specialist area eg Drug and Alcohol, a good understanding of that. You are moving into managing people so you will need an understanding of conflict resolution. Maybe you will even need to supervise your staff.
Qualifications
Skills
Behaviours
Abilities
1
Diploma of Youth Work
Solid youth work theory and Practice
2
Diploma Frontline Management
Specialist understanding
3
Conflict resolution
4
Supervision
5
   

What do you mean by behaviours?

If you havn’t already go check out ou DISC posts. Basically what are the behaviours that a person is required to exhibit in this role. If you are required to network with key stakeholders then you probably need some diplomacy. Perhaps you need to set clear objectives for your team in difficult circumstances. You will need to motivate and lead your team.
Qualifications
Skills
behaviours
Abilities
1
Diploma of Youth Work
Solid youth work theory and Practice
Diplomacy
2
Diploma Frontline Management
Specialist understanding
Leadership
3
Conflict resolution
Motivation
4
Supervision
5

Do I have the abilities I need?

Probably, otherwise you wouldn’t have thought you could do the job. Abilities are the practicalities of the job. Can you read a budget? Can you perform an assessment of a young person? Could you do an annual review. Can you run a team meeting? these may sound simple but many people who look to move up have never done them before.
Qualifications
Skills
behaviours
Abilities
1
Diploma of Youth Work
Solid youth work theory and Practice
Diplomacy
Read and develop a budget
2
Diploma Frontline Management
Specialist understanding
Leadership
Perform risk assessment of young person
3
Conflict resolution
Motivation
Perform staff appraisals
4
Supervision
Run a team meeting
5


If you can fill in all 4 columns then you will have twenty areas from which to benchmark yourself. You may already be ok in a number of these areas or you may have none. Once you have your list of twenty work out which ones you need and go and get them.

There you have it… a professional development plan you can do in an evening of brainstorming.

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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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What will youth work look like in 2013?

Today I am stoked to continue our series with a guest post from one of the worlds most well known youth work professors. In this series we have heard from Shae and Stephen Pepper from youthworkinit.com and will continue to hear from some of the leading minds in youth work from throughout the world culminating in early 2013.

Today’s Guest Post is written by one of New York’s finest, Professor Dana Fusco. In over 20 years as a lecturer in youth work she has shaped the argument for youth services in the United States encompassing areas such as reflective practice, after school services and youth work in interdisciplinary teams. Dana has a BA in Psychology from SUNY at New Paltz and a Phd in Educational Psychology from CUNY Graduate Center. She also runs the facebook group Advancing Youth Work: Current Trends, Critical Questions.

So Dana, what will youth work look like in 2013???

Dana Fusco, Professor, City University of New York, York College, United States

In the United States, youth work is not a unified or singular practice; rather, it has been described, and still is, a family of practices (Baizerman, 1996[1]). That family provides, in the most ideal circumstance, a plethora of diverse opportunities for young people. What we, as youthwork practitioners hope is that the set of diverse experiences known as ‘youth work’ will help young people to live rich, healthy, and fulfilling lives now and into the future. Our praxis is grounded or contextualized in the actual, not theoretical, lives of young people; is responsive to their lived experiences, their hopes, their aspirations and dreams; and proclaims a participatory and democratic approach that supports youth voice and agency as a part of community engagement.

In the places where youth work looks like this in 2012, I suspect it will continue to do so in 2013. That said, there are some trends on the horizon that potentially put the family of youth work practices in jeopardy. If we think of youth work as a stew, then each practice is an important ingredient towards a ‘tasty’ and healthful creation. In the U.S., our stew seems a bit ‘soupy’ these days, with ‘critical’ and emancipatory forms of youth work being those most often removed or replaced. This trend was precipitated by several sociopolitical and economic factors, with the most direct consequence being the pressure for out-of-school, nonformal environments to link up to, connect with, and supplement school. The goal for those who hope to formalize out-of-school environment is that there is a collective impact towards meeting NCLB (No Child Left Behind) targets (standardized test scores in reading and math).

The trend of youth work moving towards formalized education began with the development of a billion dollar federal reserve for afterschool programs under the Clinton administration, known as 21st Century Community Learning grants. These grants had two contradictory consequences. On the one hand, they put into the public eye, the importance of afterschool environments, many of which at that time were the youth-club-in-community-center variety, and legitimized these spaces as critical for young people. On the flip side, those dollars came with “strings” to improve academic outcomes. Some community agencies with a strong history of local work with young people have maneuvered within the structure to work in participatory and emergent ways. Many have closed their doors. Those newer to the scene might be doing good educational and ‘youth development’ stuff after school, i.e., enrichment and project-based learning, but not youth work in the way we have known it.

This situation leaves us with two potential possibilities for the future of the field. First, we can name these afterschool practices as part of the family of youth work practice and accept them as such. Second, we can decide that this form of afterschool, which is geared towards ‘a priori’ academic outcomes, might be too predetermined and ritualistic to be considered youth work at all. If this is the case, we must not only define youth work by what it is not but by what it is – an emergent and relational form of workingwith young people that is community-based, participatory and responsive, or what I am now calling, critical youth work (CYW).

If we choose the second option it will be critical that we more clearly define the purpose and values of CYW. As I see it, CYW aims to co-create spaces with young people where they can lead and learn. In this formulation, youth work begins with young people’s concerns, interests, goals, and/or needs, and positions practitioners to construct a ‘use of self’ that creates a relational web of possibility. Then, in this conception of the future, it is the education of the youth worker that becomes increasingly pivotal.

In 2013, it is not only changes in youth work practice that we must attend to but also changes in youthworkeducation (YoEd) In the U.S. we have seen an explosion in YoEd within higher education, a 900% increase over the past four years with most of these framed as ‘youth development.’ Conversely, in the U.K. and Australia, longstanding youth work courses and degree programs have closed their doors including those found at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia, University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, and Manchester University. While the reasons for such closures have been couched in economic and enrollment terms, one wonders why Youth Work/Youth Studies then and not Latin or philosophy, which equally might enroll under five students each year. The lack of understanding among higher education administration about community-based youth work is partly to blame. The title itself, youth work, leans towards the vocational, not the liberal arts. In 2013, it is hard to predict where those who want to study youth work and youth studies in these countries will go. If they go into existing, related disciplines, e.g., social work, then youth work will too likely become case management; if they go into education, then youth work will become para-teaching. With such potential outcomes, an international community of youth workers and youth work educators is needed whether in the form of an association or something else in order to work towards saving/reclaiming and re-thinking the discipline of youth work. I believe today it is in our international community that we have collective power and bargaining to legitimize the work and the body of knowledge that we have co-created as a viable area of study and practice for working with young people.

In 2013, this would be something to aim for!

[1] Baizerman M. (1996). Youth work on the street. Community’s moral compact with its young people. Childhood, 3, 157-165.

Professor Dana Fusco

For more than 20 years, Dana Fusco’s research has focused on youth work as a practice and a profession and has led to increased national and international recognition. Recently she was the keynote speaker at the History of Youth Work conference in Minnesota and presented at the International Conference on Youth Work and Youth Studies in Glasgow. She serves on a national panel of leaders in youth work, the Next Generation Coalition, has authored dozens of peer-reviewed articles and produced the documentary, “When School Is Not Enough.” Professor in Teacher Education at York College, CUNY, She received her Ph.D. in Education Psychology from the CUNY Graduate Center.

Dana is The Editor of the path-breaking book Advancing Youth Work: Current Trends, Critical Questions, which brings together an international list of contributors to collectively articulate a vision for the field of youth work. This book is a must have and is one we would recommend you all get. We did. You can buy it here.

 

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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Deep engagement in youth work

All too often in youth work we are forced to commit ourselves to shallow engagements with young people. Whether because of funding, policy or staffing constraints we are required to put aside relationship building to satisfy paperwork for bureaucrats. More and more young people are crying out for real support from youth workers, and more and more the squeeze of the bureaucrat tears our loyalty and professionalism in two. How can young people trust us when we can’t offer them the basis of trust…time?
 
In my mid twenties I was seconded to a small rural drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre as their Assistant Manager. I was excited. However that excitement barely lasted my first week. I was tasked with transforming the service into a dual diagnosis rehabilitation facility by our government benefactors within very stringent time lines and policy environments. One of my constraints was that a maximum stay with our service was eight weeks with many young people leaving before the sixth week. The government saw this as young people having an inability to stick at rehabilitation. I saw young people who did not trust the staff and could not develop lasting relationships in six weeks being oppressed by a system set up to help them.
 
 
I advocated for a change to our constrained time frames and was blocked. We showed client feedback and were countered by vagueties and innuendo. We even provided cost benefit analysis to the minister showing the need. Nothing. The idea of engaging with young people beyond a surface level was one which we just could not get the bureaucracy to understand. This led me to become as Schwartz and Sharpe (2011) a canny outlaw, Trading conventional wisdom for practical wisdom. I found every opportunity to keep a young person on for a second stay. I developed links to supported accommodation and provided staff to outreach to the young people. My rationale was that if we were to really effect change in our young peoples lives then we had to gain their trust and that required a deeper engagement than six weeks could provide. It was during this time that I began to develop my understanding of the need for deep engagement as a pillar of successful youth work practice.
 
Young people are seeking genuine care from youth workers. Care built on developed trust. To build this trust we must share life with our young people and this can only happen by spending time with them. I have worked in many corners of the youth sector, government departments, residential care, family services, homelessness and ministry; the same issue exists in every one of them. Policy constraints, lack of funding and a lack of trust from our young people. If we wish to turn the tide of societal disintegration we have to step into the gap. Our identity as youth workers places us in that gap. We believe that young people should have every opportunity to develop and the best way for that is to engage as deeply with them as possible. Sharing in their struggles, triumphs and developing a trust that can only come from a shared path.
 
 
 
We are accountable to many stakeholders as youth workers. In this role we must hold our accountability to our young people as our highest duty. To provide the best practice possible to our young people we must engage deeply and build trust. But how do we do it I hear you say? It is no easy feat. We will have to move counter culturally to the norm of current youth work practice. We must spend more time with our young people in meaningful activities rather than one hour appointments.
 
Deep engagement is difficult in our current service system however, it is the only way to build the foundation to work with young people to change their trajectory. Deep engagement is the benchmark for youth services provided by the team at Ultimate Youth Worker. It is also the central concept in all of our teaching, supervision and coaching around client engagement. We believe this so intensely that we routinely pass up work that is not geared towards enhancing engagement with young people. This is our number one imperative when working with young people. If you are not willing or able to engage deeply with young people do not engage at all! 
 
In coming months we will discuss how to engage deeply with young people, however it may require you to shirk the ‘rules’ imposed on you. Are you willing to become a ‘canny outlaw’ to support young people more effectively?
 

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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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Observe the C in DISC for youth worker’s

Over the last five weeks we have looked into the best tool we know of to help people build relationships with people the DISC behavioural profile. So far we have looked at three of the quadrents DOMINANCE, INFLUENCE and STEADINESS. This week in our ‘Thursday Think Tank’ we continue with the final quadrant in the profile and an overview of the CONSCIENTIOUSNESS behavioural style. People with this style are usually reserved and task focused.
 
 
Mr and Mrs facts and figures. People with high CONSCIENTIOUSNESS in the group are the epitome of dot your I’s and cross your T’s. They are slow to speak but when they do it is meticulous and ordered. They focus on task and process. They respect people who are precise and accurate. They often have a sterile work space. They are time conscious but not restrained by it. They are hard to read when it comes to body language and above all else want to be right! If these guys were a slogan they would be HTC: quietly briliant.
 
A person with a high level of CONSCIENTIOUSNESS in their profile is a rule follower. If there isn’t a rule they want one created. These people are usually polite and diplomatic. They will often communicate in writing over face-to-face. They do not focus on big picture but get down in the weeds, the detail. No abstracts or opinions here, They only discuss the facts. A high C can often get stuck in the old ways of doing things and systems of old and would rarely act without a precedent.

A high level of CONSCIENTIOUSNESS can lead to giving in to avoid conflict. They can be slow to act and do not see the forrest for the trees. They see the problems and can be critical of others. To make a decision these guys need every piece of information and every avenue of thought to be addressed… even then if there is any risk they may not act. They are thorough and persistent. They are matter-of-fact which can come accross as abrasive.

 

Here are our top seven tips for working with people with CONSCIENTIOUSNESS behavioural traits:

  1. Give clear expectations and deadlines: If you want a decision tell them that. Be clear about the time frame too. Don’t extend your timeline be clear that a decision needs to be made and when you want it done by.
  2. Show dependability: Let them know that you depend on their work and that they can depend on you to support them.
  3. Show loyalty: Back them whereevr you can. These guys don’t like conflict so will not argue with you if you go against them, they will just withdraw. If you can, Show them you are on their side.
  4. Be tactful and reserved: Even if you are going to go with another idea be supportive of them. They are not party animals so tone it down and focus on their knowledge and expertise.
  5. Honour precedents: If something has worked in the past and they bring it to your attention try to run with their idea. If there is a rule in place, even if it is unwritten, be aware and open to following it.
  6. Be precise and focused: this is similar to number one, however is more about how to do it. Do not leave any ambiguity. Be clear consice and if necesary say it twice. Set SMART goals and require them to report on their actions. Send your request in an email… they’ll love it.
  7. Value high standards: These guys expect perfection and then attempt to deliver it. When they want to have it perfect but you have a short timeframe express your thanks for their standards but explain the need for brevity. Hold it in high regard. Praise them for their effort. Let them know you still expect the highest possible quality within the timeframe.

 

 Some well known high CONSCIENTIOUSNESS behaviour holders you may know and have seen.

 
 
Colin Powell



 

 

Mr. Spock



 

 
Bill Gates



 

 
Kevin Rudd



 

 

Fred Hollows



 

 
James May

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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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Observe the S in DISC for youth worker’s

Over the past few weeks we have been looking at the DISC behavioural profile and its use for youth worker’s in developing relationships and networks. So far we have discussed the EXTRAVERTS of the group and we continue on with the PEOPLE focused groups today. This week in our Thursday Think Tank we continue with the third quadrant in the profile and an overview of the STEADINESS behavioural style.
 
STEADINESS is the nurturer of the bunch. The motherly figure. The thrive on small talk. They are the first people to ask you how you are going. They prefer to ask rather than tell. They love to listen rather than talking. They are the slow steady deliverers. Those that have a STEADINESS profile are often reserved and speak with a lower volume. These people will use first names and speak with a warmth that is genuine. STEADINESS behaviours tend to prefer speaking one-on-one rather than to a group. They speak calmly and methodically and are often seen as the steady ship when all around is chaos because they proceed carefully. These people often have photo’s all over their desk, are embarassed when praised but are the first to celebrate others and seem to be everyones friend. On the negative side they are often resistant to change, have difficulty prioritising tasks and sticking to deadlines. They struggle with systems and struggle with presentations and believing that their part in the grand scheme really is worthwhile. If these guys were a slogan they would be Optus: We hear you.
 
.
 
A person with a high level of STEADINESS in their profile speak rarely. They want to check on how a decision will affect others and are slow to impliment tasks particularlly if there is not a precedent. These folk are all about the story…all 18 volumes of it. They want to be part of the team and let everyone have a say. The saying you have two ears and one mouth so listen more than you speak was written by a high S. When they do speak though it is at a hundred miles an hour…they have a lot of ground to cover and not much time to do it.
 
It is hard to get a rise out of a high S. They epitomise the ostrich sticking their head in the sand. They shy away from any conflict as it goes against everything they stand for…Status quo and friends for all. They will rarely fight back, but if they do it is usually over the notions of justice and fairness. When they do fight back it is usually a quick explosion of how unfair an idea is and that as a person you are unfair because of your decision. It is also over as quick as they can make it happen as they want to get back to the way things were. Remember they are people persons.
 
 
 

Here are our top five tips for working with people with STEADINESS behavioural traits:

  1. Be logical and systematic: These guys struggle with priorities and systems but they need to have a plan of action, otherwise they would spend all day around the watercooler or at a cafe chatting about your life. set clear boundaries and timelines for task completion.
  2. Provide a secure environment: They do not like change! Make their environment as predictable as you can. Do not ask them to change thier password, move desks, do a rush presentation or lead a project that needs a quick resolution. Make them feel safe.
  3. Tell them about change early: If there needs to be a change, pre-wire them early. Give them a heads up. Provide time for them to become comfortable with the idea of change. Walk them through it step by step and address their concerns.
  4. Show how they’re important: If they do something great. Minimise your appreciation in public and be as sincere as possible in private. They struggle to feel their work is important so explain how they have made a difference.
  5. Teach them shortcuts: If you let them run the show it will take two days to make a cup of coffee! The conversations will take up all their time. They want consensus and a clear picture of everything that needs to be done. The key thought here is do not make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Some well known high STEADINESS behaviour holders you may know and have seen.

 
Michelle Obama
 
Ghandi
 
Pope John Paul
 
Grant Hackett (Australian Swimmer)
 
Mother Teresa

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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Observe the I in DISC for youth worker’s

Last Thursday we began a looking at the individual quadrants within the DISC behavioural profiling system with “Observe the D in DISC for youth worker’s“. We are half way through our overview series and hope that you have been able torecognise some DOMINANCE behavioural styles in those around you. In this blog we continue the series with an overview of the INFLUENCE behavioural style.
One of the most exciting behavioural style to be around (and it is my secondary behavioural style) is that of INFLUENCE. The social butterfly or life of the party, people with thisbehavioural type often have large networks and seem to draw people to themselves. They are talkative, they over communicate, are born performers, are style setters, in teams they are the idea generators and they are very quick-witted. They are the most enthusiastic and active people you will ever meet and develop relationships quickly. They are fast starters and begin project with gusto. All of these positive adjectives are often linked to a person who is exhibiting a INFLUENCEbehavioural trait. On the other hand you have probably seen their negative behaviours as well. They work off intuition without reason. They can be highly emotional. They are sporadic and scattered. They start fast but rarely finish. They have too many projects on the go. If they were a slogan they would be Nokia: Connecting People.
 

 

A person with a high level of INFLUENCE in their behaviour speaks in a way that about 75% of us struggle to keep up with. They sell ideas with an inspiring style. They talk a lot at the 50,000 foot view but struggle to get down in the grass. They avoid bringing up difficult subjects but give good constructive feedback. They enjoy interaction and focus on the feelings of their subject intently. They get enthusiastically involved in discussions and often talk too much. They may not assess what is being said and can loseconcentration and get sidetracked easily. They speak in stories and anecdotes often from personal experience. They are prone to exaggeration and when excited they speak really fast and approachyou closely using lots of facial expression.
 
Most of us struggle to get a word in edgeways with a High I and we are confronted at the speed and tangential thinking present in their conversation… but we do enjoy their conversation. They do respect a smile, a pat on the back and seven conversations at once. So how do we work with these people when their excitement is off the charts and you are not really sure which conversation you are having with them?
 

 

Here are our top six tips for working with people with INFLUENCE behaviour traits:

  1. Approach them informally. These guys and girls hate feeling constrained. A meeting in an office with suits and ties and a policy document may just make them explode. A brief chat on the way to lunch or even a confab at their desk is the best way to get them on side. Do not start with facts and stats or a policy document it will make them throw a toddler tantrum.  
  2. Be relaxed and sociable. Even if you need to pull them into line be chilled out. These guys take their reputation seriously and if you are not sociable they will take it as a sign that you hate them.
  3. Let them tell you how they feel and how awesome they are. Yes the sun doth shine from their backside and you would do well to acknowledge this with a hearty nod of the head. They are the centre of attention and you are a tool for propping up their ego. Whilst they care about people it is hard to notice them through their haze of awesomeness.
  4. Keep the conversation light. Remember, they are up there in the clouds in the land of big dreams. It is a place where balloons pop very easily. You want to be a fluffy cloud and sharp grass. Details are the enemy. There is no pressure here. It should be like a trip to Tahiti.
  5. Provide written details to focus their attention. As those with INFLUENCE behaviours can be flighty and forgetful write things down and get them to take notes. It also helps when they begin to go on a tangent if their KPI’s are written down as you can steer them back on course.
  6. Use humour. Everything has a funny side… even paperwork!!! Try to lighten the mood by making a joke or finding a humourous take on the situation. If all else fails steal a Robin Williams skit. It will diffuse any tension and let them see you have a pulse.
Here are just a few people you might have seen on a TV that have INFLUENCE in their behavioural style.
 

Bill Clinton

 
Oprah Winfrey
 
Richard Branson
 
Dolly Parton
 
Robin Williams
 
Shane Warne (Cricketer)
 
Hamish Blake (Australian TV and Radio Personality)
 
Han Solo
 
Ellen DeGeneres

Leave us a comment below or post a comment on facebook and twitter.

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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Youth Justice: Restoration or Retribution?

We asked our followers recently what they would like us to talk about on the blog and one topic stood out as a major one to start on… Youth Justice. Over the years I have had a number of jobs either in or supporting the youth justice system in Australia. I must confess I struggled working in the sector. Not because the young people are difficult (in fact they were some of the most responsive young people I have ever worked with), but because of the community perception and the subsequent policy directives. The young people I worked with often lacked direction, struggled with education and were wary of anyone who showed concern for their welfare. The community saw liars, thieves and violent offenders who should be hauled over the coals.
 
It is hard to ignore the crimes that some of  these young people have committed, and you know what we shouldn’t!!! These young people have been detained because of what they have done and will pay for their crime. However there are a couple of ways that this can happen depending on your point of view. Is detention there for retribution or restoration??? The young people did the crime and they should do the time. We believe that JUSTICE requires it. However, the question we should ask is what happens to them between the first day behind bars and their last day to develop them so that they do not continue back through the revolving door?
 
In the adult prison system, here in Victoria, there is over 50% likelihood that an offender who is jailed will return to prison within two years of release. A child of a prisoner is SIX times more likely to become an offender than their peers. A young person who is incarcerated will rarely complete secondary education. WHY???  The best answer we can come up with is that the system is a system that is geared toward retribution. We individualise the dimensions of the crime and remove the ideas of social justice from the rights of an offender and then ask them to change. We strip them of their humanity and then ask them to be humane. Crazy!!!
 
In many youth justice systems and support agencies here in Australia there has been a push towards more restorative practices. This has been met by mixed responses from the community. Governments are still stuck in limbo between retribution and restoration. To provide a measure of punishment for their crime, but to also provide opportunities to develop skills for post-release. The rise in victim-offender mediation and group conferencing has been amazing and the opportunities through NGO’s such as Whitelion and Jesuit Social Services to name a couple, for young people to gain employment and social skills has definitely changed the landscape.
 
But what does it all mean for us as youth workers??? Many writers have said that a core tenet of youth work is social justice. I ask whether we are being social just to the young people we incarcerate??? Earlier this year I spent some time in Tasmania visiting Port Arthur (if you ever get the chance you simply have to go). Port Arthur was one of the original penal colonies when the British began transporting convicts to Australia. In particular I was fascinated by Point Puer the first ever boys prison in the British empire. The punishments were severe and boys as young as nine were incarcerated there, however they also taught the boys some skills. Some became so skilled they were employed straight from detention to the detriment of other qualified tradesmen who hadn’t been incarcerated. Can you imagine if our incarcerated young people were taught trades in the same way??? Being taught excellence in your handy work. Being so highly sought after that you could walk out of detention and straight into a well paying job???
 
 

(A sample of the young boys handy work… It could hold over 1000 people.)


As a youth worker it is our responsibility to advocate for our young people. The current system still lets our young people down. We still have those who believe in retribution in positions of power in the youth justice system and we still have young people following in their adult counterparts footsteps… Dancing through the revolving door. There will always be crime as long as people are on the earth. How we deal with the crime is what is in question.
 
We believe in RESTORATION here at Ultimate Youth Worker. This does not mean being soft on crime, on the contrary. It does mean providing every opportunity for the young person to make something of themselves. To throw off the social, economic and cultural ties that bind them. To make amends and for them to be given the opportunity to live as free men and women. We believe that the best way to deal with crime is to deal with the social issues which lead to crime. We believe that the best way to deal with offenders is to develop them as whole people! To do this we need to address all the failings of society which led to their incarceration… and restore them to their community. Reflect on this:

Youth workers are facilitators of restoration not social controllers.”

If you take on the challenge to provide a restorative environment for young offenders then you may find yourself having to become a canny outlaw. It is hard to fight for whats right in the face of the easy way of following the rules. Our young people need you to speak for them. They need your actions and support. They need you to be practically wise. They need restoration.



 

For more info on restorative justice see Howard Zehr below.

 
 

What are your thoughts???

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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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Behaviour not personality = Great youth work.

We have all heard the saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions“. No more have I seen this than in the human services. Hopefully we have all come into the sector with a passion to work with broken individuals. Sometimes however, this passion gets in the way of our reason and we take on more projects than we can deliver on. For me there have been many times where I have accepted a spot on a committee, group or panel with the best intentions of delivering amazing results for them. However, when push comes to shove and the work with my young people begins to suffer I have to step aside. Usually having caused a major issue for the group, panel or committee. I see this happen in my personal life too. Because I commit to being on a board or committee it takes time from my family and causes strain on my resources and relationships. Are my intentions noble and just??? Of course! But what about my behaviours???
 
In youth work we all to often reward our young people for setting a goal or agreeing to attend a meeting. We do it with our colleagues as well. How many times have you seen a youth worker take a hit for the team only to have to deal with the issue again at a later date. You know the situation… you are in a team meeting and the boss says that you need to report to a funding body on your progress. No one wants to do the data collection and a noble colleague says they will do it. Two weeks later the team is thrown into chaos because the worker did not get around to it because of some other more pressing concern. When that happens we never judge them on their intentions… She was so noble and she really wanted to get it done. We judge them on their behaviour… She left it to the last minute and now I have to do it anyway.
 

 

All too often we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour. Guess what they judge you on your behaviour. When issues then arise in the team we hear about the work pressures or family issues or hear those dreaded words… It’s just who they are. Many organisations bring in Psychologists to deal with issues of personality (If I have to do another Myers-Briggs I may kill someone!) as that is seen as the overarching issue. Lets be clear!!! It is not their personality that is the issue, it is their behaviour! Or more specifically their lack of behaviour.

What we recommend at Ultimate Youth Worker is that we move towards a behaviourist approach to dealing with people. Whether the young people we work with, our colleagues or others we may work with along the way we should develop a lens of behaviour through which to judge our interactions.  Don’t get us wrong, the Myers-Briggs and other personality profiles are a great tools. But for us to be effective in running groups, providing support to our young people or dealing with colleagues means understanding their behaviours and how to work with them to utilise their strengths.

Over the coming weeks we will begin to look at how to develop a behavioural lens to work from. A lens that will help you understand peoples strengths and weaknesses, how to speak to them in a way that will help you develop your relationship with them and ultimately strengthen your work with everyone you come across.


In the meantime… Stay Frosty.

What are your thoughts???

Leave us a comment below or post a comment on facebook and twitter.

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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