Youth work and politics

Politics is great

One of my favourite questions for youth work students is how much they love politics. It asks them if one wall is ‘I hate politics with a fiery passion’ and the opposite wall is ‘I love everything about politics’ where do you stand on the continuum? Most students herd themselves down the ‘I hate politics end’, I have even had a few leave the room completely. Every now and then a few likely souls brave the tides and step towards their love. They show their comrades that politics is not to be feared or despaired over but embraced fully.

politics and youth workThe fact of the matter is that all youth work is political. Whether you are supporting an individual young person through an education program or you are advocating for hundreds at a symposium, all youth work is from a political framework, in the political system and funded because of political ideals. As youth workers we must have a strong understanding of the political sphere and the process that helps bring the decisions to the fore. We need to know the players and their political bent. We need to understand how to influence these decision makers and help them hear the voice of our young people.

Our profession is motivated to provide a world that listens to and embraces young people as equal citizens. This is a very political statement. It puts a flag in the ground that we will not give up. Sometimes it puts us politically against those in power. Sometimes our vision aligns. Either way our employment and our future is intrinsically linked to politics. Whether your a liberal leaning lefty or a right as rain conservative if you are a youth worker your work is politically challenging. You are more like a lobbyist than you think.

Whats your take on political 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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Youth work and your family

Family comes first

Over the past few weeks I have been reflecting on the pressures youth workers face because of the job. We have high rates of psychological distress, we deal daily with vicarious trauma, our jobs are often at the mercy of government whim and to top it of we work long crazy hours. This takes a massive toll on us as youth workers, unfortunately it also has ripple effects around us.

youth work family lifeI have seen a number of memes lately that have really got on my nerves. Mainly because they hit the bullseye. As youth workers and indeed human services workers in general we can become so focussed on the people we serve that we forget about the ones we love. Our partners, spouses and children forget what we look like as we spend every night out at meetings, running centres and programs. Our kids in particular feel the burden.

I have met many young people over my career who had parents who were youth workers. most turned out pretty ok. A number of them however had fallen off the rails. This detour through trouble often came because they felt abandoned by their parent for other young people. Often hearing about how the more troubled kids need their parents attention at the moment.

As a youth worker I have not been immune to this either. Studying, working weird and wonderful hours and being out at nights and weekends has been a part of my life for well over a decade. The final semester of my Masters degree I was working 80+ hours a week and was lucky if I saw my wife and children on a week night or more than a couple of hours on the weekend. As a family we knew this was only going to be for a season, yet the strain was clear.

A few weeks ago my family grew by two. Beautiful identical twin girls. This has made me slow down and reevaluate. Some things have taken a hiatus, some have been cut fully. One thing has been a clear reminder to me in this time, My family is the most important people in my life. When it comes to balance my family wins every time. If we put others young people before the needs of our own children what message does that convey to them. I know there will be times where for the short term we have to put our work first, but if our own children continue to lose out then they will become the clients of other youth workers down the track.

It is a cycle I intend to break. Being a professional means having thing work at home and at work. Will you join me? Put family time first n your calendar. Your family comes first.a

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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Recruit great youth workers

7 tips for recruiting Ultimate Youth Workers

Recruit great youth workersRecruit great youth workersRecruiting Ultimate Youth Workers…

Recruiting is one of the most important jobs a youth service manager will ever have. Managers are responsible for two major tasks: results and retention. You can never get great results if you have mediocre people and you will never retain people if they don’t believe in what you are doing. So the answer is simple… recruiting the right people in the first place solves 90% of your issues.

First things First

You do not need someone so badly that you have to hire bad candidates. The absolute worst thing you could do is hire the wrong person because you feel the need to fill a spot. This will inevitably hurt your team and your ability to get the results you so desperately need to show. We all have stories of when the wrong person had a role and they tore a team apart. There is no time ever that you need to have a full complement of staff over recruiting the right person. No matter what anyone says you can take your time to get the best.


Tip 1 – Write a great position description: A great position description isn’t a fluffy document. Many HR departments have templates that have so much information and window dressing that you actually have no idea what you want a person to do, or even worse… you want them to do everything. Be clear and concise. The position description should include the duties you want the candidate to fulfill, the behaviours you want them to exhibit and the knowledge the must hold to do the role to which they are applying. If you feel like you are adding more than this it is simply window dressing. If you have the opportunity to have input into writing the position description make sure it is imperative that you make it fit your role perfectly.

Tip 2 – Initial cut down: You should ask for a resume, a cover letter and a response to your key selection criteria. Start with the cover letter. You are looking for an opportunity to weed out all those who wont fit your role. Many recruiter will spend less than 10 seconds scanning the cover letter. But, what should you look for??? Well here are a few ideas:

  • Is the document well formatted? Are there paragraphs? How are they justified (left or fully is the only way to go). Is it more than three or four paragraphs in length? Is it grammatically correct?
  • Are the candidates contact details on the document?
  • Has the candidate let you know where they heard about the role?
  • Have they addressed it to you or just used a ‘to whom it may concern’?

If a person makes it through the first round move on to their resume. Are the candidates contact details on the document? Do they have the qualifications and experience to fulfill the role? Is the document well formatted? Have they told you what they did in their roles or just put what they should have done from previous position descriptions? If they make it through these checks then you move on to the key selection criteria.

The key selection criteria should address your criteria within the position description. Have they answered your points with a clear PAR story. In a PAR story, they will describe:

  • Problem that existed
  • Actions they took to address the problem
  • Results they achieved solving the problem

If they make it this far they are OK. But, OK is not enough to fill your position. Its time for you to proceed to the next step.

Tip 3 – Phone screen interview: If you have other staff members on your team this is a good opportunity to get them to show some leadership, if not you can do it yourself. A phone screen interview is a short 30 minute interview that starts with the question ‘tell me about yourself?’ and ends with a behavioural interview question. You don’t tell the candidate your decision here (provide a good no letter if they didn’t make it). This is the most cost-effective and timely way of eliminating candidates who don’t stack up.

Recruiting to interview

Tip 4 – Interview those who are left: A day of interviews and testing and it’s what we use at Ultimate Youth Worker when we hire staff. But if your organisation can’t afford a day of interviewing then here are a few ideas for you:

  • Behavioural interviewing is a must. You need to see how a person will react to situations which will happen regularly in the role they are applying for.
  • If you aren’t getting your young people to help it’s not worth interviewing. The young people add a different dynamic that shows a lot about how the candidate works with young people.
  • An hour is not enough. Even the worst people can put on a good show for an hour. Try an hour of panel interviews, testing such as DISC profiling or a big 5 and finish with a half hour interview with the team. If you do this as a minimum you will be leaps ahead of your competition.

Tip 5 – It’s always better to have a bench: If you have a job opening and you already have a person who will fit the role you save yourself a lot of effort at the start. Most Government funding requirements expect transparent recruiting into roles, however if you have a person who will fit your role there is no rule that says you can’t get them to apply. Students who have done placements with you, former staff that you would have back in a heartbeat and casuals who are looking to expand their careers are all great people to have on your bench. If a role comes up that you think would fit a bench warmer then get them to apply. 

Tip 6 – References are not as useful as people think: If a person has put down a referee it is highly unlikely that person will have anything negative to say about your candidate. It is important to make sure they have all the credentials and qualifications they say they do. The best use of reference check is to qualify all the information the candidate has provided to you.

Tip 7 – If they aren’t excited they aren’t the right person: We don’t mean they have to be extroverts (we love introverts) but they do need to show enthusiasm. Enthusiasm for the organisation, the mission and the role. If the candidate doesn’t have a smile on their face and a spring in their step they are most likely the wrong person for your role. You should take excitement for the role over just about every other metric you use in hiring. Everything else you can teach or have it taught to the person who gets the job. Passion is something which can’t be given.


If you use these seven tips we guarantee you will get great candidates. These tips work for 90% of candidates 90% of the time. The rest comes down to your hard work and tenacity. If you want to take your organisation to the next level then you need to have the best staff. Recruiting Ultimate Youth Workers means setting the bar high and never settling except for the best.

 Once you’ve got the right person, don’t forget to keep them!

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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National Youth Week 2016

National Youth WeekNational Youth Week

Every year adults around the country set apart a week to celebrate the exciting time of life called youth! The arrogance of adults! That we would think young people deserve a week of focus and then pack it up for another year. That governments would put the measly scraps of funding towards running youth week is a telling symbol of their lack of care or respect for young people. The fact that the Federal Government still does not have a Minister for Youth is a clear indication of how inept government is at taking seriously the voice of young people.

The more adults try to placate young people the more we miss the amazing things they have to teach us. When we hear people say that “young people are becoming…” we need to remind them that young people are already fully human with all the rights that come with being so. What it felt like to not be listened too. What it felt like to be ignored except to be reprimanded. The older we get the more we forget our own youth.

[Tweet “The arrogance of age must submit to be taught by youth. Edmund Burke”]

As a society we pay young people less, simply because they are young.  We believe that young peoples opinions are lesser because they have less experience. We believe that one day young people will make great citizens, but not quite yet. As a society we must submit to be taught by our young people. They are not only the hope for the future, they are our hope now. If we continue with our arrogance of age the future looks bleak.

There has been some discussion in Australia over the last little while about lowering the voting age to 16. This would be a good start in showing young people how much we can learn from them. It would also go a lot further than a poorly funded week of placation.

What do you think? Leave us a comment below.

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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Returning to our social justice roots

Social JusticeReturning to our social justice roots is imperative

As a young man I attended a youth centre in the suburbs of Melbourne that changed my life. The staff there had a mission to see me become the best I could be. They invested in my life through camps, day trips, courses and counsel. They supported me in my down times and rejoiced in my highs. At the time I thought I was the only person they worked with like that. In hindsight I know that is how they worked with us all.

What made these staff so amazing was a belief in what they were doing and a values base which was the foundation of all their work. The motto of the organisation was ‘somewhere to belong’. The staff had a realisation that many people in society are excluded and as such they have a feeling that they do not belong to community. The staff provided a listening ear, a cup of coffee and support amongst much much more for those considered the least in society. This comes from a clear focus on social justice.

Social justiceAs youth workers we need to come back to our roots, social justice. Having a recognition that a hurting generation are being oppressed by systems that are designed to hold them back. A generation being harmed by individuals who claim to be looking out for their best interests. A generation with more potential than we can imagine being told to wait their turn by those who are lost in their own miseries.

It is our social justice roots which allow us to recognise the hurting. It is our social justice roots which call us to step into the gap between those who are hurting and the world. It is our social justice roots which cause us to rally against the systems and individuals who by their actions or inaction cause our young people isolation and harm.

If you call yourself a youth worker then your roots are firmly planted in the values of social justice. Remember this and draw near to it. Your work will grow from strength to strength as you draw near to the values of the profession. We need values oriented practice more than ever before. As governments world wide are pushing to destroy a social just society it is people like us who will remind them of the needs of our young people. It will be those of us with a social justice mindset that change the world.

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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Sociology

What do youth workers need to know about sociology?

Sociology for youth workers

SociologyAs youth workers we draw on many different frameworks to help us make sense of the world our young people live in. One of the most used frameworks in our kit bag is sociology. Through the sociological lens we can analyse social phenomena at different levels and from different perspectives. From concrete interpretations to sweeping generalisations of society and social behaviour, youth workers can study everything from specific events (the micro level of analysis of small social patterns) to the way groups work together (The meso level of analysis of groups and organisations) to the “big picture” (the macro level of analysis of large social patterns).

Below is a bite sized view of the top three perspectives in sociology which all youth workers should have an understanding of:

Symbolic interaction perspective

Max WeberThe symbolic interaction perspective, also called symbolic interactionism, is a major framework of sociological theory. This perspective relies on the symbolic meaning that people develop and rely upon in the process of social interaction. Although symbolic interactionism traces its origins to Max Weber’s assertion that individuals act according to their interpretation of the meaning of their world, the American philosopher George Herbert Mead introduced this perspective to American sociology in the 1920s.

Symbolic interaction theory analyses society by addressing the subjective meanings that people impose on objects, events, and behaviours. Subjective meanings are given primacy because it is believed that people behave based on what they believe and not just on what is objectively true. Thus, society is thought to be socially constructed through human interpretation. People interpret one another’s behaviour and it is these interpretations that form the social bond.

Critics of this theory claim that symbolic interactionism neglects the macro level of social interpretation—the “big picture.” In other words, symbolic interactionalists may miss the larger issues of society by focusing too closely on the “trees” rather than the “forest”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFQIIM8IRZU

Functionalist perspective

Emile DurkheimThe functionalist perspective can be traced back to Emile Durkheim and Talcott Parsons and has its roots in anthropology. This perspective focuses on social systems as a whole, how they operate, how they change, and the social consequences they produce.

Functionalism interprets each part of society in terms of how it contributes to the stability of the whole society. Society is more than the sum of its parts; rather, each part of society is functional for the stability of the whole society. The different parts are primarily the institutions of society, each of which is organized to fill different needs and each of which has particular consequences for the form and shape of society. The parts all depend on each other.

In trying to explain an aspect of a social system, functionalism asks several basic questions:

  • —How is this aspect related to other aspects of the system?
  • —What is its place in the overall operation of the social system?
  • —What kinds of consequences result from this?
  • —How do these consequences contribute or interfere with the operation of the cultural values and the realization of the cultural values on which the system is based?

Functionalism emphasizes the consensus and order that exist in society, focusing on social stability and shared public values. From this perspective, disorganisation in the system, such as deviant behaviour, leads to change because societal components must adjust to achieve stability. When one part of the system is not working or is dysfunctional, it affects all other parts and creates social problems, which leads to social change.

The functionalist perspective achieved its greatest popularity among American sociologists in the 1940s and 1950s. While European functionalists originally focused on explaining the inner workings of social order, American functionalists focused on discovering the functions of human behavior. Among these American functionalist sociologists is Robert K. Merton, who divided human functions into two types: manifest functions, which are intentional and obvious, and latent functions, which are unintentional and not obvious.

Functionalism has been critiqued by many sociologists for its neglect of the often negative implications of social order. Some critics, like Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci, claim that the perspective justifies the status quo, and the process of cultural hegemony which maintains it.

Functionalism does not encourage people to take an active role in changing their social environment, even when such change may benefit them. Instead, functionalism sees active social change as undesirable because the various parts of society will compensate in a seemingly natural way for any problems that may arise.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jOZqVnQmdY

Conflict Theory

Karl MarxConflict perspective is one of the major theoretical approaches to sociological thought. It originated with one of the fathers of sociology Karl Marx and his critique of capitalism and has since developed along a number of lines. In general, the conflict perspective assumes that social life is shaped by groups and individuals who struggle or compete with one another over various resources and rewards, resulting in particular distributions of power, wealth, and prestige in societies and social systems. These shape the patterns of everyday life as well as things such as racial, ethnic, and class inequality and relations among nations and regions of the world.

Conflict theory originated in the work of Karl Marx, who focused on the causes and consequences of class conflict between the bourgeoisie (the owners of the means of production and the capitalists) and the proletariat (the working class and the poor). Focusing on the economic, social, and political implications of the rise of capitalism in Europe, Marx theorized that this system, premised on the existence of a powerful minority class (the bourgeoisie) and an oppressed majority class (the proletariat), created class conflict because the interests of the two were at odds, and resources were unjustly distributed among them.

Within this system an unequal social order was maintained through ideological coercion which created consensus–and acceptance of the values, expectations, and conditions as determined by the bourgeoisie. Marx theorized that the work of producing consensus was done in the “superstructure” of society, which is composed of social institutions, political structures, and culture, and what it produced consensus for was the “base,” the economic relations of production.

Many social theorists have built on Marx’s conflict theory to bolster it, grow it, and refine it over the years. Explaining why Marx’s theory of revolution did not manifest in his lifetime, Italian scholar and activist Antonio Gramsci argued that the power of ideology was stronger than Marx had realized, and that more work needed to be done to overcome cultural hegemony, or rule through common sense.

Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, critical theorists who were part of The Frankfurt School, focused their work on how the rise of mass culture (mass produced art, music, and media) contributed to the maintenance of cultural hegemony. More recently, C. Wright Mills drew on conflict theory to describe the rise of a tiny “power elite” composed of military, economic, and political figures who have ruled America from the mid-twentieth century.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_c2p0Y7mgU

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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The sociological imagination and youth work

The sociological imaginationsociological imagination

As one of the main sociologists in history C. Wright Mills has contributed much to the study of humanity. Perhaps though nothing as important as the ‘sociological imagination’. The ability for people to see an issues from another’s point of view. Literally to imagine yourself in their shoes. The sociological imagination asks us to think about the world through the experience of individuals other than yourself. A core process that most people in society have never engaged in.

Currently governments around the world are spruiking the individualised perspective of society. That we are all responsible for our own destiny and the free market will even things out for us all. The big society supposedly looking out for the good of all. However the focus of these ideas is often either individual or societal focused. Rarely do we someone with an understanding of the individual and of society. This leads to things falling apart as we are seeing in the UK, Europe union and many other nations.

Enter youth work. We are trained to understand individual young people and the society they live in. We seek understanding of the societal issues which cause concern for our young people and we understand their individual concerns and wants. Youth workers have a great sociological imagination! For us it is beyond stupidity to focus on a person without looking at the context of their life. We look at the structures of inequality and the individuals strengths. We provide advocacy at a macro level and develop relationship with our young people at the micro level. Youth workers are awesome.

If you find your work focusing on one area more than the other I implore you to refocus your sociological imagination. If you are focusing too much on the individual begin to look at the societal. If you look at the societal side begin to look at individuals.

It is the only way we can understand fully.

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 work journey

future youth sector

Is this the future youth sector?

There is a lot of talk in the youth sector which is splitting the camps into those wanting to go back to an age where we were well funded by government and able to do our own thing versus those wanting to collude with government and find a way to keep going while under austerity. At the risk of throwing the cat amongst the pigeons we think both groups have lost the plot. Infighting is neither helpful to our young people nor a way of developing the sector.

Over the years we have written extensively on the need for the youth sector to take it to the next level. The golden age is gone but we don’t have a clear framework for what is to come. So here are a few of our thoughts:

  1. We need to stop following the well beaten course towards professionalisation. There is a definite need for a more professional youth sector. But how we get there… that’s more open for debate. We need to have a distinctly youth work profession. One which involves young people as well as provides support for them.
  2. We need to  develop a path of education that students and the sector want to progress. Our framework for youth work education is 20 years old and desperately needs an update. Mental health, online work, family violence and reflective practice are areas we need more focus on as a start.
  3. We need more cooperation. We spend so much of our time in our own silos or scrambling over each other for the crumbs of government funding. We have some cooperation but it generally only comes until we might lose our funding or reputation. If we really want the sector to change we need to work together for industrial action, sector redevelopment and collegiate support.

We need to blaze a trail which fits our professional values. Because there is currently nothing that really fits. A good friend of ours used to say; any dead fish can float down stream, it takes a live one to swim against the current. At the moment it seems we are just floating. #towards2020

future youth sector

Leave a trail

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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Take a step on a new journey toward 2020

Journey towards 2020

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Lao Tzu

As we journey toward 2020 there has been a lot of discussion about youth work as a dying vocation. Our numbers are dropping, we have less graduates and government funding is being slashed like never before. Lets be honest. We’ve had it pretty good over the last decade or so. But those glory days are over. We’ve been on a journey that has gotten really bumpy. Some have stumbled, others have fallen away, many are sweating it out hoping for green pastures again. The smart youth workers are taking a rest. We are checking the map. Looking at our supply situation. Reassessing our journey towards 2020.

[Tweet “The smart youth workers are taking a rest. We are checking the map. Looking at our supply situation. Reassessing our journey #towards2020.”]

Perhaps, the journey we were on has finished. Perhaps, our focus needs tweaking. We have focussed on education in the beginning, we moved to recreation  in the 70’s, in the 90’s we moved towards local government hoping to find our home and now… it looks like our journey is coming to its end. When your journey looks like its coming to an end and your left out in the wilderness its time to make a brew and plan a new journey. This is what many are starting to do across the world.

What youth work will look like #towards2020 is still up for grabs. One thing is for sure we need to stop looking at the past is a vain hope that it will come back to us. We need a new pedagogy, a new praxis and a new… practice framework. As a profession we keep looking to other professions such as social work, psychology and nursing to guide our journey. But, they are all struggling too. We need to plan a new journey toward 2020.

What do you think the first step will look like?

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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The youth work question

What is the youth work question?

Over the last decade I have been asked to speak with hundreds of people who want to be youth workers. Sometimes in seminars or training courses, other times I get to do it one on one. The first question I always ask is “Why do you want to be a youth worker?” In my experience there is no other question which separates those with happy fluffy bunny and rainbow unicorn feelings from those who will truly become the next generation of youth workers. It is the youth work question. Here are a few of the answers I get that cause me concern:

  • “I just really love kids”.
  • “I have had a lot of trouble in my own life”
  • “I have coached kids and I think I can do this easily”
  • “Those kids just need someone to guide them”
  • “I can keep them on the straight and narrow”
  • “I’m a parent of teens, so I understand young people”

The youth work questionWhenever I hear one of these answers my skin literally crawls. Often broken and hurt people who look for closure to their inadequacies drift towards youth work. People who cannot answer the youth work question. It is something that youth work trainers see every intake. People who haven’t dealt with their own demons before wanting to work with young people. The other side to the coin is people who think anyone can do youth work. Its not that hard. I coach a team two hours a week. I have a teenager who I see for a few hours a day. Surely its not that hard to do youth work.

These people show a few main things that lead myself and others to point them away. First, a lack of personal insight. Second, a short sighted view of working with young people. Finally, a focus on themselves not on the young people they want to serve. If you truly want to be a youth worker it is a path of walking along side young people. It is not a time for your own issues to haunt you. It is about providing the support young people need to reach their goals.

If your answer to the youth work question is that you want to see young people supported by people who care and are well trained. If you want to see young people reach their potential. See a world where young people are seen and dealt with justly. Then you might have what it takes to be a youth worker.

Here are a few links to articles on becoming a youth worker.

YACVIC

YACWA

Youth Work WA

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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