If you’re interested in working to support and advocate for young people, then we say: good on you! While we aren’t able to offer youth work certification, placements or traineeships at YACVic, we are able to provide great advice for anyone looking to kickstart their career as a youth worker.
Hang on – what is 'youth work'?
Youth work is a career that involves working for and with young people in a variety of ways. The key thing that differentiates a youth worker from other community service workers is that young people are their primary focus. It’s about ensuring young people feel supported in developing the skills they need to make positive changes in their lives. Youth work is holistic, which means it takes into account the whole individual and their experience, including their health and wellbeing, and acknowledges the social and cultural environments within which young people live.
It’s challenging and rewarding work that is vital to healthy, happy young people and communities.
The definition of youth work
The nationally agreed-upon definition of youth work, by the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC):“Youth work is a practice that places young people and their interests first. Youth work is a relational practice, where the youth worker operates alongside the young person in their context. Youth work is an empowering practice that advocates for and facilitates a young person's independence, participation in society, connectedness and realisation of their rights.”
What does a youth worker do?
Youth workers are employed in a range of settings, from offices, schools, and residential care facilities to youth centres, health clinics and community centres. Some youth work is undertaken in a central location where young people are required to visit in order to access services. Youth workers also undertake outreach work, which involves engaging with young people in the places they like to occupy. In some roles, youth workers may be required to work outside of business hours.There are eight guiding principles that underpin youth work practice in Victoria:
- the empowerment of all young people
- young people’s participation
- social justice for young people
- the safety of young people
- respect for young people’s human dignity and worth
- young people’s connectedness to important people in their lives, such as family and community
- positive health and wellbeing outcomes for young people
- the positive transitions and healthy development of young people.
To work ethically with young people, youth workers in Victoria accept the following practice responsibilities:
- recognition of Indigenous peoples
- young people as the primary consideration
- duty of care
- privacy and confidentiality
- transparency, honesty and integrity
- social context
- anti-oppressive practice: non-discrimination, equity and self-awareness
- cooperation and collaboration
- knowledge, skills and self-care.
You can read more about youth work principles and practice responsibilities in the Code of Ethical Practice for the Victorian Youth Sector.