Youth Work

Learn more about the industry and how you can become an accredited Youth Worker. You may already have completed some of the steps… or better yet, already have what it takes.

Youth Work as a profession

While youth work has been around a long time it has been slow to organise professionally, partly due to its strong commitment to its alignment with young people rather than powerful institutions. Youth Work NSW recognises the tensions but, with overwhelming support from the field, have realised that if things are going to change youth workers need to organise, to have access to systematic training and to have a voice in policy development and reform.

There is a persistent theme in the way that our society thinks about young people that sees adolescence as a kind of pathology and young people themselves as a problem. As a result, young people are treated differently, and often prejudicially. They are excluded from the protection of human and civil rights instruments and from basic rights like the right to vote, the right to equal pay for equal work and the right to equal opportunity in housing or employment. Interventions are made into their lives by governments and other institutions without young people having any say or any choice in the matter. Work with young people is often coercive. Professionals who work with them are often trying to get them to do what parents, schools or the State wants them to do rather than listening to what they might see as the right thing for their own lives.

Youth workers refuse to view young people as a problem. Young people are members of our community, our fellow citizens, people with something to say and a contribution to make. They may face difficulties from time to time, like we all do. Many of these difficulties arise from the discriminations and exclusions that they face. Our job is to help young people navigate the adult world and make a successful, effective contribution to it.

Our role in supporting this professional tradition

Youth Work NSW’s job is to support and enhance this professional tradition, to be a focal point for it, and to be able to contribute to the development of public understanding and public policy about young people, and youth work, in New South Wales.

Ways to become a youth worker

There are many ways that people enter the field of Youthwork. Some choose to enter the field by doing a training course. A Degree, Diploma or Certificate IV in Youthwork and experience working as a Youthworker is the main way people enter the profession.

Others train in a related field but choose to work with youth. A Degree in a closely related field (eg social work) and appropriate years of experience as a Youthworker is another way many people enter the profession.

Finally people end up in Youthwork because they want to work with young people. They will often have significant experience being employed as a Youthworker and will usually find when they think about it, that they have been working within the Youthwork Code of Ethics.

How can I judge if what I do is Youthwork?

If the following statements apply to your service or to the way you work with young people then it’s probably Youth Work.

  • The young person is the primary client, their interests as they see them come first (not their interests as you see them)
  • The young person is ultimately empowered to make their own decisions about their participation, and the choices they make
  • The young person’s engagement with you is voluntary (it’s very unlikely for an involuntary service to be considered Youth Work)

Finally go to our membership page and look at our pathways to membership. See which one fits you. As you can see there are many ways to become a member of the Youthwork Association of NSW.

Code of Ethics

In 2023, Youth Work NSW ratified the Code of Ethics for Youth Work in NSW. This was done after many years of consultation and discussion with youth work professional across the state. This document will hopefully be as ever evolving and dynamic as the industry we work in. We welcome discussion and feedback from everyone.