History has shown us that when we don't invest our energy in the things we value and take things for granted they can disappear. Youth workers know this more than other profession. We have seen countless valuable programs and organisations loose funding despite achieving amazing positive outcomes for young people and our communities. In recent years our National Peak Youth Organisation AYAC lost its funding, as did Youth Connections. I'm certain you can name many others!
Unfortunately this loss of energy, time, investment is a tradgic loss to our sector. We have seen many of these programs repackaged and redeployed inline with government agendas. These innovative initiatives are often not based on research, good practice and professional expertise. While governments package funding inline with issues, youth workers implement these programs in line with professional expertise, ethics and good practice. We are resourceful, and for the sake of young people we make it work.
Youth workers are experts in engaging and understanding young people and youth issues like no other profession can. When sitting in professional care teams with family workers, DHHS, Psychologists, social workers.... the professional youth worker is often the person who knows and understands the young person the best. And yet our work is often mis understood, undervalued and underpaid. Many people don't understand that youth workers are highly trained professionals with years of education under our belts.
This partly why having a professional association for youth work is so important. So we can collectively advocate for better understanding and recognition of professional youth work. Youth work is unique and young people deserve experts who are specifically trained to work with this specific age group.
Many people work with young people from different occupational paradigms. It's flattering that so many of these professionals want to join our Youth Work Association. But just because you work with young people this doesn't make you a professional youth worker. Only completing recognised youth work training and ascribing to the youth work code of ethics allows people membership to the professional association. This is the same for doctors, teachers, lawyers who also have a strict professional memberships.
I often reflect on how marginalised our profession is, in some ways we are as marginalised as the young people with work for. However, in the same way that young people have started finding their agency through human rights principles, youth participation and youth leadership, youth workers are starting to do the same thing through collective action, networking, professional advancement. I can imagine a day when young people and youth workers are truly recognised and valued by our communities. A time when youth work academics, youth practitioners and young people are all considered as essential contributors to social policy and funding decisions. Our communities will be healthier and make much smarter cost effective economic decisions as a result.
I am so proud of our profession! Youth workers are some of the most dedicated, hardworking, resourceful and creative people I know. I see the amazing difference that professional youth work makes in our communities everyday. However I can't see how we can achieve our vision unless we work together. Our youth work association is made up of hard working, tireless, passionate youth workers and academics who volunteer our time. We need every professional youth worker, youth work academic and youth work students to stand with us. Now is the time to join. Please don't let YWA disappear.