Author & Researcher Delphine Jamet
- For the CHASE CREW -

Ben Youth Worker Interview



I became a youth worker because it was something that I thought I could do. I’ve always wanted to help people and before I was working as a youth worker, I was working in counselling and I just wasn’t sure if anything I was doing was having a direct effect on the people that I was working with. When this job option came up, I thought it would be a better way to help people and help people that really need it. Especially in the situation that most of the people that come here in, which is homeless or street-present people.

I suppose it’s that work hands on rather than just working with people’s heads, even though we still do with that.

I never really had much contact with a youth worker when I was young but I had the positive role models like teachers and adults in the community. I grew up in a small country town so I don’t even think there was a youth worker avaliable but there was a counsellor.

Talking to a counsellor as a young person was really helpful to me. So maybe that’s part of it even though it’s a different sort of role.

There’s quite a few downfalls being a youth worker because it is a fairly draining job. When everyone wants your attention at once and something from you. Sometimes it can be frustrating as well because you try for a long time to help someone out and nothing comes of it, especially with trying to get people into accomodation. Each hostel you go to are like “this has happened here”,“we don’t take that sort of person” or “we’ve got this criteria which excludes that person” and it can take half an hour sitting here and getting nowhere. At the end of the day, they’re on the street again and even though there’s a bed somewhere, it’s not possible to get them in there because of the rules that the hostel has. That’s fair enough, they have to run their operation in a smooth way but it just can be hard.

The same as trying to get them other types of help like drugs or mental health treatment. It’s really good now because we have a mental heath outreach worker.

Knowing you’ve made a difference when things happen that wouldn’t have happened without this service being here and without us being here. Someone who otherwise wouldn’t have known where to go and would have been on the streets still. Any sort of little difference – you’ve got to look for that and take heart that you’ve made a small difference.

Working with this age group (13-25), there’s a lot of energy in life in all the people who come in. It’s a lot of fun to be had with, even when there’s a lot of hard times. Sort of a charisma happening.

I went to Uni and did a psychology degree which I probably didn’t need to get into this job but I could have done something out but I did psychology so I can have a few options if I get sick of youth work and move on to something else.

If you wanted to just be a youth worker, go to TAFE or Uni. I’ve heard really good things from the guys who work here, the Youth Work course at Uni, it sounds really practical. Same with the TAFE Certificates, they’re just as good.

I don’t know if there are stereotypes for a youth worker because I am fairly new to this field and it’s kind of a fairly new field as well. It is a developing field but I suppose there’s different stereotypes for the different agencies.

When we are advocating for young people, some of the more government-based agencies might not appreciate that, that we’re taking sides with the young people. People who have other interests, not the young people’s interest, they are kind of do gooders and don’t really think about what they are doing.

Generally the public treat us good. We don’t do any community work from here. We’ve just starting doing some life skills program which involves going out into the community just about. Generally as a youth worker, the only contact I have with the outside world, is by the telephone and that’s generally to other agencies or family members. I don’t really deal with the public.

The police treat us okay. Since I’ve been working here, we’ve only had a few visits from the police. They generally leave this place alone unless they are in pursuit or have a warrant for someone in particular. Generally, they are co-operative. Sometimes they need to come here to take statements or interview someone.

I’ve heard stories about when this place was operating a few years ago and the police came in and raided the whole place. But since I have been working here, they’ve been good. There was a rumour going around that they were taking longer to get here because we have a panic button. But since that raid, there wasn’t much cooperation and they took a dislike to us. But since I have been here, there’ve been good and they haven’t really been here.

I suppose with government agencies, it depends on the worker you get or the agencies you work with when it comes to how they treat us. We’ve got a really good relationship with Centrelink and I can’t praise them enough. They work really well with us but I suppose that’s down to certain workers rather than the actual government policy. Certain workers taking that initiative and developing that relationship with us and with our clients. I suppose with other agencies, it’s a matter of not taking things personal and it’s just the policies that they have and you have to do the best to work within that, so do the workers in that agency.

I suppose it’s up to us as youth workers to help advocate to government agencies for young people if that’s required and it’s up to us to work within the framework.

In general when you say you are a youth worker, you don’t necessarily get a negative response and they try to help you when they can if you play the game.

With what we are doing at the moment, we have got more power in terms of money because money is power in some sense. The more money you have, the more you can do to help people like trying to get this Life Skills Program happening, which provides supported accomodation with goal setting and that sort of thing. I think that is a really positive thing as an agency in terms of you can work on everything at once instead of farming out to all the other agencies, which is what we have done in the past.

I suppose the other thing that would be good, would be to act more like a mouth piece to other agencies if required. We do as much as we can. It would be good to do what we are doing but expand it so more young people can benefit from the Life Skills Program.

We are concerned with the after hours stuff because I don’t get to see that. We are centre based.

With the train fines issue, I think the Youth Legal Service were doing an inquiry into that but I don’t know how they’ve gone. It is a big issue that really needs to be changed - the way young people are racking up such huge fines. Not through harming any one else, just being poor and not being able to buy a ticket and needing to travel to go to places.

If I had more authority or power, that is one thing I would like to change.

The mental health system is something that also needs changing but it’s a tricky issue.