PDF file of Alive and Motivated



PDF file of Alive and Motivated
Young people, participation
and local government
Young people, participationand local government
National Youth Affairs Research Scheme
Young people, participation
and local government
Young people, participationand local government
National Youth Affairs Research Scheme
Sherry Saggers, David Palmer, Paul Royce, Lou Wilson and Alan Charlton
Alive and Motivated
THE NATIONAL YOUTH AFFAIRS RESEARCH SCHEME (NYARS) was established in 1985 as a cooperative funding
arrangement between the Australian, State and Territory Governments to facilitate nationally-based research
into current social, political and economic factors affecting young people. The Scheme operates under the
auspices of the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA).
Reports from NYARS studies released since the early 1990s are available free-of-charge on the web site of the
Australian Government Department responsible for youth affairs. At the time this report was published, the
web site address was: http://www.facs.gov.au/internet/facsinternet.nsf/aboutfacs/programs/youth-nyars.htm
Copyright © 2004, National Youth Affairs Research Scheme
ISBN 0 9752498 0 0
This paper was prepared by the National Youth Affairs Research Scheme (NYARS) and is intended to promote
background research and other information as a basis for discussion. The views expressed in this paper are those
of the authors and are not necessarily those of the NYARS Steering Committee; the Ministerial Council on Education,
Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA); or individual Australian Government, State or Territory Youth
Ministers or Departments responsible for Youth Affairs.
Published by Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services on behalf of NYARS
Printed by National Capital Printing, Canberra
Executive summary
Chapter 1
Purpose of the research
The research team
Research methodology
Chapter 2
Young people, participation and local government
Changes in local government in Australia
What is “youth”?
Working with young people
Young people and participation
Community development and capacity building
Chapter 3
Youth services and other activities in local government in Australia
Survey response
Range of services and other activities
Target groups
In kind support
Method of service provision
Youth service workers
Profiles of local government youth services
Chapter 4
Reading and telling their own stories
Purpose of the case studies
The GRIND newspaper
Short Fuse Youth Theatre Group
Palmerston Public Library Young Adults Program
Alive and Motivated
Chapter 5
Places and spaces for young people
Public Spaces Protocol
The Longford Police Caution Project
Chapter 6
Flexible services through mobile outreach
Hornsby Shire Council Youth Services
Chapter 7
Engaging with Indigenous young people
“About Jobs”
The Messenger/Dreaming Project
Moonah Community Group
Promoting Aboriginal Leadership in Schools
Chapter 8
Service delivery through the “one-stop-shop”
Frontyard Youth Services
Onkaparinga Youth Development Model
Spinach web site
Chapter 9
Youth practice in local government
Towards a typology of local government practice
Youth participation and local government
What gets in the way of youth participation?
Chapter 10 Towards quality youth practice
What works?
Towards a framework for quality in local government practice
Detailed methodology
Reference group
Online survey
Interview schedule
Case study sites
Table 1: Survey response by state and territory
Table 2: Metropolitan and non-metropolitan survey responses
Table 3: Local government services provided for young people
Table 4: Recreational facilities provided by local government
Table 5: Target groups of local government youth services
Table 6: Main sources of funding for local government youth services
Table 7: Participation by young people in local government
Table 8: Groups in receipt of in-kind support from local government
Table 9: In-house provision of youth services
Table 10: Local government youth services by external contractor
Table 11: Youth services employees of local government
Table 12: Innovative programs for young people by local government
Table 13: A plan for improving youth practice in local government
Alive and Motivated
Principal investigators for this project were
Sherry Saggers (Centre for Social Research,
Edith Cowan University), David Palmer
(Sociology and Community Development,
Murdoch University), Paul Royce (Town
of Kwinana) and Lou Wilson (consultant).
Alan Charlton was employed as a research
associate on the project. Reference Group
members were: John Bailey, Darwin City
Councillor; Judith Bessant, Australian
Catholic University, Melbourne; Stuart Boyd
and Mandy Smith, Adelaide City Council;
Janie Dickenson, Launceston City Council;
David Khoury, member of 2002 Australian
National Youth Roundtable; Ralph Lahey,
ATSIC, Queensland; Paul Martin, Shire of
Mundaring, Western Australia; Selena Uibo,
2002 National Youth Roundtable member.
Administrative support was provided by the
Institute for the Service Professions, Edith
Cowan University.
We would like to acknowledge the young
people, local government employees and
other informants who enthusiastically
contributed to this project, both during the
field visits and subsequently.
Executive summary
Purpose of the research
The purpose of this research was to develop
a deeper understanding of the role and impact
of local government on young people, and
how it may strengthen their inclusion in the
communities in which they live. The research
sought to provide a comprehensive review of
the range and effectiveness of service delivery
models designed for or accessed by young
people in diverse parts of Australia.
Research methods
Research methods included the collection
of qualitative and quantitative data and was
guided by a Reference Group comprising young
people, local government representatives,
and a youth work academic. A literature
review of local government engagement with
young people reveals a shift in focus of local
government from property services to human
services, and structural and process “reforms”
which have required more demanding forms
of governance. Young people, too, represent a
dynamic category subject to changing policies
and practices. The way in which young people
have been conceptualised has influenced the
development of youth work, as a discrete
category of service. A contemporary focus on
community development, participation and
civic engagement frames at least the language
and sometimes the content of much recent
work with young people.
Online survey
An online survey of youth services in all
local governments in Australia had a 35.7
per cent response rate. The purpose of
the survey was to: ascertain the range of
services and programs provided by local
government; determine the target groups,
funding, governance, and methods of
service provision; outline youth services staff
employed; and to invite local governments
to nominate programs they considered
innovative and which would form the basis
for our case studies. The results reveal
Alive and Motivated
that youth services and activities are
diverse, ranging from the most traditional,
in the form of libraries and recreation, to
the more recent attractions of information
technology and electronic communication.
A significant part of local government work
with young people involves leadership and
coordination, planning, policy development,
advocacy and lobbying, and facilitation
and support. Local governments are taking
a more prominent role in the provision of
education, employment and training for
young people than in the past, and services
are delivered by a diverse combination of
in-house and external providers. A wide
range of youth service staff are employed
by local government.
Case studies
Case studies of innovative programs
nominated by local governments and selected
by the Reference Group, were conducted in
all states and territories except the Australian
Capital Territory. These case studies provide
a rich source of information about the
history, achievements and challenges facing
each project, providing sufficient detail for
others to determine the applicability of the
project to other areas. A review of the case
studies reveals differences in the focus of
projects, including those which: offer a
service to young people; are concerned with
representation and advocacy of and for young
people; target particular “at risk” groups; or
rely on local networks with an emphasis on
family, community and leadership. Virtually all
councils have some formal youth governance
structures such as youth advisory groups or
councils, while some included less formal
means of mentoring, modelling and offering
advice. A number of projects concentrated
on training and educating young people
for the labour market, while others offered
organised activities and leisure options.
Community education and social action, using
cultural development and the arts featured
in some projects. Consultation and building
agreements between young people and other
community stakeholders were emphasised
in some places, while the management and
regulation of young people’s behaviour was
typical of others.
Models of youth practice in
local government
Using data from this research and the
scholarly literature on young people and
participation, models of youth practice are
reviewed. This includes a typology of local
government youth work practice which
illustrates the importance of underlying
philosophies, target groups, rationale and
methods, collaboration and diversity, and
the focus of activities. Local government
youth practice is more than service work,
involving the development of youth policy,
coordinating activities of local groups,
assisting groups to apply for funding
and planning programs, and researching
priorities of young people. Youth councils
and other participatory mechanisms of local
government are not new and in some cases
may offer a flawed model for engaging with
young people. Inhibitors to participation
by young people identified by this research
are discussed.
Towards quality youth practice in
local government
Finally the ingredients for quality practice,
built upon respectful collaboration with
young people, are reviewed. These include:
community resourcing; the importance
of relationships; having fun; food; time;
space; practical activity; flexibility and
diversity of initiatives; simply talking;
clarity of purpose and commitment;
promoting success; resources; acting
Executive Summary
strategically; the role of failure; respect,
sensitivity and goodwill; the selection and
education of staff; and most importantly
valuing the contribution of young people.
Principles for respectful initiatives with
young people, and the means by which
they might be implemented, are identified.
Young people are “alive and motivated”
when involved in programs and activities
of their choosing. Their engagement goes
well beyond the skate parks and youth
advisory councils of the past, involving
everything from frontline service delivery
to fringe arts and performance, newspaper
production, and online participatory forums.
Any local government seeking to engage
young people has some inspiring models
from which to start a conversation about
participation and action.
Alive and Motivated
Many Australians will be aware of the
increasing role of local government in their
communities. The devolution of a wide range
of community services to local government
level has meant that Australians in all age
and other social categories are likely to
encounter local governments at some time
in their lives. Local government, precisely
because it is local, is also a first port of call
for many residents concerned about health,
safety or public order. The combination of this
devolution of services and concerns about
young people and public order has resulted
in the development of a diverse range of
direct and indirect services provided by local
government to young people in Australia.
This is not the only way in which local
government may influence the inclusion
of young people within local communities,
however. As this research and our own
experiences confirm, council staff often
commit considerable energy to activities
that either complement youth service work
or pave the way for new programs and
initiatives. This includes the development
of formal youth policy statements or the
articulation of youth strategies to be carried
out over a number of years. Local councils
also provide many facilities and activities
which are theoretically accessible to all
young people, including:
• public swimming pools, sporting
facilities, and community venues;
• urban and social planning, and design
activities (events permits, community
development plans);
• community safety and crime prevention
programs; and
• civic and participatory opportunities
that promote the voice of young
Youth practice in local government is
not restricted to service work. Many local
government youth practitioners spend
considerable time on the development of
Alive and Motivated
youth policy, coordinating the activities of a
broad range of local groups, assisting local
groups to apply for additional funding and
planning new programs, researching the lives
and priorities of young people, and helping to
manage local services.
the identification of good and better practice
models of delivery, so that they are more able
to productively engage with young people
(Mudaly 1999; Green & Haines 2002).
Having responsibility for facilities, events and
activities, and many community services within
their local areas has raised broader issues
about the way in which the social and cultural
life of localities is enhanced. The language of
community development, with its concerns for
stronger, resilient communities exhibiting high
social capital and associated signs of an active
citizenry, has come to dominate strategies to
achieve more vibrant, sustainable communities.
These positive attributes of healthy communities
are frequently illustrated with pictures of wellheeled young professionals or robust middleaged couples enjoying their inner-city corner
café or leafy suburbs, but young people – in all
their manifestations – have rights as well to a
place and spaces within these communities.
The specific objectives of the research
were to:
• provide an overview of the models of
local government activity relating to
young people in different geographical
contexts in Australia;
• identify the range of local government
services and activities that impact
on young people, both directly and
• identify the characteristics of all local
government activities that increase
young people’s active involvement
within their local community. This would
include the ways that young people are
involved and influential in the planning,
design, implementation and evaluation
of council activities that impact on
young people;
• identify the barriers and thereby
develop frameworks for the inclusion of
young people in decision-making within
local government structures;
• identify and analyse the implementation
of good practice youth-impacting
activities and initiatives in rural,
regional, isolated and metropolitan to
other local government areas;
• provide a draft framework that suggests
methods for quality improvement in
council activities that impact upon
young people; and
• provide advice on the collaborative
ways that other levels of government
and the community may support local
government in improving its own
capacity to engage with young people.
Purpose of the research
The purpose of this research was to develop
a deeper understanding of the role and impact
of local government on young people, and
how it may strengthen their inclusion in the
communities in which they live.
The research sought to provide a
comprehensive review of the range and
effectiveness of service delivery models and
other local government activity designed for
or accessed by young people in diverse parts
of Australia. We wanted both an overview of
what local government, in general, is providing
for young people, and what specific local
governments in metropolitan, regional, rural
and remote communities are doing with and
for young people.
The research was intended to assist in the
capacity building of local governments, through
Chapter 1
Some of these objectives are more
ambitious than others, and time and
financial constraints have influenced the
extent to which objectives have been met.
All, however, are addressed in different
sections of this report.
The research team
The research team was a combination of
academics and youth work practitioners, all
with some experience of local government
in Australia. Our disciplinary backgrounds
include anthropology (Saggers), sociology
(Palmer, Saggers and Wilson), youth work
(Royce, Palmer and Wilson) and history
(Charlton). We have worked in urban,
rural, regional and remote communities
throughout Australia among diverse
groups of Indigenous and non-Indigenous
Australians. These experiences have
influenced the research process and the way
in which we have made sense of the data
encountered. The theoretical orientations
we brought to this work were diverse, and
some of the struggles between structural
and poststructural understandings of the
social world we have had will be apparent
to some readers.
Research methodology
This research was designed to employ a
combination of quantitative and qualitative
methodologies to explore local government
engagement with young people. Three
sets of contextual factors were deemed
relevant: “practitioner discourse” or the
language, ideas and concepts used by local
government practitioners to talk about their
work with young people; “organisational
form”, which is influenced by organisational
norms and values, structures and processes;
and broader social and economic forces,
such as the local and national economy,
social policy context, and impact of local
agencies and organisations. Gaining access
to these contextual factors was generally
more successful through qualitative means.
After obtaining appropriate ethical
clearance (which included the possibility of
interviewing young people with and without
parental consent, depending upon their
circumstances) the research was conducted
in seven stages:
• formation of a reference group;
• literature review;
• instrument development;
• sample selection;
• data collection;
• data analysis; and
• writing.
A more detailed methodology is provided in
Appendix 1.
This research was to be a national study
of innovative practice by local government
with and for young people, to be completed
within one year, and within a modest budget.
Obtaining valid research evidence of these
practices required a significant qualitative
component, which necessarily limits the
generalisability of these findings. The results
of the online survey of local government youth
services, though valuable, demonstrate the
limitations of such extensive data collection.
They are not sufficiently comprehensive for
others to use elsewhere. The methodology
also disadvantages those councils not
comfortable with this technology, and few
hard copies of surveys were returned. Firsthand observation and interviews provide a
more rigorous evidence-base of innovative
practices and programs but are expensive
and time-consuming. This report thus
represents a compromise between these
competing limitations.
Alive and Motivated
Young people, participation
and local government
Local government engagement with
young people has been influenced by many
factors. First among these has been a shift
in focus of local government from property
services to human services, and structural
and process “reforms” which have required
more demanding forms of governance.
Existing local governments are represented
on a long continuum of “old” and “new”
type councils which have been transformed
by these changes to a greater or lesser
extent. Young people, too, represent a
dynamic, frequently troublesome category
subject to changing policies and practices.
The way in which young people have
been conceptualised has influenced the
development of youth work, as a discrete
category of service. A contemporary focus
on community development, participation
and civic engagement frames at least the
language and sometimes the content of much
recent work with young people. This chapter
examines each of these factors in order to
provide a framework for the description of
youth services provided by local government
which follows in this report.
Changes in local government
in Australia
All local governments in Australia
share some important features: they are
democratically elected, are all sub-central
governments and all have legal and
political jurisdiction over clearly bounded
and spatially limited areas. However, there
is also considerable diversity amongst local
governments. Situated in metropolitan
capitals, or located in regional and isolated
Australia; serving large constituencies with
multi-million dollar budgets, or managing the
affairs of small populations and low levels
of funds; largely residential, substantially
rural, industrial or commercial; LGAs across
the nation come in all shapes and sizes.
Until the early 1970s local authorities were
Alive and Motivated
primarily concerned with that group of
services dealing with what we might term
the “three Rs” of local government: “roads,
rates and rubbish” (Saggers, Carter, Boyd,
Cooper & Sonn 2003, p. 23).
There have been a number of key trends
in reform that have impacted upon all local
authorities. Important among these shifts
has been structural and process reforms
that have seen the redrawing of boundaries,
amalgamations between old councils, the
reorganisation of functions, changes in
management models and the introduction of
more rigorous reporting and accountability
systems (Caulfield 2003, p. 14). These
changes in local authority governance can
be characterised by the following:
• increases in management by visible
• the shift towards measurable standards
of performance;
• the controlling of activities by output
• the disaggregation of council administration into separate self-contained units;
• a move towards increased competition between each other and private
• the taking up of private sector and
corporate management practices and
• a stress on discipline and parsimony in
resource use; and
• the recasting of citizens as clients
(Caulfield 2003; Hood 1996).
The emphasis on the efficient and
streamlined delivery of services to consumers
(Carson & Wadham 2001, p. 3; May 2003,
p. 79) has often come at the cost of policy
outcomes that are designed to benefit
citizens rather than consumers (Aulich 1999,
p. 19). There have been legislative changes
(pertaining to National Competition Policy,
for example) that have imposed new
standards and demands. At the same
time, councils have experienced a
reduction in their capacity to raise
income. Consequently, there is a growing
gap between the expectations of local
government constituencies and the amount
of resources available to meet them.
There has been a move away from
property-based services to people-based
or human services as local governments
are increasingly called upon to take
responsibility for services once delivered by
other levels of government. More specifically,
local governments have increased activity
in relation to housing provision, recreation
and culture, social and community services
and community amenities (Johnson 2003).
In the community development arena, local
government functions “span a wide area,
ranging from policy development, research
and advocacy through to direct service
provision”. This involves the support of
outside services, coordination of local
services, assistance with planning new
initiatives, and acting as a catalyst for much
local action (Hall 1993, p. 175; Muirhead
2002). Local government peak bodies in
the states and territories have played an
important role in promoting cultural change
in councils and encouraging them to embrace
new social policy areas.
Some have concluded that structural
reforms of this nature have had a significant
impact on how youth services have been
delivered, at times to the detriment of
improvements to service efficiency and
effectiveness (Bessant & Emslie 1996,
p. 43). Others argue that trends towards
a new managerialism – the “quality
movement”, competitive tendering and a
shift towards outcomes-based and program
measurement forms of governance – have
Chapter 2
Young people, participation and local government
failed to capture the complexity of youth
service work in local government, resulted
in a loss of autonomy to practitioners and
provided barriers to innovation, and led to
a reduction in the quality of service (Kerr &
Savelsberg 2001, p. 22; Nabben 2001,
pp. 44–5; Nevile 2000). Many local governments are struggling to find ways in which
this type of work in community services and
community development can be appropriately
valued and measured (Saggers et al. 2003).
What is “youth”?
For the purpose of this research, and
throughout much of the Australian youth
services literature, young people are defined
as those aged between 12–25 years. This
age range presents challenges for local
government youth service delivery, as leading
researchers in the field have noted. Those
engaged in the conceptualising of young
people have mapped the range and diversity
of ways of thinking about and treating this
social category (Bessant, Sercombe, & Watts
1998; Tait 1993; Wyn & White 1997). Among
the competing discussions, “ideas about
‘youth’ remain incomplete and experimental”
(Bessant et al. 1998, p. 75). “Youth” may be
intermediary, but the boundaries between
children and youth and youth and adults are
not clear. At different historical periods children
and young people have been more and less
economically and socially dependent, and
their status has been correspondingly fluid.
Bessant, reflecting recent emphases on the
importance of citizenship and participation,
describes “the ambiguous status of young
people as citizens-in-pupae” (Bessant
2002, p. 34), although young people 18
years and older do have political and legal
citizenship rights.
Beyond questions of age, we must
negotiate the usefulness of the category.
Stewart has noted that the “youth sector
appears to be organised around the social
category of age despite the fact that this is
not the most stratifying factor in most young
people’s lives, leading to a minimisation
of more important factors – specifically
“gender, race, sexuality, class, ability [and]
geography’ ” (Stewart 1998, p. 36). Bessant
also argues that it is not enough to define
young people “just by virtue of their age
alone” (Bessant 1996, p. 33).
Other work has tracked well-established
discourses that associate youth with crime,
delinquency and anti-social behaviour. For
some this stems from psycho-biological
theories which posit adolescence as a period
of psychological storm and stress, a time
of volatility, instability and unpredictability
(Bessant et al. 1998, p. 5). Arguably this paves
the way for important dividing practices that
are critical to the constitution of “youth” as
a distinct and separate population (Bessant
et al. 1998, p. 11).
Likewise, there are longstanding romantic
traditions that see youth represented as
the golden age, those who possess the
potential to revive an “aged and sclerosed
society” (Aries 1962, p. 30). Here young
people are seen as the harbingers of hope
and conceptualised as the guardians of
the future.
Another conception of youth associates
it with an extension of the innocence and
vulnerability of childhood (Muncie 1983,
p. 37). In this view, youth are virtuous until
spoiled by the cruel distortions of adults.
The obligation of those responsible for the
care of children and young people is thus
one of protection against the evil influences
of adult life. The ideas of the 18th century
French philosopher Rousseau support much
of this thinking: childhood to him was a
period of innocence to be “cocooned” from
the “cruelties and distortions” of adult
Alive and Motivated
society (Bessant et al. 1998, p. 9). Thus young
people need to be restricted, not so much
for the protection of adults but for their own
good. One stream of this line of thinking
imagines youth, particularly working class
youth, as a group vulnerable to economic
exploitation from capital (Gillis 1974, p. 61).
This then necessitates special measures
being taken to restrict and regulate young
people’s involvement in the labour market.
The category of youth has emerged in a
multitude of forms at different moments, and
different views can overlap and be presented
within one speech or declaration. At one
moment youth are automatically associated
with social problems; at another they are
celebrated as great achievers and the key
to the future. Youth have also featured as
a national resource and, at different times
since the 1960s, a potent political force
(Bessant et al. 1998, p. 79). Youth has been,
often at one and the same time, demonised,
patronised and distanced while portrayed as
vibrant, energetic and sexually attractive.
Particular groups, such as young
Indigenous Australians, have long been
subject to both fear, anger and loathing and
desire, fascination and yearning of older
Australians (Mickler 1998). Stacey et al. note
that a “division is frequently established
between young people as ‘achievers’,
or potential achievers, using a hopeful,
futuristic discourse, and young people who
are ‘at risk’, troublesome and/or troubled”
(Stacey et al. 2002, pp. 44–5).
Working with young people
If the category of “youth” is problematic,
the same can be said of “youth work”.
Historical, structural, and societal processes
all affect the nature of youth work in any
one place. The nature of working with young
people has changed dramatically over many
years. One continuing aspect might be that
it has generally entailed “well-meaning
adults deciding that some children and
young people have problems, that they need
help, and that some kind of organisation
and service delivery will address that need”
(Bessant et al. 1998, p. 270).
In Western societies youth work first
appeared in the nineteenth century as
“private, ‘philanthropic’ activity” (Bessant
1997, p. 34). The earliest examples of youth
work in Australia targeted young people,
especially working class men and boys, visible
on city streets. Organisations like the Young
Men’s and Women’s Christian Associations
were specifically designed to target those
who were seen to be vulnerable to the forces
lurking around urban streets. “Try Societies”
and the “Newsboys Clubs” that were set
up on the east coast during the 1880s were
explicit in their desire to keep young people
off the street (Bessant et al. 1998, p. 302).
Recent work on the place of youth in public
space reflects the persistence of such ideas
(Crane & Dee 2001; Tait 1993; White 1990).
White (1990) in fact locates the origins of
organised youth work in Australia in attempts
to restrict the access to public space of
working class young men.
Rather than a single “occupation” with a
controlling philosophy, youth work appears
in many manifestations. A British collection
on youth work outlines some of these
approaches (Jeffs & Smith 1987). Youth
workers explain their methods using terms
such as social worker, community worker,
educator, entrepreneur, caretaker, characterbuilder and “redcoat” or leisure worker. Each
of these approaches implies a different view
on the nature of “youth” or the factors (often
“problems”) they face. Thus, leisure-based
activities build character, improve young
people’s standard of health, and relieve
Chapter 2
Young people, participation and local government
boredom often associated with anti-social
and criminal behaviour (Foreman 1987, p. 14).
Another depiction of youth work exists in
terms of traditional social work, focusing on
the welfare needs of individuals with social
problems (Britton 1987, p. 25). Another
writer emphasises young people’s place in
the community, and works with notions of
community development (Lacey 1987).
Other youth workers see themselves as
educationalists, providing young people with
knowledge, skills and training so that they
can themselves develop and improve their
circumstances (Rosseter 1987). In another view,
youth work is a type of caretaking of young
people, guiding them through this important
but risky stage of life (Stone 1987). In other
settings youth workers are juvenile justice
workers either advocating on behalf of young
people experiencing problems with the law or
participating in the process of punishment or
community policing (Teasdale & Powell 1987).
Increasingly, youth work reflects a fascination with the market, as neo-liberal
understandings of the relationship between
individuals and society dominate all domains
of social life. Ingram, for example, describes
youth work as entrepreneurial, assisting
young people who are failing to compete
well in market terms (Ingram 1987). From
this perspective, young people live in a world
where there is competition for each slice of
the cake. Often youth workers accept only the
crumbs of the cake and young people are not
encouraged to compete for their own slice.
Entrepreneurial youth work involves mentoring
young people so that they can better operate
in a market economy and establish an
enterprising culture in themselves.
Youth work has also long involved leadership
development and character building (Taylor
1987). From its earliest expressions in Australia
and Britain youth work has involved adopting
the methods of those keen to see young
people develop moral fibre, discipline and
leadership potential (Maunders 1990, p. 43).
This often involves youth workers running
programs to develop self-esteem, improve
self-worth, and inculcate self-determination
in their charges. Alternatively it can involve
building various youth participatory structures
and offering “empowerment” opportunities
for youth leaders.
Elsewhere, Jeffs and Smith (1990) imply
that youth workers target young people
according to issues related to inequality.
They maintain that youth workers do not
simply work with a general category called
youth, nor do they concentrate their attention
on all young people. Rather youth work
involves targeting those groups of people
who are victims of prejudice on the basis
of age, gender, sexuality, race, disability, or
class (Jeffs & Smith 1990). In support of this
view, Bessant, Sercombe and Watts (1998)
suggest that youth workers organise their
work around key social issues facing young
people. These issues include: family, health,
sport and recreation, media, education, work
and employment, poverty and inequality,
social exclusion, and crime and violence.
On an everyday basis this means that many
youth workers spend considerable time on
advocacy, policy development, planning,
social action, rallying support, lobbying
government, committee work, recruiting
volunteers, and meeting with others to
exchange information.
Young people and participation
The increasing market orientation in the
broader polity is reflected in much of the
experiences of young people generally, and
in their place as service recipients. Broad
economic changes have made the place of
young people less certain than in previous
times: the difficulties of the “transition” from
Alive and Motivated
childhood to adulthood is a burgeoning field
for politicians, practitioners and academics
alike. The move from secondary school to
work or further education is increasingly
complex, and governments of all stripes are
battling to make the move easier and the
policies more relevant (Angwin, Blackmore,
Harrison & Shacklock 2001; Raffe 2003;
Whiteley 2001; Wyn & White 1997). High
unemployment dogs the youth sector. While
State and Federal Governments deal with
matters of education and training, local
governments have moved towards dealing
with personal health and wellbeing, crime
prevention, and traditional recreational
matters. This shift matches the rhetoric of
responsiveness and user-ownership of both
problems and solutions that is part of the
market philosophy.
At a youth policy level, this is best represented by the prominence of “participation” as
a method to improve services and outcomes
for young people. Although, as White and
Wilson have noted, the nature of “youth
policy” is “rather ambiguous” (1991, p. 2), one
constant in recent times is the importance of
active youth participation. This is illustrated
clearly at state level, with most governments
specifying the importance of participation
by young people (Queensland Government
2002, p. 3; Tasmanian Office of Youth Affairs
1999, p. 7; Victorian Office for Youth 2002,
pp. 7–10; Northern Territory 2003, pp. 22–23;
South Australian Government 2003).
Whether couched in terms of leadership,
democracy, or consultation, the concept
is considered important to “a process of
building relationships of mutual obligation
and trust across community sectors” (Johns,
Kilpatrick, Falk & Mulford 2001, p. 20). The
most common forms of formal participation
tend to involve youth councils or youth
advisory committees, as part of an ongoing
policy direction (McLaren 1995–96, p. 56).
Often, participation can be seen as the cure
for apparently deeply divisive social ills like
vandalism and concerns about young people’s
use of public space (Ackermans 1991; Robins
1996; White 2001).
There is a growing literature on the need for,
and the best methodology of, incorporating
youth in local government activity. The New
South Wales Department of Local Government
undertook research to explore youth
consultation in that state, and the Tasmanian
Government has provided specific guidelines
for local governments dealing with young
people (Paterson 1999; Tasmanian Office of
Youth Affairs 1999). Johns et al. write on the
experience of one town in Western Australia,
finding that “increased skill and confidence
levels, and increased awareness of the way
in which the community operates”, acted to
keep youth in their localities and increased
their participation in community activities
(Johns, Kilpatrick, Falk & Mulford 2001, p. 24).
Phillips and colleagues write on the
problematic notion of “youth consultation”,
yet conclude that they are hopeful that it will
promote “productive dialogue between and
among young people and those working with
them” (Phillips, Stacy & Milner 2001, p. 47).
Bessant sounds a cautionary note,
arguing that in “varying degrees many
youth policies in the twentieth century
and into the twenty-first have reflected an
enmity toward young people that has been
disrespectful of their most basic human
rights”. The partial solution lies, she
states, in ceding authority to young people
“in terms of developing and facilitating
the very processes of consultationparticipation” (Bessant 2002, p. 39).
Stacey et al. write of “Youth Participation
Accountability” a South Australian-devised
strategy to “achieve respectful and youthfocused activities and decision-making”
(Stacey et al. 2002, p. 46).
Chapter 2
Young people, participation and local government
Although there is a general acceptance
of this notion, it is not uncontested. Walther
et al. note the existence of “contradictions
in the concepts of participation and citizenship” (Walther, Hejl & Jensen 2002, p.3).
There is some doubt about the efficacy of
participation, and also about the potential
for extended control implicit in the practice.
Some believe that the practice of youth
participation can be problematic and
dominated by school leaders (McLaren 1995–
96, p. 58), or have a “hidden agenda” about
the need to create “good citizens” (Stacey
et al. 2002, p. 45). Palmer worries, too,
about the totalitarian echoes in discourses
of participation and community development
(Palmer 2002).
Community development and
capacity building
In recent years a new set of languages about
community development has emerged, talk
often littered with ideas inherited both from
communitarianism and neo-liberal discourse
(Bessant 1997; Brennan 1998; Harris 1999;
Rose 1999). In this new language problems
are a reflection of young people’s declining
levels of inclusion in civic life, exclusion that
reflects their loss of community. According
to this thesis, something has gone awfully
wrong with the social fabric and community
participation. Advocates of the new
community development approach desire
to develop social capital, build community
capacity, encourage partnerships, support
community entrepreneurship, highlight the
need for sustainable and healthy communities, and strengthen democratic and
civic participation. The solution to young
people’s ills lies in the building of civic
associations, as these produce “networks,
norms, and social trust that facilitate
coordination, and cooperation for human
development” (Putnam 1995, p. 67).
This new emphasis on community
development has seen a move by local
government towards policy work, organising
and supporting existing community groups,
and a shift by some away from direct youth
service provision. Many councils are more
inclined to see their role as supporting
community groups to manage their own
affairs, than directly responding to the needs
of young people themselves.
Local government attempts to engage
young people have to be located in the
broader context of changes in focus of local
government, especially in the past three
decades. They are also the result of diverse
and often contradictory discourses, or ways
of talking and thinking about young people
and their place in society. These discourses
frame explicitly and implicitly the policies
and programs for young people featured in
this report.
Alive and Motivated
Youth services and other
activities in local government
in Australia
Information in this chapter is based on
the results from the online survey of local
government services to young people across
Australia. The survey instrument is presented
in Appendix 3. The purpose of the survey
was to: ascertain the range of services and
programs provided by local government
(from the most traditional services such
as recreation facilities and libraries to the
most recent and unusual); determine the
target groups, funding, governance, and
methods of service provision; outline youth
services staff employed; and to invite local
governments to nominate programs they
considered innovative, which would form
the basis for our case studies.
At an analytical level, we were interested
to see how the recent discourses of community development, capacity building, and
participation have influenced the develop-
ment of services for young people. Although
it was unlikely that the online survey would
reveal much of this, we hoped that the
responses would provide enough information
to determine if further exploration for a case
study was warranted. We also wanted to
see if outsourcing of community services,
reported in the literature, was apparent in
the data.
The chapter outlines the main findings
from the survey data. The first section
describes responses to the survey. Next we
discuss the range of services provided across
the country, including the target groups of
services, funding of programs, and modes of
governance involving young people. In the
following section an outline of the method
of service provision is provided, specifically
the extent to which services are provided inhouse or contracted out to other agencies.
Finally there is a discussion of the “best”
services nominated by respondents.
Alive and Motivated
Survey response
in the Territory and remote Queensland. No
useable responses were received from the
two mailed surveys returned. For most people
in these communities, English is a second
language and a written survey not the most
appropriate mechanism for data collection.
Attempts at telephone contact were not
successful. The complex issues facing remote
communities mean that surveys of this kind
are, understandably, unlikely to be regarded
as a high priority. Interpretation of the survey
data needs to take the response rate, and
specifically those LGAs not well represented,
into account.
The online survey produced 219 useable
submissions out of a possible 6141, which
represents 35.7 per cent of LGAs nationally
(Table 1). Submissions were only considered
if they had verifiable contact details. Victoria
provided proportionately more returns (56.4%)
than any other jurisdiction and the Northern
Territory had the lowest number of completed
surveys (9.2%). Limited and/or difficult online
access may explain the low return from the
NT. Hard copy versions of the survey were
mailed to more than 30 remote, primarily
Indigenous, LGAs, most of which were located
Table 1: Survey response by state and territory
New South Wales
Western Australia
South Australia
Northern Territory
Per cent
Per cent of total sample
Note: Differences in recording LGAs in the NT exist between the ABS and the NT Local Government Association.
We use the NT LGA’s larger figure, as it includes all self-governing communities.
The ratio of metropolitan (or capital
city) responses to non-metropolitan
responses to the survey is set out in
Table 2. The distinction between metropolitan and non-metropolitan LGAs is
problematic, with LGAs on the rural-city
border difficult to categorise. Allowing for
some indeterminacy, the responses from
South Australia and Victoria were equally
likely to come from non-metropolitan
areas as from the metropolitan area. In
New South Wales, the Northern Territory
and Western Australia, roughly a third of
all responses came from the metropolitan
area. In Tasmania the metropolitan res1
ponse rate was 25 per cent. Queensland
figures were anomalous, with only 12 per
cent of responses from that State coming
from the metropolitan area.
Decentralisation and significant differences in population densities throughout
Australia also make the distinction between
metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas
problematic. The Cairns City Council in
far north Queensland, for example, is
non-metropolitan, yet it governs 119 000
people; Fremantle City Council is part of
the Perth metropolitan area, but services
only 26 000 people.
This figure was reached by adding the figures from the various state/territory figures. It excludes the special case of the ACT, which is a single
government entity. The database supplied by the ALGA comprises 695 organisations, but some of these are regional groupings and other
“sub-peak” groupings. If we use that as a base, the response rate was 31.5%.
Chapter 3
Youth services and other activities in local government in Australia
Table 2: Metropolitan and non-metropolitan survey responses
South Australia
New South Wales
Northern Territory
Western Australia
Range of services and other activities
One of the main aims of this research was
to provide a snapshot of the range of the
services, programs, and policies aimed at
young people being provided by LGAs across
the nation. Councils were asked to choose
from a selected list of services their council
provided. Those services not identified
specifically could be listed in an “other”
category. Not surprisingly, given the survey
was targeting youth services, the majority
of respondents (94.1%) declared that they
provided specific services and programs
for young people (Table 3). However, 13
respondents (5.9%) declared that they
provided no such services. Of these, six
came from Western Australia.
Table 3: Local government services provided for young people
Recreation programs for young people
Library services for young people
Community – young people policies
Leadership programs for young people
Arts/crafts programs for young people
Advisory services
Sports programs for young people
Personal development programs for young people
Youth crime prevention
Outreach programs
At-risk programs
Drama/theatre programs for young people
Women’s programs/policies/services (specifically)
Counselling services for young people
Employment training services for young people
Indigenous young people
Drug and alcohol counselling/programs/services
NES background young people
Health services for young people
Per cent
Continued next page
Alive and Motivated
Continued from previous page
Welfare programs
Men’s programs/policies/services (specifically)
Sexual health counselling
Mental health services for young people
Accommodation (crisis and/or medium/long-term)
Other programs/policies/services for young people
The services most frequently reported
were recreation programs (72.6% of
respondents) and library services (67.1%).
While library services are part of traditional
local government provision to the general
community, recreation programs for young
people are more specifically targeted. As
illustrated later, recreation continues to be
the dominant activity sponsored by local
government to encourage the participation
of young people. Next in importance came
“community” policies (59.8%), “leadership”
programs (57.5%), arts/crafts programs
(54.3%), advisory services (50.2%),
sports programs (47.9%) and personal
development programs (46.6%).
While the arts/crafts, sports and even
personal development programs can be
seen as an extension of a traditional focus
on recreation, the development of policy
and advisory services, and programs aimed
at fostering leadership stem from more
recent developments in local government
aimed at a broader orientation towards
community development and “capacity
Programs aimed at diverting young people
from crime and other risky behaviours
are next in importance, with youth crime
prevention (43.8%), outreach programs
(36.1%) and at-risk programs (35.2%)
offered by a large number of councils. In
Per cent
addition to these programs, are a diverse
range of support programs offered either
to specific target groups: young women
(27.9%), young men (14.2%), Indigenous
young people (21.9%), and Culturally and
Linguistically Diverse (CALD) young people
(18.3%), or for specific health and social
issues: counselling (23.3%), employment
(23.3%), general health (16.0%), drug and
alcohol programs (21.5%), welfare (14.6%),
sexual health (13.2%), mental health
(12.8%), and accommodation (9.1%).
Respondents were asked to list any
services, policies, or programs they
provided that were not offered in the
list of identified services. There were 105
responses (47.9%) which included: centres
or other infrastructure (18%); business
partnerships (16%); and IT/one-stop-shops
(10%). The most common examples of
the last category were email cafés, online
interaction, web sites and physical meeting
places where the exchange of information
appears to be central. Respondents were
asked which services and programs provided
for the whole community were also used
by young people. More than three quarters
of the sample (77.6%) reported that they
provided general services that were used
by young people. The most commonly
cited services were libraries, followed by
recreation and sporting services.
Chapter 3
Youth services and other activities in local government in Australia
The same areas predominated when
respondents were asked to identify
recreational facilities provided by their
council (Table 4). Libraries were most
frequently cited (93.2%), and a wide
range of sporting facilities – cricket
grounds (90.9%), basketball courts
(84.5%), swimming pools (84.5%), skate
parks (80.7%), tennis courts (79.9%),
Australian Rules football ovals (75.8%),
soccer grounds (72.1%), Rugby fields
(54.3%), hockey fields (53.4%), BMX parks
(42.0%), roller-skating arenas (9.6%), and
ice-skating arenas (2.7%). These sporting
facilities illustrate both continuity and
change in Australia’s sporting history, and
the regional popularity of particular codes.
Other facilities included meeting halls
(84.5%), Internet/email facilities (71.2%)
and community centres for young people
(45.2%). While meeting halls have long
been provided by local government, online
facilities and spaces set apart for young
people are more recent additions.
Table 4: Recreational facilities provided by local government
Cricket grounds
Basketball courts
Swimming pools
Meeting halls
Skate parks
Tennis courts
Australian Rules football ovals
Internet/email facilities
Soccer grounds
Club rooms
Rugby fields
Hockey fields
Community centres for young people
BMX parks
Roller-skating arenas
Ice-skating arenas
Other facilities
Respondents were able to identify other
recreation facilities not previously listed. As
with the earlier question relating to services
and programs, many of those listed (centres,
swimming pools, BMX and skate facilities)
could have been incorporated in the
previous table. The most obvious additional
category listed as “Other” recreational
Per cent
facilities was that of “Parks”. This category
covered a range of walks, tracks, and other
passive activities. Numerous respondents
also noted that lands were made available
for other unspecified activities. Additional
sporting facilities included equestrian
arenas, rodeo facilities, polocrosse fields,
and riding tracks.
Alive and Motivated
Incomplete information means that it is
not possible to determine what facilities
were provided for surfing and waterskiing,
for example, or what differences, if any,
there are between various categories of
Target groups
Apart from simply identifying those
services designed for young people, we were
attempting to determine which particular sub-
groups of young people are targeted by local
government (Table 5). Young people deemed
to be “at risk” (61.2%) were overwhelmingly
the group most often selected as a target
of LGA services and programs. Young
people who were unemployed (43.8%) or
Indigenous (42.0%) were also identified as
important target groups, followed by young
people with disabilities (36.1%), from CALD
backgrounds (31.5%), gays and lesbians
(25.1%), women (24.7%), and men (19.2%).
Table 5: Target groups of local government youth services
Target group
Per cent
Young people at risk
Unemployed young people
Indigenous young people
Young people with disabilities
Young people from CALD background
Gay and lesbian young people
Young women (only)
Young men (only)
None of the above
When asked to nominate other target
groups not identified, the 71 respondents
(32.9%) provided diverse answers, but most
claimed they served all young people in their
LGA. While a number of councils indicated
that they provided services to marginalised
groups of young people (such as the
homeless, those in low socio-economic
circumstances, and refugees), a few were
keen to emphasise that their programs were
for “mainstream” young people.
Others declared target groups that could
have fitted into one of the categories of
Table 5. For instance, one respondent
mentioned binge drinking which could
easily fit the “at-risk” category, for example.
Two nominated “homeless youth”, which
might also fit in the “at-risk” category.
These examples remind us of the fluidity
and mutability of such categories. The “agebased” category arose from respondents
citing particular age groups as their target
recipients. When asked what age range they
dealt with in youth services, the majority
reported working with young people around
the 12–18 or 12–24 year age range.
Respondents were asked to declare their
main source of funding for youth services
(Table 6). Almost all respondents declared
multiple sources of funding for youth
services, with local government rates and
charges cited most frequently (78.5%),
followed by state or territory government
Chapter 3
Youth services and other activities in local government in Australia
Table 6: Main sources of funding for local government youth services
Funding source
Per cent
Local government rates and charges
State or territory government funding
Commonwealth government funding
Non-government organisations
Private enterprise
funding (63.9%), Commonwealth government funding (29.2%), non-government
organisations (11.0%), private enterprise
(8.7%), lotteries (8.2%), fee-for-service
(7.3%), and other funding sources (5.9%).
The lotteries funding figures are of note. Of
the 18 positive responses, all but one came
from Western Australia (34%) – the other
came from South Australia. The Western
Australia figure reflects the introduction of the
Lotterywest funding scheme which provides
a range of targeted and general grants to
community-based organisations and local
government authorities in Western Australia.
The fee-for-service category is also of
interest. Although comparatively few services
were funded in this manner, 13.9 per cent of
Victorian respondents nominated this source
of funding, compared to the national average
of 6.9 per cent. No respondents from South
Australia or the Northern Territory declared
any fee-for-service funding.
An important aspect of the research
was an attempt to explore the ways in
which local government authorities around
Australia engaged with young people. Most
respondents (94.1%) reported their LGA
provided opportunities for young people to
take part in the planning of relevant services.
196 respondents (89.5%) described how
that involvement occurred (Table 7).
Table 7: Participation by young people in local government
Forms of youth participation
Youth advisory committee/groups
Youth/junior council
Youth fora
Ad hoc consultation
Steering committees/working groups (project based)
Annual fora/surveys
Peak bodies
Alive and Motivated
The responses can be divided into those
which report some formal means by which
young people are engaged, and a wide range
of more informal mechanisms. The former
include youth advisory committees, youth
advisory groups, and youth/junior councils
and more than half of the sample reported
arrangements of this kind. Less formal
participation reported included steering
committees or working groups which were
formed to oversee a particular project (such
as, an arts event), annual fora at which the
views of young people are invited, electronic
networks, and other mechanisms, such
as HYPE – a Western Australian program
aimed at “Helping Young People Engage”
in their local community – and FReeZA,
aimed at assisting young people in Victoria
to organise and run cultural, especially rock
music, events.
In kind support
Councils were also given the opportunity
to identify in-kind support, such as one-off
small grants, premises or use of facilities,
they provided to young people (Table 8).
“Community young people groups” were the
most commonly nominated organisations in
receipt of LGA support (71.7%), followed by
“Youth recreation groups” (63%) and “Youth
sports groups” (62.1%). These are the most
generalised description of groups that might
receive support. As the descriptions become
more specific, the response rate diminishes.
It is worth noting that 23 respondents
(10.5% of the sample) indicated that they
provided grants that any group might apply
for. This is in keeping with earlier responses
which declared that their council provided
services for all young people, rather than
specific groups of young people.
Method of service provision
Given the recent debate about the
outsourcing of community services in local
government we wanted to explore methods
of youth service provision. Respondents
were asked whether listed services were
provided in-house, by external contractor, or
both in-house and externally (Tables 9–10).
They were allowed only single responses to
each category, with the in-house category
the default position.
The more general the description of the
service, or the more traditional its history
as a local government activity, the more
likely it was to be delivered in-house.
Table 8: Groups in receipt of in-kind support from local government
Groups supported
Community young people
Youth recreation
Youth sports clubs
Youth school
Youth arts/craft
Youth drama/theatre
Church or religion-based young people
Scouts or Girl Guides
Rural young people
Other youth groups
Per cent
Chapter 3
Youth services and other activities in local government in Australia
Table 9: In-house provision of youth services
Library services for young people
Community – young people policies
Advisory services
Crime prevention
Recreation programs
Personal development
Policies for young women
At-risk programs
Outreach programs
Indigenous young people policies
Policies for young men
NES policies
Drug/alcohol services
Welfare programs
Mental health
Sexual health counselling
Other program/services
Libraries, generic youth services, recreation
and sport, were all frequently cited as
in-house programs. The prominence of
crime prevention services (44.3%) provided
in-house reflects councils’ responses to the
increasing emphasis on law and order issues
demanded by many ratepayers.
Specialist health and welfare programs
were less likely to be delivered in-house.
These included mental and sexual health
services, drug and alcohol programs and other
health and welfare programs. One anomaly
illustrated in Table 9 is the appearance
of curfews, cited by nine per cent of the
Per cent
sample as being provided in-house, but
not identified previously in Table 3 (youth
services provided by local government).
Fewer respondents identified services
which were delivered by external contractors
by their council (Table 10). As indicated above
those services most likely to be delivered
in this mode are specialist health and welfare
services, as well as drama/theatre activities.
Youth services workers
One of the means by which to determine
local government’s involvement in youth
services, is to explore the people specifically
Alive and Motivated
employed to work with young people.
Respondents were asked to identify the types
of people they employed to work with young
people, and could check multiple answers.
These responses were then collapsed into
six broad categories (Table 11). While some
of the position titles are descriptive (for
example, recreation officer), others reflect
the more generic job descriptions many
workers in these areas have. Just under
half of all workers identified (48.1%) were
in the youth development category. Less
than a quarter (22.6%) were employed in
the arts/recreation/sport categories, and a
smaller number (13.9%) in positions in the
outreach/social worker/disability categories.
Table 10: Local government youth services by external contractor
Per cent
Sexual health counselling
Mental health
Drug/alcohol services
Outreach programs
At-risk programs
Welfare programs
Recreation programs
Personal development
Policies for young women
Policies for young men
Library services
Crime prevention
Advisory services
Indigenous young people’s policies
NES policies
Community – young people’s policy
Other programs/services
Chapter 3
Youth services and other activities in local government in Australia
Table 11: Youth services employees of local government
Per cent
Youth development workers
Arts/recreation/sports workers
Outreach/social/disability workers
Employment workers
Accommodation workers
Migrant workers
The grouping of social workers with
outreach workers rather than “youth”
workers is problematic, but the general trend
is apparent. The most common position
titles are those involving the term “youth”,
and might be described as “general” youth
positions. The largest number of task specific
positions was that aligned with recreational,
artistic and sporting matters. Outreach work,
which combines aspects of general “youth”
work, recreational activities, and adds a
level of “at-risk” and “health” concerns, was
the next most nominated category.
When asked to nominate other workers
not described previously, there were
two categories of interest. The first was
community development officers which, in
retrospect, should have been included as
a general employment category as 14.6 per
cent of the sample identified this category.
A similar number of responses identified a
generic youth participation category, which
included people working on youth projects
and events.
One of the objectives of the research was
to identify innovative programs or services
which might be successfully applied
elsewhere. 133 respondents (60.7%)
declared that they had innovative programs
and around half the sample (50.7%) provided
details of these (Table 12).
The categories of programs in Table 12
have been collapsed from the wide range
of responses. Some programs are identified
in more than one category: for example, a
crime prevention program involving camps
Table 12: Innovative programs for young people by local government
Community/personal/leadership development
No programs
Per cent
Alive and Motivated
is listed as both a crime/safety program
and a recreation program. There was also
a problem to do with the categorisation
of innovative services/programs in varying
stages of development – from planning to
developing an integrated service model,
having created one and about to implement
it, to working within an existing model.
All these examples have been listed in
the YAC/plan/IT/coordination category and
deal with ideas about the style or form
of interaction between local governments
and young people, rather than a service
directed at particular needs. This was the
most frequently cited category of innovative
A similar number of programs were
concerned with education or employment,
and recreation or art. Slightly fewer programs
on community or personal development
were nominated, followed by health and
outreach programs. Less frequently cited
were programs providing infrastructure,
dealing with crime and safety, and Indigenous
awareness. Six councils declared that they
offered no current innovative programs.
Profiles of local government
youth services
Data in this chapter is subject to many
limitations, including the size of the sample,
and difficulties categorising some material.
Another limitation has been the fragmented
view this type of quantitative data provides
of youth services. This is overcome, in part,
by the case studies presented later, which
explore in some detail, innovative programs
identified by councils. However, it is useful
to have some picture of youth services
provided within a single local government in
very different parts of Australia.
What becomes clear is the role that
local government plays in activities other
than direct service provision, particularly
the importance of policy development,
advocacy and liaison, and the resourcing of
and support for diverse community groups
delivering services to young people.
Moreland City Council, Melbourne
Moreland City Council articulates as part
of its general mandate, working with young
people aged 11 to 25 years to help develop
and build skills as well as promote active
participation in the community. Young
people are listed as one of many council
priority areas. In the council plan for 2002
to 2005 it is claimed that:
Council will ensure that young people
are represented in council decisionmaking structures and given the opportunity to participate more fully in the
community. Youth Summits, organised
and run by young people, will continue
to be supported and encouraged.
Council is committed to providing a
diverse range of sports and recreation
facilities and activities for Moreland’s
young people.
Moreland City Council involves itself in
a range of youth programs, including the
• the Moreland Push Start band heat is
coordinated by Moreland City Council’s
Youth Services section. It provides an
opportunity for young unsigned bands
to participate in drug and alcohol
free events;
• the Moreland Youth Services program
provides information and advice to
young people, directly and in liaison
with other service providers, on a wide
range of health and social issues;
• the Moreland Youth Music Committee is
made up of young people from 12–25
years. It is supported by council youth
Chapter 3
Youth services and other activities in local government in Australia
workers and plans and regularly carries
out drug and alcohol free music
council staff also offer a range of
activities for young people during
school holidays. The program operates
from various venues in Moreland and
participants are charged according to
their family’s level of income;
council youth workers support a
number of local neighbourhood youth
groups including the Brunswick,
Coburg, Fawkner and Glenroy Youth
council has appointed a Family Liaison
Worker who provides counselling and
support for young people and/or their
a number of homework and study groups
and tuition to students attending local
secondary schools;
a book bursary program with financial
assistance towards the purchase of
school books;
an orientation program into local services
and recreational opportunities for newly
arrived young people; and
the Moonah Community Group, a
community strengthening initiative
described in detail later in this
Moreland Council also hosts regular
Youth Summits. These events, planned
and organised by Moreland’s Youth
Advisory Committee, bring together council
representatives, youth service providers and
young people who work, live or study in
Moreland to take part in discussing issues
and concerns that are of importance to young
people. Recommendations from these events
are taken to council and shape council’s
youth policy. In addition, council plans to
prepare a Youth Strategy by late 2003.
Darwin City Council, Darwin
Darwin City Council supports a range of
youth and youth policy initiatives. Council
has developed a Youth Strategy as a guide
to the planning of youth services and
council’s future directions. Council officers
also support a Youth Advisory Group
designed to act as a consultative group to
feed information and ideas to council. The
Youth Advisory Group is made up of young
people aged 12–20 and meets regularly
to discuss youth issues, needs and future
directions. The Youth Advisory Group are
consulted when council is undertaking
planning or organising events that
could have an impact on young people.
Increasingly, councillors refer matters to
the Youth Advisory Group or seek out
their advice on specific issues. The Youth
Advisory Group also works on the planning
of youth projects and events.
Other youth services offered through the
council include the following:
• a project called Graffik Measures. This
12-month project was funded by the
NT Department of Justice and draws
upon the skills and activities of young
aerosol artists in Darwin suburbs.
These artists created a series of urban
art murals on council’s public toilet
blocks. Design and planning workshops were coordinated by council staff
as a crime prevention strategy;
• the production and updating of a Youth
Services Directory which is available for
download on a web site. This booklet
provides a comprehensive guide to
youth services in the Darwin area. Hard
copies are also available for those who
do not have Internet access;
• a Youth Information Card designed for
young people who need the contact
details of youth services in Darwin;
Alive and Motivated
• the GRIND newspaper, produced by
young people, and described in detail
later in the report; and
• the provision of an informal information
hub, through the Youth Development
Officer, for a local network of youth
services workers in Darwin.
The youth practice undertaken by local
government throughout Australia is diverse,
and ranges from the most traditional, in the
form of library and recreation services, to
the more recent attractions of information
technology and electronic communication. In
addition to providing direct services to young
people many local governments are taking
on work in the areas of policy, planning and
community support. Particularly since the
rise in popularity of community development,
local governments are committing more
resources to assist others to engage with
young people.
It appears that local governments are
taking a more prominent role in the provision
of education, employment and training for
young people than in the past, with just
under half the sample providing services
in these areas. It is also clear that services
are delivered by a diverse combination of
in-house and external providers.
Ideas about the participation of young
people are woven through many of the
services listed, illustrated by the large number
of youth advisory groups identified and
number of innovative programs cited in this
area. Notions of the development of young
people – whether personal or community
focused – are also prominent. These ideas
are explored later in the report.
Reading and telling
their own stories
Purpose of the case studies
The survey results provide a snapshot
of local government youth services and
activities across Australia. Like much
quantitative data, they furnish basic answers
to the questions relating to “what” services
are offered, but nothing on the “how”
and “why” they have been developed.
Case studies have become an important
device for illustrating qualitative aspects of
programs, institutions, or activities which
allow the reader to understand some of
the rationale, history and development
behind the initiative. While case studies
do not have the generalisability of some
quantitative studies, with other qualitative
research, they can provide more valid data
as the researcher is able to interrogate the
data during interviews and observations. For
many people, including local government
and other youth practitioners, students and
academics, these ethnographies of youth
work practice in local government are also
likely to be more credible and certainly
more readable than statistical overviews of
youth services and activities as they take
the reader through everyday practice.
The case studies illustrate the diversity
of local government services and activities
for young people, identify the material and
social ingredients needed to develop and
maintain programs, and should contain
enough detail for others to decide if such
an initiative might work in their area.
While each of the programs is unique, the
sections on achievements and challenges
of the respective programs alert the reader
to what works and why. The case studies
are not intended as a definitive list of best
practice local government services, but rich
examples of the broad range of very different
programs across Australia. The case studies
in these next five chapters inform the final
two chapters on models of youth practice
and on a framework for quality in local
government youth practice. Readers more
Alive and Motivated
interested in these general issues may wish
to read those chapters first, and refer back
to the case studies for specific details.
Data for the case studies was collected
during field visits to each site (see Appendix
1 for details on case study selection and
data collection) and involved interviews with
key stakeholders, including young people,
and observations of programs in action,
wherever possible.
The case studies have been arranged in
loose themes: reading and telling their own
stories; places and spaces for young people,
flexible services for mobile outreach; engaging
with Indigenous young people; and service
delivery through the “one-stop-shop”.
In these case studies we refer to three
innovative programs which encourage young
people to engage positively with their
communities through their own newspaper,
theatre group, and library program. These
programs stimulate young people to write,
act and read about themselves and other
young people, using a wide range of literacies
to narrate these stories to others. They
illustrate the point that many young people
want more than skate parks and computer
games, even those with modest literacy
levels. The different media – newspaper,
theatre and books – allow for the extension
of different skills and creative worlds and
connect the young people to people and
settings with which they may never have
come into contact.
The GRIND Youth Newspaper –
Darwin City Council
The GRIND Youth Newspaper is a youth
initiative of the Darwin City Council that
seeks to support the promotion of positive
images and achievements of young people,
showcasing and demonstrating to the
Darwin community their vibrancy, creativity
and activity. The newspaper provides a
means for young people to have a voice and
articulate their interests, views and ideas.
As Tara Collins, an editor in 2001, said,
“we want young people all over Darwin to
have a new and interesting paper that isn’t
bagging them”.
History of the initiative
In early 2000, council staff decided to
fund a pilot youth magazine/newspaper. A
small core group of young people met and
produced the first edition of GRIND. After
the production of the first issue many of
these young people turned their attention to
other activities and the newspaper ceased
production for a period of time.
In 2001 the GRIND newspaper project
was redeveloped shortly after the new
Youth Services Project Officer took up
her appointment. Partly this was shaped
by a response to consistent and ongoing
negative media coverage of young people
in the Darwin area and partly in response to
the focus on youth participation in council’s
new Youth Strategy, produced in 2000.
GRIND re-emerged in February 2001,
beginning with a workshop for young
people interested in developing journalism
skills and forming a youth team to produce
a newspaper. Thirty-five young people came
along to the first workshop and remained to
develop the paper. Initially the team planned
to produce two editions of the newspaper in
2001. This was achieved, and in the following
year four editions went to print. Since then
council has continued its commitment to
the newspaper. The involvement of young
people has consistently increased, since the
initiative first commenced, so that now there
are up to 60 who are regular contributors.
Chapter 4
Reading and telling their own stories
The project
Since the newspaper’s inception young
people have been involved in all aspects
of the newspaper production process from
reporting, editing, creative writing, cartoon
production, artwork and printing. Periodically
the Youth Services Project Officer works with
the team to identify the kind of areas in
which they want to develop their skills and
they work together to arrange for specialist
training and skills workshops for the team.
For example, in 2001 the first workshop was
facilitated by the NT Writer’s Centre and
focused on writing and research skills with
a professional journalist. The next workshop
was with a panel of local journalists and
cartoonists; the following year a MAMBO
artist; and this year, local journalists and
Wil Anderson, which attracted over 100
young people.
GRIND is produced quarterly with 3 000
copies being distributed through all local
high schools, most primary schools, local
cinemas, the local Angus & Robertson
bookshop (where it is included with every
purchase made by a young person), public
swimming pools, youth orientated shops and
all youth service providers. Each edition of
GRIND is also available on the web.
The content of the newspaper is the
responsibility of the team with a strong
emphasis from council and the GRIND team
on the team’s editorial autonomy and the
importance of young people producing work
uncensored by council. The project attempts
to “maximise youth participation and provide
young people with a vehicle to have a voice”,
and provide “. . . opportunities for young
people to develop a sense of belonging and
connectedness within their local community”
(Darwin City Council Report 29/08/01).
The GRIND team has had between
40–60 young people from a broad range
of backgrounds consistently involved in
the production of the newspaper. Those
involved range in age from 12–20-yearolds, but with the most active involvement
from high school students, diverse areas
of residence (with significant numbers of
young people who have lived in regional
NT), a broad gender split (but with young
women regularly taking on important roles
in production), and with some cultural
diversity (with GRIND attracting a small but
growing group of young people from migrant
and refugee backgrounds).
The notable exception to this pattern of
broad ranging participation has been the
lack of Indigenous young people involved.
However, there has been some collaborative
work between the GRIND team and Indigenous
groups. For example, at the February 2002
GRIND skills workshop representatives from
the Tiwi Island community attended to gain
ideas about how to begin a similar project in
their own community.
The council makes available a number of
resources to the GRIND team. It has committed
a computer and workstation, space around
the Youth Services Project Officer, cameras,
scanners, film, printers, taping facilities and
production equipment. The project receives
most of its funding directly from council,
which provided $3 000 for the establishment
of GRIND in 2001 and committed an additional
$6 000 in the 2001–2002 financial year. As a
part of her duties the council’s Youth Service
Project Officer has dedicated hours per week
allocated to the project, dependent on the
stage of production of the newspaper.
In addition, various community groups and
businesses offer financial, in-kind support,
opportunities and mentoring to GRIND.
This includes:
• assistance with distribution of the
newspaper by Angus & Robertson
Alive and Motivated
Books, and Birch, Carroll and Coyle
assistance with gaining celebrity interviews from Darwin Entertainment Centre
and Music Industry Development Inc.;
donations from Angus & Robertson of
new books for reviewing;
donations of CDs from local bands to
use for “give-aways”;
educational tours by the Chief of
Staff and editing staff of the Northern
Territory News and mentoring from many
ABC journalists;
requests from various community groups
for youth journalists to report on community events and activities;
small donations from local businesses;
writing and skills development workshops offered by the Writer’s Centre.
The GRIND project’s establishment
was premised on council’s commitment
to youth participation. Few specific and
prescriptive project goals have been
imposed from council. According to council
staff interviewed, this is one of the most
important elements of their commitment to
GRIND and something that is considered to
be vital to its continued success.
Young people elect those who fill positions
and have established and documented the
roles and responsibilities of these positions.
Except for the Project Coordinator, filled by
the Darwin City Council’s Youth Services
Project Officer, young people take on all of
the identified roles which include:
• a Senior Editor;
• a Deputy Editor;
• Assistant Editors;
• Sub Editors;
a Chief Photographer;
a Graphics Coordinator;
a Public Relations Officer;
Head of Distribution;
Youth Journalists; and
As GRIND Headquarters are physically
located in council offices this necessitates
young people entering secure areas of
council. One effect of this is that young people
become familiar with the daily operations of
a local government authority, meet council
officers and council representatives and are
involved in the process of local governance
in a concrete and applied way.
A number of members of the GRIND
team are also members of other youth
participatory forums including Darwin City
Council’s Youth Advisory Council and the
Northern Territory Chief Minister’s Round
Table of Young Territorians.
A key achievement of the group has been the
quarterly publication of a newspaper of sound
quality. As the Youth Services Project Officer
remarked, “meeting deadlines and getting
out an issue of the paper is always a major
achievement”. In late 2002 young people’s
autonomy and capacity to carry out work was
subjected to a critical test. With little warning
council’s Youth Services Project Officer was
forced to take bereavement leave. This meant
that she was unable to act as the newspaper’s
coordinator. This role was taken up by young
people and the following issue of GRIND went
to print largely unaided by adults.
The consistent publication of stories that
examine young people’s positive contribution
to Darwin was also declared to be a major
accomplishment. As the paper’s 17-year-old
Public Relations Officer, Matt Cornell, said in
Chapter 4
Reading and telling their own stories
a newspaper story covered in the NT News,
“what GRIND does is not just achieve and
not just get youth who have ideas into doing
something constructive, it showcases it”.
more inclined to pass on responsibility to
YAG because they have seen the product
that GRIND has produced and are confident
young people can actually do good work”.
There were also a number of unexpected
positive outcomes cited by those involved
with GRIND. Council staff claimed that young
people’s presence in council offices had an
important influence on other council staff,
challenging many ideas about youth as a risk
and demonstrating that young people were
capable of constructive work. Indeed one
council officer claims that as a consequence
of the GRIND team members regularly
frequenting council “I’ve found a change of
heart in terms of youth issues . . . when we
began GRIND, staff were really nervous about
having young people around in secure areas
. . . now they think it’s terrific”. It became the
practice of some council officers to draw on
and draw in young people during the course
of their work. For example, GRIND members
have been asked to take up casual work
at various council functions, particularly
events such as the council’s “Fun in the
Parks” program. Occasionally groups have
contacted council requesting the services of
an artist. At other times young people have
been asked for their assistance in translating
what one officer described as “youth sector
speak” into language that had wider public
Another unintended consequence of
GRIND has been opportunities created for
young people to participate in media. For
example, a number of GRIND journalists
have themselves been interviewed by local
media outlets including local newspapers,
SBS and ABC radio. A former editor of GRIND,
Chris Carter, has gained a cadetship with
the NT News. This year, “Stateline” filmed
a documentary on GRIND and many of the
team were involved in this.
Over time GRIND’s contribution to the
council’s Youth Advisory Group (YAG) has
increased. In addition, GRIND provides an
important forum for the airing of issues that
are on the agenda of YAG, often being asked
to write stories of importance to the YAG.
The successes of GRIND have also helped
the YAG gain credibility, particularly amongst
councillors and other community members
who do not understand the distinction
between each group. According to a senior
council staff member, “council are now
A consistent claim in relation to the
success of the project is that young people
are both actively involved in carrying out
work that they identify as important and
“have a sense of ownership” in each step of
the process. As one young person said, “we
get to decide on all the rules, whether that
be in meetings or in the newspaper”.
All of those interviewed also partly
attributed the project’s success to the energy,
dedication and commitment of the council’s
Youth Services Project Officer, the leadership
of council’s Community Services Department
and some particular council aldermen.
Together these people act as a resource,
often undertaking duties and following
through with jobs at the request of young
people. They have also been instrumental in
building the skills and confidence of young
people in terms of media production and
writing. The council’s financial commitment
to the project, and its provision of basic
media equipment, has also been crucial to
GRIND’s continuing success.
Some also identified the theme of the
paper, countering negative media imagery of
young people’s contribution and successes
as an important ingredient that shapes
Alive and Motivated
the success of this initiative. According to
council officers, this emphasis on strengths
and achievements further generates “the
general spirit of expectation that things can
be achieved”.
The financial and in-kind support offered from
local media outlets, journalists and businesses
is essential to GRIND’s ongoing sustainability,
for a number of reasons. Mentoring and skills
development offered by local journalists and
writers is of critical importance, not only in
relation to the quality of the newspaper but
also in providing excitement and motivation for
young people who get to work with high profile
personalities and skilled professionals. As one
young woman said, “giving young people the
chance to work side by side with Kate Carter
[a local ABC presenter] has got to be one of
the most exciting things young people can do
. . . when you’re given these opportunities you
take them”.
The combined elements of fun, food
and friendship were also cited as important
ingredients for the success of GRIND. All
young informants made the point that these
were three of the most important reasons why
young people enjoy and hence participate
in the process. As one young person said,
“GRIND meetings and working together is fun
. . . without this we would soon lose interest”.
Finally, both council officers and GRIND
members believe that one of the important
elements in the success of GRIND is that “there
is always work to be done . . . this is one of the
best things about it . . . and the work is different
. . . you are not sitting around just talking, or
just going to an event and watching it . . . you
have always got plenty to do”.
One challenge articulated by young people
was that confronted by senior students with
decreasing amounts of time to contribute
to the newspaper as a consequence of the
increasing demands of study. This is further
compounded by the fact that young people’s
success as contributors to GRIND often led to
additional requests that they be involved in
other youth participatory activities external
to council.
Another challenge was the tensions
between involving a broad range of
young people, managing diverse interests,
nurturing young members and meeting
production deadlines. Not surprisingly older
and more confident members of the team
often dominated meetings and took on more
central roles in production. In the longerterm the paper’s sustainability is dependent
upon new members learning and taking on
leadership over time.
Initially gaining access to the council
building was difficult for young people.
Particularly in the wake of September 11, the
Bali bombing and the anthrax scare security
risk management and fears about security
breaches were heightened. Understandably
there were those amongst council staff
who were reticent to agree to people other
than staff members being allowed into an
otherwise secure area. After it was agreed
that there were significant advantages to
having the GRIND team work inside council
offices there were still logistical problems
associated with getting young people
through security, but these were resolved to
the satisfaction of both council staff and the
young people involved.
Another tension identified was the difficulty
of maintaining a commitment to the editorial
rights of young people and maximum youth
involvement while guaranteeing significant
quality and not offending readership.
A youth newspaper with little outside
censorship, particularly one supported by
a council, is a risky endeavour. When the
Chapter 4
Reading and telling their own stories
paper was first mooted some councillors
were understandably reticent about the
political consequences should people take
offence to the newspaper’s content. As one
person commented, “a newspaper like this
needs to be of significant quality to hold
the front”.
Short Fuse Youth Theatre Group
– Town of Kwinana
Short Fuse is a youth theatre group
supported by the Town of Kwinana in
Western Australia. It was founded in 1998
by a small group of young people meeting
after school to develop their own youth
theatre company. As the Youth Arts Officer
from the Town of Kwinana says, “Short
Fuse is made up of some of the most
passionate, honest and creative people
who want to let others get to share in the
dreams and aspirations of those who are
proud to make Kwinana home”.
The Town of Kwinana, in the southwestern metropolitan area of Perth, Western
Australia, has 20 000 residents. It has
long battled with the stigma associated
with being the town servicing the Perth
metropolitan region’s largest industrial
strip. However, it is also nestled in the
midst of tuart forest and banksia bush only
a few kilometres from the coast and the
Cockburn Sound.
Kwinana has some of the lowest social
indicators in Western Australia. As residents
of an outer metropolitan area, young
people in the region are also relatively
isolated from the social, recreational, and
employment opportunities available in the
inner metropolitan area. However, out of
this “low-socio-economic tag” and strong
working class and state housing culture
has emerged local defiance and a strong
sense of community, particularly amongst
young people.
History of the initiative
In 1998 Short Fuse grew out of the idea
by a small group of 15–16-year-old local
young people who wanted to establish a
youth theatre group. It was important for
this group, disgruntled by what they saw as
a lack of opportunities offered in high school
theatre arts, to create their own company
where they could have creative control and
ownership. They were particularly keen to
start a theatre group so they could showcase
their talents and celebrate growing up in an
area that produced more richness than was
often appreciated.
Initially a core group of young people
approached the local Arts Centre requesting
free workshop space. At the same time
they began to recruit others, raise funds to
help buy materials and began to research
in preparation for productions. At this point
contact was established between members
of the group and staff of the youth services
team at the Town of Kwinana, a couple of
community members and the local Member
of Parliament.
The project
With support from council’s Youth Officer
the group has worked together on a range
of community arts initiatives. In 1998 they
took a leading role in the “Wave Your Flag
Project”, a community cultural development
initiative after the Alcoa Mining Company
approached the council wishing to support
a project that celebrated Kwinana’s solid
sense of community spirit and rich cultural
diversity. This made it possible for a local
young artist to be employed to coordinate
the project and support other young artists.
This young woman has since continued in
this regard, taking on a similar role in other
youth arts projects until in 2002 council
made the position of Youth Arts Officer
permanent. According to those involved, this
Alive and Motivated
person has been the mainstay of youth arts
initiatives often acting as the main support
and key point of contact between council
and Short Fuse.
In 1999 the group of young people, that
by now had gained some experience in
organising and managing projects, were
asked by the local Festival Committee and
the arts production group Awesome to
help produce Kwinana’s first youth arts
festival, FreakFest. This they managed with
considerable success.
In 2000 with the help of council staff Short
Fuse gained funding from the State Health
Department to write and produce “You
want to do what with my what”?, a play
exploring sexuality and relationships. The
play was a major success, touring the state,
giving members a chance to work with a
professional writer and director and allowing
young people to articulate their experiences
and issues in a humorous and accessible
way. In this same year Short Fuse were again
invited to produce and manage the second
youth arts festival, FreakFest 2000.
Members of Short Fuse continued to work
on a number of small youth arts projects,
including a series of urban arts projects, at the
same time as manage the annual FreakFest
events. In 2002 after the overwhelming
success of various FreakFest events the group
capitalised upon the momentum created
to launch a program of regular theatre
workshops for local young people. The group
successfully applied for a small grant from
the State Arts Department so that they could
run regular theatre workshops catering to
The aim of these workshops has been to:
• develop voice and movement skills;
• work on character development and
• develop understanding of status and its
role improvisation;
• develop skills of physical theatre;
• explore text and script development; and
• build confidence, self-esteem and
Over four years Short Fuse has grown from
an idea of a small number of local young
people to a talented youth theatre company
that has a membership of over 100 young
people. They now employ two part-time staff
and deliver four workshops a week.
Not only has Short Fuse shaped the way
young people are perceived but it has
influenced the way people think about living
in Kwinana. In addition, the company has
come to influence the way council works
with young people and the commitment
councillors have to local young people,
evidenced by council funding of the Youth
Arts Officer position.
Short Fuse is a youth theatre company,
managed and run by young people. Young
people are the active membership of Short
Fuse with some support from council’s Youth
Services Team. No specific and prescriptive
project goals have been imposed from
Consistently throughout its history
members of the Short Fuse team have also
contributed to other youth and community
events and groups including cultural festivals
and the town’s Youth Advisory Council. In
fact all of the performances and events Short
Fuse are involved in have a strong emphasis
on the participation of young people.
The company itself has a commitment
to produce work that challenges the way
young people are portrayed and the taken
for granted ideas about living in the Kwinana
Chapter 4
Reading and telling their own stories
community. In this way Short Fuse creates
opportunities for young people to build
performance skills, give a public voice to
local youth issues as well as challenge the
idea that young people from Kwinana have
a limited contribution to make. In addition,
the group has been the gateway through
which a number of local young people have
entered the arts field.
Short Fuse has consistently contributed to
the planning and running of the local youth
arts festival FreakFest. Last year the festival
attracted 1 000 visitors to the festival site
with approximately 270 young people
directly involved in art projects leading up
to and during the festival.
The Short Fuse production “You want to do
what with my what”? was made up of a cast
of 28 young people and attracted audiences
in excess of 800. The performance of this
piece of theatre attracted considerable
public attention and acclaim, particularly for
its treatment of the experiences of young
people struggling with sexual identity
and the issues confronting sexuality and
relationships. Like all of its productions, “You
want to do what with my what”? was written
by the young performers and drew heavily
on the themes they considered important in
the language and style they chose.
families and become involved in providing
opportunities for other young people to
build their skills and confidence as young
writers, performers, spokespeople and
producers of art and public commentary.
More experienced young people are now
taking on roles as mentors and trainers of
newcomers, introducing them to the process
of cultural production.
An unintended consequence of council’s
support for Short Fuse is that young people
involved have consistently lent a hand
to other community driven projects. For
example, members of Short Fuse have made
an important contribution to the production
of a number of community art murals at local
shopping centres and at public and council
facilities. This has helped to legitimise the
art form and helped provide opportunities
for emerging artists.
There is also some good evidence that
young people’s involvement in Short Fuse
has directly influenced the way council
does its work, helping operationalise
its aspirations for engaging more with
community and promoting the achievements
of local people. Young people’s success as
community artists has also taught council
much about community development and
the practice of involving others in council
processes. As a council staff member said:
The continued existence of Short Fuse
over four years is itself a major achievement.
As the Youth Arts Officer from the Town of
Kwinana said, “the fact that a youth theatre
company established itself in the first place
is a credit to the creativity and tenacity of
those young people involved. The fact that
they have gone on to bigger and better
things is even more remarkable”.
there’s a trend to talk a lot about
community engagement but many in
council often are unsure about what
this means or how to do it. Here young
people’s involvement in the arts has
taught people around here about the
value of using art as a medium for
people to come together to work . . . it’s
given people a practical lesson in how
you can get things done.
The success of Short Fuse has allowed it
to consolidate, gain the confidence of local
The work of Short Fuse has also provided
council with a valuable lesson in how
Alive and Motivated
young people and youth culture can be
attractive and popular to others. Recently
artists from Short Fuse were invited to
participate in an exhibition in the heart
of the Perth Business District. As another
council worker observed:
the public loved their work . . . they were
drawn in like flies because they were
excited by the vitality and sexiness of
youth culture . . . many were especially
attracted when they knew we were from
Kwinana – a place they thought of as
dirty, dangerous and a little depraved.
Others consulted also identified as
a major achievement of Short Fuse,
its emphasis on challenging the many
stereotypes that confront young people
growing up in a place like Kwinana and
celebrating the area’s strong Indigenous
and migrant heritage. As council’s Youth
Arts Officer said:
the town, developed in the 1950s to house
workers from the newly constructed
refinery, has a diverse and rich local
culture . . . Short Fuse have managed to
capture this in so many ways and help
celebrate and commemorate the strength
of this tradition.
In the experience of those involved, in
order to attract financial support young
people often have to be constituted as in
serious crisis. As the Youth Arts Officer said,
“to get funding you usually have to paint
young people as deviant, on the path to
death and destruction and really messed
up”. Community art was seen as the tool for
fixing young people’s many ills, a recipe for
resolving the complex social problems that
confront young people. As a consequence
there was a risk that if local youth issues or
the social troubles of the areas continued
or flared up then community art initiatives
would not continue to be supported.
These tensions, faced by many involved in
local government youth practice, were ever
present and critically felt by members of Short
Fuse. At times this frustrated young people,
often themselves significant achievers, selfstarters and highly motivated. As one person
said, “many of the group get fed up with
having to make themselves to be losers so
that they can get some recognition”.
Members of Short Fuse also struggle with
the frustrations experienced by older artists
and performers, such as people having little
understanding of the costs associated with
putting on productions. Many devalue the
work of young performers, expecting that
they volunteer all their services. Young artists
are then regularly exploited and rarely paid
commercial rates.
Finally, in the early stages of work on
Short Fuse it was important for young people
to meet regularly in the council building,
working on various projects with the Youth
Services Team. As was the case in Darwin,
initially gaining access for young people to
the council building was difficult for council
staff. Some outside of the Youth Services
Team were opposed to young people being
allowed to enter the building and were slow
to acknowledge that young people working
on council events had just as much right
to be on the premises as any other citizen
contributing to community events.
Palmerston Public Library
Young Adult Program –
Palmerston City Council
The Young Adult Program at the Palmerston
Public Library is a small-scale initiative that
was driven by council staff’s enthusiasm
to encourage literacy and open up young
people’s access to libraries. Palmerston is
Chapter 4
Reading and telling their own stories
a satellite city situated 20 kilometres east
of Darwin, established in 1981 due to the
demand for residential land overtaking
supply in the region.
History of the initiative
The initial idea to establish a librarybased program for young adults came from
the Children and Youth Services Coordinator,
Palmerston Public Library. In 2000 Palmerston
City Council applied for an innovation grant
from the Northern Territory Library and
Information Service to run a Young Adult
Program from the Palmerston Public Library.
The key aim of the program was to
encourage young adults to participate in
library programs and use the services and
facilities available at the Palmerston Public
Library for their benefit. Behind this was
the goal to “build reading habits and skills
that lead to success in school and a lifetime
of learning, enjoyment and a motivation
for young adults to read more books more
often”. A central plank of the project was to
enlist the participation of young people in its
planning and organisation. The application for
funding was successful and the Palmerston
Public Library received $15 200 to run a Teen
Week project and to prepare a package to
act as a step-by-step guide for other councils
interested in targeting young adults.
The project
The program consists of a range of youth
oriented initiatives based at the Palmerston
Public Library which attract and encourage
the participation of a range of young people
aged between thirteen and eighteen years.
Young people are involved in the planning,
implementation and evaluation of a number
of events and initiatives ranging from those
that operate on no cost to more substantial
ones. The group, supported by the council’s
Children and Youth Services Librarian, meets
regularly to plan events, has designed a group
logo, undertakes book reviews and advises
council on book selection.
One key outcome of the Young Adult
Program has been the production of a package
designed to assist other councils to undertake
similar initiatives. The package comprises a
range of materials including sample media
releases, logos and a step-by-step guide to
planning projects.
The rationale for the project was three-fold.
Firstly, young people were identified as a very
“high needs group in Palmerston, with youth
recreation topping recent social, recreation
and cultural needs assessment”. Secondly,
the library was identified as a focal point of
community life, with young people enjoying
“hanging around” in the vicinity of the library.
(The local skate park, shopping precinct
and main business centre are all in close
proximity.) However, there were no library
programs specifically targeting young people.
Observation from library staff indicated that
there was little use of the library by young
people for non-school related activity. Finally,
library staff argued that youth specific
library programs had enjoyed some success
internationally (although there was little
evidence of this in Australia). It was therefore
believed that this initiative provided an
opportunity to trial a youth program adapting
ideas used in other countries.
The objectives of the Young Adult Program
are to:
• build reading habits, literacy skills and
an engagement with the library amongst
• do this in a way that promotes nonrequired self-selected reading, writing
for pleasure and the idea that libraries
are fun and rewarding;
• involve young people in developing
strategies and in introducing other
Alive and Motivated
young people to these fun and rewarding activities;
• use the week (Teen Week) as a focus
for promotions and activities which lead
to year round and lifetime involvement
and enjoyment by young people;
• encourage and support parents and
educators in furthering the aims of the
week; and
• involve the wider community in providing ongoing support in relation to these
aims: a) local schools – promoting and
supporting the week to students and
parents; b) parent groups – assistance
in preparation and implementation of
events and activities; and c) YMCA or
local youth groups – promotion and
encouraging young people for long-term
involvement in further projects.
Initially library staff began the program
with a week of planned events, tagged
“Teen Week”. This was preceded by an initial
consultation with groups of young people
which resulted in the design of a preliminary
program and ideas for other activities that
could be added by young people who
decided to get involved. It also resulted in
the forming of a small reference group made
up of council staff, a youth worker, a parent,
an educator and young people.
The success of the week was consolidated
by planning post-week activities and forming
the Young Adult Program group. This group
has continued to meet regularly and plan a
series of events. On average the Young Adult
Program group holds one event per month,
and the following includes some of the key
events organised over the past three years:
• a Northern Territory Youth Affairs playwright workshop;
• a concert and launch of the Young Adult
• digital and dance workshops;
• production and show-case of “A Silent
• Internet skills training workshops;
• a Literature for Young Adults workshop;
• a calligraphy workshop;
• bedtime stories for children from 0–5
• a web site design workshop;
• a “Read-a-thon” to raise money for a
non-profit animal care group;
• the production of a promotional video
which won an Encouragement Award at
the Downunder Film Festival;
• painting poles in the library;
• information and career nights;
• production of a float for the Palmerston
• production of a library guide; and
• a Young Librarian Volunteers program.
Stakeholder involvement
A range of groups identified as strategic
partners supports various events held by
the Young Adult Program group. Initially
Triple J Radio gave “Teen Week” strong
media coverage airing a series of vignettes
by young people from the Northern
Territory. Local youth organisations, such as
Corrugated Iron Youth Arts and the YMCA
assist with events management, promotion
and running skills workshops.
Groups affiliated with the library also
consistently work with the group. For
example, the council’s Local History Project
has worked with young people to prepare
a display for the council’s Local History
Collection. Local schools promote events
and encourage students to participate. In
addition, local parents regularly offer some
assistance and practical support.
Chapter 4
Reading and telling their own stories
The Young Adult Program group has
attracted funds from a diverse range of
agencies. Apart from the initial Innovation
Grant from the Northern Territory Library
and Information Service, small grants have
been received from the Northern Territory
Youth Grants Program and the Community
Services section of Palmerston City Council.
Since 2001 Palmerston City Council has
provided $2 000 a year to assist the Young
Adult Program group with its activities. In
addition, the group has managed to attract
financial and in-kind support from a number
of local businesses for specific projects. For
example Cash Converters provided $1 000
for a workshop on web site training. Baker’s
Delight provides food for YAG meetings. A
local cinema provides complementary tickets
as prizes for group events.
The establishment of the Young Adult
Program was based on the premise that it
is important to encourage young people’s
access to and active involvement in public
libraries. This involvement has been
supported by council’s Children and Youth
Service’s Librarian, and young members of
the group play an active part in arranging
activities such as information evenings,
fundraising and reading events. In addition,
some of those involved have undertaken a
training program and carried out work as
library volunteers.
According to council staff, young people’s
involvement has waxed and waned over the
three years of the project. Partly this reflects
other demands placed on young people,
such as study commitments and part-time
work, but also the mobility of some young
people from defence services families and
other transient groups.
However, the core group has changed little
over time so that many young people have
had a long-term involvement with the group
and library activities. As a consequence
they have become quite a tight knit group,
working with considerable cohesion.
While this has obvious advantages it has
also proved something of a hurdle when
council staff have attempted to attract new
groups of young people, who tend to see
the established core group as “owning”
the program.
Those closely associated with the Young
Adult Program count among its achievements
the group’s sustained existence and the fact
that a small but consistent group of young
people is using the public library and its
resources. In addition, young people are
regularly involved in planning and carrying
out information, entertainment, promotional
and participatory events for themselves
and others of their age. Other important
achievements have been the involvement of
young people in building a more extensive
and relevant young adult collection, the
painting of artwork in sections of the
library, the production of a library “youth”
promotional video and young people’s
involvement in the staffing of the library.
One unintended consequence of the Young
Adult Program has been the involvement of
a core group of young people in additional
roles with council. For example, a number of
young people have become members of the
council’s Youth Advisory Group, represented
council at Youth Leadership conferences and
acted as facilitators of the council’s annual
“Talk-Out-Loud” youth consultation.
There appear to be a number reasons for
the success of the Young Adult Program.
According to council staff the informal
style adopted by the group is critical to its
attraction to young people. Much emphasis
is placed on the idea that “relationship
Alive and Motivated
building is what’s most important to
adolescents”. Therefore considerable time
is allocated during events and meetings to
“letting friendships develop” and “giving
kids time to just talk with each other”.
Likewise the philosophy consistently
adopted by library staff is to “ask, don’t
tell” young people in relation to the group’s
direction. Importance was also attached to
finding ways to “make it fun”. In the view
of council staff, one of the principal reasons
why so few young people use public libraries
is that they usually associate them with
boredom, dullness and a lack of pleasure.
Stereotypically young people see a librarian
as an older person who sees it as their job
to maintain a quiet and sterile environment
free from any kind of vibrancy and fun.
In contrast, those young people involved
claim that the Children and Youth Services
Librarian is important in this regard. Her
informal style combined with emphasis
on giving young people a place to have
fun and build relationships was seen as a
critical ingredient in keeping young people
interested and prepared to use the library.
Offering young people opportunities
to take on roles in the library and having
them get involved in building a young adult
collection were also cited as a reason behind
the success of the program. Indeed, it is now
the convention that the Young Adult Program
group takes responsibility for the purchasing
of books, magazines and CDs for the young
adult collection. Another important initiative
has been to offer members of the group
casual work after they have progressed
through a training course.
Finally, young people’s comfort with
being in the space was articulated as very
important. Council staff had agreed to target
young people who used the library to make
them “feel warm and welcome”. They had
offered young people the chance to create
a youth specific space and instituted a
number of activities to allow young people
to own this space (such as redesigning and
painting the area).
Many of the challenges identified by those
involved relate to the problem of maintaining
a solid core group of young people.
Continuing their ongoing involvement proved
to be most difficult for those young people
who were in their senior years of schooling.
Not surprisingly, at the very moment when
young people grew in their confidence and
became important leaders in group activities,
their study commitments grew and the time
available for group events became limited.
In recent times library staff have instituted a
program to encourage those with a longerterm involvement in the group to adopt a
younger person in an attempt to bring new
members into the group and encourage
their leadership.
Young people’s lack of confidence also
presented a challenge at times. Various
events had been organised but became
difficult to carry out when young people
realised that it would be necessary to take
on a public role. For example, a “Bedtime
Story” event was initially designed so that
young people could read to children 0–5
years. This was well attended by children,
parents and some young people. However, it
became necessary for library staff to take on
the work of reading as young people “froze”
and found it too difficult to read with so
much public attention. Subsequently, smaller
scale reading activities were arranged so
that young people could take up similar
opportunities on the spur of the moment
and with a more intimate audience.
The traditional image of a public library
as a quiet place of reading and reflection
Chapter 4
Reading and telling their own stories
was also identified as a constant hurdle
for the group. According to library staff, the
standard emphasis on governing noise in
public libraries ran counter to young people’s
need for a public space that is available
to combine reading with opportunities to
meet, talk and have fun. To deal with this
challenge the group made arrangements to
use less conspicuous spaces in the library,
arrange some use of areas outside the library
and arrange events outside public opening
hours. Increasingly public libraries are being
designed to include space that allows
groups, such as young people, to discuss
and carry out activities without disturbing
others. One such area is being planned for
the Palmerston Public Library.
Another challenge facing the group reflects
the stigma many young people have attached
to reading and using libraries. As a staff
member said, “young people, in particular
boys, see reading and using public libraries
as a ‘nerdy’ thing . . . this makes it difficult
to attract them”. In many ways this initiative
represents one attempt to counter the trend
away from libraries and reading during
adolescence. In addition, the group identified
a number of key strategies for promoting the
idea of the public library as a “cool” place.
These included: building the library’s CD
collection to include contemporary music
attractive to young people; targeting the
subscription of youth magazines; painting
sections of the library; and increasing the
visibility of youth events through promotion.
The group had no Indigenous young
people involved. This partly reflects the low
levels of Indigenous use of public libraries
generally. Although young people had
themselves identified this as a problem the
group had little idea about how they might
address this apart from suggesting that the
young adult collection might take on an
Indigenous focus.
These case studies demonstrate how
projects which allow young people to express
their identities creatively can be powerful
mechanisms for participation. Starting such
projects can be daunting, as they require
considerable commitment and support
from local government to keep them going.
However, writing positive narratives about
young people, acting out stories which reveal
the complexities of young people’s lives,
and creating a culture of reading as “cool”
for young people highlight the diversity of
young people’s interests and aspirations.
Each project, in its own way, has provided
inclusive, active opportunities for young
people to interact with each other and to
promote the contribution young people make
to society generally. The case studies illustrate
the importance of trialling ambitious projects
(the newspaper), of promoting creative
opportunities (the theatre group), and taking
a chance on seemingly unlikely activities
(the reading group) if the ingredients for a
successful experiment are present.
Alive and Motivated
Places and spaces for
young people
This chapter presents two case studies
which illustrate the difficult issue of the
use of public places and spaces by young
people. Youth work developed in Australia, at
least in part, to deal with public fears about
young people’s visibility on city streets and
many communities, and local governments,
struggle to balance these fears about safety
and order with the rights of young people to
enjoy public domains.
Each of the projects described here started
because of community perceptions that young
people presented a risk to community safety
through their behaviour in public places. The
attempted solutions are different, however.
The Palmerston Public Spaces Protocol has
been informed by a growing trend in the
development of protocols, which attempt
to negotiate agreements on the sharing of
public space. The aim of this project is to
prevent or reduce anti-social behaviour by
young people. The Longford Police Caution
Project takes a more individual and reactive
approach, by instituting an informal police
caution for those young people apprehended
for an offence. Both projects raise important
questions about how local governments
protect the rights of young people to access
public spaces while satisfying concerns
about community safety. Both projects also
illustrate the broader role that many local
governments are taking in terms of community
consultation and policy formation in order to
address community issues.
Public Spaces Protocol –
Palmerston City Council
Palmerston is a very young but fast
growing city 20 kilometres east of Darwin,
the capital of the Northern Territory. The
Palmerston Public Spaces Protocol is a
community consultation and negotiation
project that culminated in a multiple
locations agreement being developed
Alive and Motivated
with the support of young people, local
businesses, community service providers,
the police, schools, government departments
and the local government. All of the areas
covered in the protocol are situated within
Palmerston’s Central Business District. The
initiative has been supported and managed
by the Palmerston City Council, Community
Services Department.
of public spaces protocols or agreements.
Indeed it has been claimed that “Public
Space Practice”, a term used to describe
this approach, has enjoyed some success
with key people in these locations. These
people have experienced both “relief from
those tensions and a range of social and
financial benefits from their involvement
in the process” (Draft Palmerston Central
Business District Public Spaces Protocol).
History of the initiative
Prior to 2001 council examined the
possibility of bringing together a range of
community and industry groups to respond
to what it and others saw as social tensions
developing between users of several
different locations in the Palmerston Central
Business District.
In the background discussion to the
Palmerston protocol the authors describe
Public Space Practice as:
the art of generating a “whole of
community” approach to addressing the
tensions and barriers that affect how
community members feel about accessing
and investing in public places. Getting
people with different views, opinions
and experiences to communicate with
each other; to debate and argue through
issues; to identify strategies that most
parties can live with; and to agree at some
point on giving some of those strategies
a chance, places most communities in
a far stronger position to address the
very tensions that have the potential to
destroy them.
Local business, youth workers, security
firms, police and the media had identified
problems with the way some young people
were using various “hot spots” in the Central
Business District. Public safety issues had
been identified as a problem with groups
of young people being responsible for
harassing people, throwing stones at
passers by, breaking into and damaging
shopping centres. A range of responses
to these problems had already been tried.
These included using night patrols, issuing
trespass notices, changing the physical
design and layout of some of the spaces
and targeting of specific areas by the police
and security. Apparently the perception
existed amongst a range of local people
that previous attempts to deal with youth
problems enjoyed only partial success. As
one of those consulted said, “the things we
tried were catch-up strategies”.
Similar tensions were reported to have
existed for many years in other locations
throughout Australia. One response to these
tensions has been the growth in popularity
In 2001 a consultant identified a number
of public spaces of concern in the Central
Business District. These included the bus
interchange, the two major shopping centres,
the open space in the city centre, the skate
park, the Ampol service station, the YMCA
Drop-In Centre and a central green space
named Goyder Hill. The consultant advised
that these “hotspots” would benefit from the
development of a public spaces protocol.
Council applied and received funds
from the Northern Territory Office of Crime
Prevention to undertake the development
of a Palmerston Central Business District
Protocol and a project worker was engaged
Chapter 5
Places and spaces for young people
by council to commence stakeholder
consultations and the development of a draft
protocol. In July 2002, another interstate
public space and planning expert met with
local community representatives, toured the
Central Business District and suggested a
range of planning and design initiatives that
could assist in alleviating local tensions.
The project
This initiative consists of a process of
negotiations between stakeholders that
aim to agree on a protocol for the use,
management and design of public space
in the Palmerston Central Business District
focusing on both behavioural and design/
facility/amenity issues. The process includes
the development of grievance procedures
for five key locations around the Palmerston
Central Business District.
The project’s intention is to “develop a city
centre which feels friendly and welcoming,
is safe for all users, provides a sense of
vibrancy and energy, provides ready and
safe access to all facilities, and reflects the
diversity of the city’s numerous residents”.
Another motivation for the young city is
“the need to promote a community that is
firmly focused on developing strong social
The project has been guided by the desire
to: promote inclusivity in relation to young
people and public space, and to address
tensions between young people and others
in relation to public space issues. In addition,
those involved in driving the project believe it
important to address public space problems
by considering:
• design and planning;
• the provision and availability of community services;
• styles of management;
• the availability of on-site facilities and
• opportunities for the development of
events and activities; and
• behaviour management and practices.
Finally, project staff articulate the
importance of “a strongly pro-youth
advocacy perspective”. According to the
draft protocol, the philosophy underpinning
the approach is that “community members
have rights and responsibilities in relation
to their ability to access and use public
space. Young people are members of the
community and as such they should enjoy
the same rights and responsibilities”.
Initially the desire to develop a protocol
was prompted by the popular belief that
young people were the key source of
public space problems. In the early days of
the initiative it appears there was strong
support for a youth-oriented focus. However
it became apparent that young people were
only one of the groups needing attention.
People also regularly raised as significant,
the needs and issues of itinerant and
Indigenous people’s use of public space.
Other people also expressed general
concerns about pedestrian safety and access
throughout the Central Business District and
conflicts between pedestrian and vehicular
traffic. This prompted a subtle shift towards
the development of public space protocols
that could cater to the interests of a broad
range of groups, not specifically young
people. However, young people do remain
a central focus of the initiative. As one
person involved said, “when most people
are thinking and talking about the issues
they still tend to focus more on youth as the
key problem group”.
The development of the protocol has
included formal discussions between
stakeholders, the carrying out of community
Alive and Motivated
workshops, one-to-one interviews with a
range of people using the areas and onsite visits and observations. More than
300 individuals and representatives from
key organisations participated during the
development stages of the protocol. This
included students, a broad range of young
people, including those who regularly
frequent the areas, representatives from
a number of government departments
responsible for managing some of the
sites, police, security firms, the Palmerston
youth services sector and a range of local
business owners and managers. Throughout
this process people were asked to:
• explore their perceptions about other
people in their community; what motivates and inspires them, what they are
missing in their community and would
like to see developed;
• consider how different groups of
people communicate with each other;
what makes people feel like they are
welcome, that they belong, that they
are safe; or conversely, what pushes
them away or makes them feel unwanted, unsafe, resentful;
• consider the physical structures that
make up the Central Business District,
gaps in facilities and the developments
that could help different spaces become
more attractive, relate more effectively
and enable safer access from one place
to another;
• consider the process of managing
different public spaces in the Central
Business District, how guidelines should
be “laid down” and the manner in which
rules are enforced when it is necessary
to do so; and
• explore the potential benefits of working with other community members to
improve how public space is accessed
and used, rather than solely imposing
regulatory measures to deal with community tensions.
Throughout these discussions people were
asked to recognise that the protocol is not
designed to deal with criminal behaviours or
council by-laws or the procedures that regulate
these laws as these are defined elsewhere.
Rather, discussions took place which could
help participants clarify what they considered
as anti-social or rule-breaking behaviour that
could be addressed or managed through
processes outlined within the protocol.
To help construct an Implementation Plan
for each location participants were asked to
consider the proposed initiatives within a
short (1-year), medium (1–3-years) and longterm (up to 5-years) timeframe. The individual
projects and the proposed timeframes for
their implementation were then checked by
each stakeholder and, if acceptable to the
entire group, they were then included in the
final document.
Core stakeholders are expected to show
their support of the protocol and the
proposed implementation plan by becoming
signatories to the protocol document.
Stakeholders sign only the protocol document for the sites they worked on. At the
time of this research (July 2003) a final draft
of the protocols for the five sites had been
publicly launched. It was envisaged that the
protocol and the grievance procedures for
each of the sites would be evaluated over the
following six months and that agreements
would be signed off by December 2003.
When asked about young people’s
participation in the project, informants
talked about this as an initiative driven by
the need to include young people, especially
those excluded from formal decision-making
Chapter 5
Places and spaces for young people
structures, as one of the most important
stakeholders. This presented them with
very difficult challenges. Initially young
people who used the various five areas
were invited to attend formal stakeholder
meetings. Not many attended. According
to one of the council staff, those who
frequent public spaces and are the target
of official attention often feel threatened
in formal meetings or have little skill and
confidence in being able to represent their
own interests. In addition, public meetings
can sometimes be forums where animosity
and disrespect is expressed towards young
people. Not surprisingly, they have little
confidence in attending such events.
The project team then decided that it
would approach the challenge of involving
young people in a number of ways. Members
of the team began by making a concerted
effort to contact young people who use
the various areas in the Palmerston Central
Business District. They also enlisted the
support of workers and other adults who
already had relationships with these young
people, asking them to encourage young
people to attend future meetings and/or
have discussions with the adult about their
interests and issues. In the early stages of
the project the Palmerston Youth Council was
still meeting regularly. The project officer of
the protocol initiative met with the Youth
Council, discussing the plans to come up
with an agreement, asking for young people’s
comments and inviting members of Youth
Council to participate in future discussions.
The project officer also attended the council’s
annual youth consultation event, “Talk Out
Loud” as a guest speaker. For two out of
the last three “Talk Out Louds” the issue
of young people’s access to public space
has been a major matter of discussion and
a series of recommendations have been
produced from the fora.
Informal mechanisms for involving young
people in discussions were also used.
This meant valuing the development of
relationships between young people and
key adults such as youth workers, a local
pastor, the police, teachers and others who
were trusted by young people. Critical in
this process was the involvement of younger
workers and those who, due to their previous
work roles, had already spent considerable
time with young people.
According to council’s Youth Services
Coordinator it was also important that any
disrespectful, patronising or judgemental
behaviours of adults were moderated in
public meetings. In her view it was important
when this occurred that other adults in
key social positions act to mediate any
prejudice and demonstrate considerable
respect for the ideas and interests of young
people present.
A number of other practical principles
that should shape youth participation were
identified. These included seeing concrete
results in a timely fashion; arranging meetings
that were convenient and in accessible
places; and having continuity in contact,
allowing young people to build trust and
confidence with adults. The development of
the Implementation Plan in consultation with
all stakeholders, particularly young people,
was a valuable mechanism for establishing
realistic expectations among participants.
It is too early in the development of the
initiative to make definitive judgements about
its achievements. However, the successful
development of a draft set of protocols was
cited as the project’s major achievement.
As one person said, “to actually produce a
protocol that includes different applications
to solve different problems is a success in
Alive and Motivated
itself ”. Likewise, “to get so many different
groups to work on something like this is no
mean feat . . . to succeed in doing it across
five separate areas is quite something”.
There is some evidence that this achievement
had unintended consequences outside of
the project. For example, one manager of a
youth organisation claimed that he had met
and established helpful relationships with
a number of local business people and the
police as a consequence of participating in
consultations. This had allowed him to call
upon these people for assistance in relation
to other issues. “What it has meant”, he said,
“is that you get to see who is helpful in one
setting so you can confidently contact them
about stuff in another setting”.
Another strength of the process was that
it encouraged people to turn their minds to
the depth and complexity of problems and
the range of solutions that could be sought.
Bringing together diverse sets of people with
wide ranging expertise both conveyed to
people how difficult it can be to find solutions
and encouraged people to “think laterally and
come up with a wide range of solutions”.
One consequence appears to have been that
people involved were less likely to consider
young people as singularly responsible for
public space problems and more likely to see
management of public space as a “community
responsibility”. Emphasis has now shifted
some way from young people as the target
of the protocols towards the idea that young
people are one key stakeholder group.
The continual disappointment with
attempts to manage the behaviour of people
in public areas prompted a preparedness to
try new ways of dealing with problems in
public space. In other words, the consistent
frustrations and concerns of the key groups
involved in the formation of the protocols
and media coverage of the issue appears to
have motivated people to consider such a
novel approach.
Finally, the commitment of council
(particularly the mayor) and council officers
was seen as a major contributor to the
project’s success so far. The fact that the
process was seen to be led by council and
that a key party was prepared to administer
the project, maintain its momentum and act
as a mediator between conflicting groups
was clearly important.
There are a number of challenges facing
the initiative in the immediate future. The
first is maintaining relevant and consistent
representation and involvement by young
people. According to one informant,
Palmerston City Council has had mixed
success in maintaining youth participatory
processes. While it did commit significant
resources to the formation of a Youth
Advisory Group (2000–2002) and a Youth
Council (2002–2003) this was disbanded in
2003 because of a lack of involvement by
young people.
Connected with this challenge is that the
language of the draft protocol is difficult
and cumbersome, both for a youth audience
and for business groups and others not
familiar with what one person called
“youth affairs speak”. The draft document
is 83 pages long and is text intensive.
Making the sentiments of the protocols
relevant to the range of stakeholders might
be achieved through the production of
executive summaries for business people
and one-page documents produced by
young people for a youth audience.
The final challenge is to maintain
momentum created in the absence of two key
workers on the project. It is envisaged that
the protocols will be signed by December.
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Places and spaces for young people
It is possible that during this time lapse
the issue will cease to be as important and
there may need to be work undertaken to
reinvigorate the project. Indeed, as one key
person said “it seems that the issue is off
the boil at the moment”.
The Longford Police Caution Project
– Northern Midlands Municipal
Council, Tasmania
The Longford Police Caution Project in
the Northern Midlands Council of Tasmania
is a police intervention program based in
Longford. The Northern Midlands Council
covers an area of 5 130 sq kms, and is one
of the largest and most diverse municipal
areas in Tasmania. It is home to nearly
12 000 people, 55 per cent of whom live in
the clustered towns of Longford, Perth, and
Evandale, twenty minutes from Launceston.
Longford is the hub of the LGA, the largest
town, and home to the council chambers.
The LGA is economically based in farming
and agriculture, has one of the largest
meat works in the state, and a thriving and
growing tourism industry.
The Caution project attempts to prevent
a cycle of offending by young people when
they first come into contact with the police,
by a collaborative intervention between
police and a council youth development
officer. The intervention addresses the
immediate offence, but also the wider social
context of the young person, their family
and the community.
History of the initiative
In late 2001 in Longford, a small and
picturesque town, there was a belief in
the community that the streets were no
longer safe for its more elderly residents,
and that young people were out of control.
The matter culminated in the burning of
one of the town’s historic hedgerows close
to a house, and many people thought
things had gone too far. Councillors were
apparently appalled at the perceptions
abroad of their town, and of the fear
among large parts of the community. They
were determined to act to improve both
the perception and the reality.
A public meeting was called, out of which
grew a Special Committee of Council, the
Longford Community Safety Committee.
This included representatives of the
regional police, councillors and council
staff, the Baptist church, “elderly residents”,
local business people, a young person,
and others. The committee was tasked
with creating a Safety Plan which was
presented to council in March 2002. Part
of this plan called for the employment of
a Youth Development Officer “to work on
issues across the Northern Midlands and to
serve as a catalyst for the development of
networks between organisations working
with youth in our community”. There would
also be the trial of “a scheme to enable
local youth on Community Service Orders
and the Diversional Conferencing Program to
undertake their community service work in
their local community” (Northern Midlands
2002, p. 6).
The council had not previously employed a
youth worker of this type – the only previous
employee had been a Youth Recreation Officer.
What was needed now, it was believed, was
a more “hard core” youth approach because
of the strong involvement with “at-risk”
youth. The new Youth Development Officer
(YDO) was duly employed in June 2002,
with the LGA providing half of his salary and
matched funds from the state government.
The YDO was hired in the first instance for
12 months, but the position has since been
extended until the end of June 2004.
Alive and Motivated
The project
The Tasmanian legal system allows
for informal police cautions – in effect
being “told off ” – and then court-based
community service orders of one type or
another. The Police Caution Project aims to
insert another level of action, where there
is official community service activity, but no
court intervention, and therefore no official
record. The project is reactive rather than
preventative in that nothing happens until
an offence has occurred. So far it has largely
dealt with young people aged 10–18 years.
Once a young person has been
apprehended for an offence which could be
taken before the courts, they are considered
for the project. After apprehension, the
young person, a parent or guardian, the
Sergeant and the YDO all meet to discuss
the issue. If the young person admits to
the offence, admits that it was wrong to
have committed it, and is willing to take
part in the program, they are considered for
inclusion. They are told that there will be
an amount of restitutional community work
to be carried out, and that the YDO will
oversee this.
At this stage the Sergeant and the YDO
discuss the number of hours of community
work appropriate. In practice this seems to
never exceed 10 hours community work.
Having agreed upon the level of penalty, the
young person is brought before the Sergeant
who asks the young person to name the
appropriate penalty (having intimated that it
is generally less than ten hours). The Sergeant
claimed that taking part in the negotiation
of the penalty gave a sense of ownership to
the young people involved, and that they
tended to select higher penalties than were
finally imposed. Once the penalty has been
agreed a formal contract is entered into and
signed by the Sergeant, the young person
and a parent/guardian. The young person is
made aware that failure to comply with the
contract will result in the matter going into
the court system. An important part of the
contract and the project is that the young
person’s community work is to be overseen
by the YDO.
It is this desire to divert people from the
court system, and to keep them away from it,
that is behind much of the YDO’s work in this
area. The police are the first point of contact
and the Sergeant decides whether a young
person is offered the program or stays in
the court system. According to the Sergeant,
involvement in the program is based on
“knowing” the young person in question.
Some are not suited to such interventions
and can only be dealt with by the normal
courts, he said. The YDO spoke of serious
violence issues, and personal problems as
things that might rule an individual out of
the program. Both men spoke of the need
to match the right people to the program.
The nature of young people’s anti-social
activities in the area range from vandalism
(perceived as the greatest “problem”), along
with shoplifting, to violence and general
anti-social activities. For the Sergeant, the
sorts of activity encountered are things that
young people have always done, and pointed
out that some members of the community
tended to forget what might have occurred
in their own youth.
The YDO and the Sergeant both stated
that the “ownership” of the penalty is an
important part of the success of the program.
Rather than punishment, the YDO claimed
that the involvement of the young people in
the process means that the community work
is seen in terms of atonement.
A final important aspect of the program
is that it is generally anonymous. Although
the people in the program are obviously
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Places and spaces for young people
known to the Sergeant and the YDO, their
community service is not differentiated from
other community activities. Much of what is
done is articulated with other community and
volunteer efforts. The YDO and the Sergeant
both stated that making the community
service stand out in the community would
be counter-productive; shaming individuals
was not the point of the exercise.
Working with young people
The work involved in the Police Caution
program is part of the YDO’s general approach
to working within the community. He was
hired to do “hard core” youth work, and
believes in work that “is really going to make
a difference”. He describes his approach as
working with the long-term in mind, and says
that he tends “to take things pretty slowly”.
The strength of the Police Caution program
was that it gave him chances to deal with
people in their family and other situations.
Much of the behaviour that resulted in young
people coming into contact with the program
had its roots in other matters, he believed.
Once he had contact with the young person,
it was possible for the YDO to start to help
the individual deal with any other issues that
might be affecting them – family matters,
other personal needs, for example – and help
link the individuals with other services that
might assist them. In particular, he identified
assistance with housing and work matters
as one part of the work that began with the
Police Caution program.
The YDO also talked about the right of
young people to be informed to the same
level as anyone else in the community.
A parent of one young person who had
been through the program supported this
view, stating a number of times that one
of the most important aspects of the YDO’s
dealings with their child was that he did not
“talk down to them” – he explained what
was going on and why it was important.
The young person involved also thought
this was a strength of the program. They
said that the YDO was a common visitor to
their school, where he spoke generally with
young people, but that the particular young
person’s involvement in the Police Caution
program was not generally known.
The young person talked about being
glad that when they did their community
service work, the other people involved did
not know it was ordered community service
– it took place at an event that involved
volunteers. Since their work for the program,
the YDO had involved the young person in
other voluntary activities, and was keeping
an interested eye on their progress at school.
This had more to do with helping the young
person find an agreeable pathway through
school, than “keeping tabs” on them. The
parent thought that this was a strong point
in the program, that the YDO did not “dump”
the young people after the official part of
the program had concluded, but also that
there was no sense that they were being
hounded in any way. Importantly, the young
person described the way the police had
dealt with the problem as “awesome”.
A wide range of cases and families are dealt
with through the Police Caution program.
Some, like the one discussed above, seem
simpler than others. The YDO stated that
all sorts of families had been represented
in the program, and that some had led to
intense and long-term interactions. One
case involved a young person who had
been helped to find a job, but who had
subsequently lost that position, and had
become semi-homeless and out of touch
with their family. The YDO was now working
with the siblings of that particular young
person, and had regained some contact with
the original young person and was again
helping them towards work and housing
Alive and Motivated
solutions. Part of the reconnection between
the YDO and the young person had occurred
because of the contacts within the younger
community that had been built up through
the Police Caution program.
The YDO is also involved in facilitating
two youth support networks in the LGA;
leading the LGAs YAC (known as the Youth
Task Force, which arose from the Safety
Plan); assisting in an after-school activity
program in Campbell Town (in the central
region of the LGA); facilitating school holiday
programs in consultation with young people;
and organising various activities and events.
The council was one of the first to have a
dedicated youth policy, and currently has a
partnership with the state government for
a youth leadership promotion schedule.
Last year two youth leaders were sponsored
to the Local Government Forum and one
of these two was also assisted to gain a
position as “Youth Grant Maker” with the
Foundation for Young Australians.
The measurable results of the program
have been positive in the year it has been
running. There has been a 15–20 per cent
drop in the number of reported accounts
of vandalism since the program began, for
instance. The Sergeant did not claim that
this was due entirely to the program, stating
instead that youth crime was cyclical, but
the figures were encouraging, he said.
Also, crime statistics were probably the
most important evaluation tool for the
police at divisional level, and important for
the continued existence of the program.
The other major measurement concerns
recidivism – since the program began, no
one entering the program has re-offended.
The Sergeant and the YDO both know that
this must happen some time, but for the
present they can point to some success.
The approach also seems to have had a
positive effect in other areas. Bus shelters
used to be regularly vandalised, and
repainting them with the addition of colourful
murals has been used as a community
service. Since their repainting, the shelters
have not been vandalised again.
While both the YDO and the Sergeant
considered the Caution program important in
itself, it has wider value. From the Sergeant’s
perspective, it provided him with another
option when dealing with young people
rather than just saying, “don’t do it again”.
He stated that the program had assisted him
“greatly” in his general policing efforts – and
with over 30 years experience, much of it in
rural communities, his assessment carries
some weight. He thought the interaction
with the YDO was vital, and offered the
young people services he could not. Their
pooled knowledge of the situations facing
young individuals was enhanced and better
decisions possible for young people. The
two certainly exhibited a close and collegial
working style, and a sense that they were
working in the same direction.
The YDO has a somewhat different view. He
was interested in the way the program gave
him better access to the general community,
and the chances it offered him to provide
deeper and more meaningful assistance
to young people and their families. As a
newcomer to the region, both personally
and professionally, he saw the program as a
useful tool that helped him engage with the
community and with specific young people,
to help them address their behaviour.
A major obstacle to the continued success
of this project is its uncertain funding. The
LGA is fiscally conservative, and concerned
that the state government shares the
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Places and spaces for young people
burden of dealing with the perceived youth
“problem”. If state funding was to lapse
after June 2004, the manager was doubtful
that the YDO position would be continued
as a full-time position.
Another possible hurdle to the continuation
of the program lies in the method of its
evaluation. Official police evaluation of
such programs is heavily based on crime
statistics. At the time of our field visit the
figures appeared to support the view that
the program was leading to reduced crime by
young people. However, the Sergeant stated
that normal aging processes have, at least
in part, led to the decline in vandalism and
the associated activities and that a natural
resurgence in these activities might dampen
official enthusiasm for the program. Also,
the program runs, in the Sergeant’s words,
a “little bit outside department protocols”,
with the implication that it might lose
support if the figures fail.
Similarly, council support depends upon
demonstration of the program’s continuing
success. In part this may require the YDO to
show the links between the Police Caution
Project and the wide ranging prevention
work undertaken in the community. This
raises the more complex question of the
way in which such community development
activities are measured.
One last challenge to the success of the
program rests in one of its strengths: the
efforts of and relationship between the
Sergeant and the YDO. Both men are eager
to keep the program working well. The
Sergeant is concerned that they keep looking
for ways to improve the scheme. The YDO
is very focused upon helping individuals
and their families, and with creating better
links between people within the broader
community. Both are very supportive of
the other. If either were to be replaced by
someone with less interest in the program
and commitment to its processes, it could
falter. Given the frequent mobility of workers,
this is a real possibility.
Both these case studies demonstrate the
broad role that local government is taking
with respect to young people, well outside
conventional youth services. The projects
also deal with a central youth issue – the
balance between the rights of young people
to access public places and spaces open to
other citizens, and the fears about community
safety their behaviour sometimes cause
among older people. The projects illustrate
the point that there is more than one way
to approach this issue, but that acceptance
by young people will depend upon their
inclusion in the decision-making processes.
Alive and Motivated
Flexible services through
mobile outreach
Many local governments around Australia
have become frontline providers of youth
services, both because other levels of
government have withdrawn from this arena,
and because of pressure from communities
that LGAs “do something” about the problems
of young people. These case studies
demonstrate how skilled local government
workers are using their knowledge of youth
service models and young people to create
services which better address their needs.
The move away from centre-based services
to mobile outreach which can access young
people in their own localities has become an
important component of local government
youth services provision. In some cases,
such as Dorset, youth services are being
developed with the direct input of council
youth advisory groups, showing how youth
governance structures can connect to youth
services in a meaningful way. In other cases,
such as Hornsby, research on the needs of
young people is providing evidence-based
youth practice.
the Dorset Municipal Council
Youth Advisory Group and
Mobile Youth Health Outreach
FEWCHA is the Dorset Youth Advisory
Group and a special committee of the
Dorset Municipal Council. The program is
based on ideas of meaningful participation,
broad definitions of health, and outreach
practices. One of FEWCHA’s major projects
is the KAMELEON – the mobile youth health
outreach van. Dorset Council is a small,
dispersed council situated in the north-east
of Tasmania. It has a population of 7 400
spread over twelve small towns. Scottsdale
(1 922 people) is the largest town, houses
the council offices, and is located centrally in
the LGA. Bridport, on the northern coast, is
home to 1 234 people. The other towns and
hamlets range from small to the extremely
Alive and Motivated
small. Agriculture and forestry are the main
industries, although tourism and some light
industry also exist. Physically, the area runs
from the beaches of Bass Strait to rolling
farmland to mountainous rainforest. Four
towns have primary schools, while Winnaleah
has a district high school and Scottsdale a
high school. Both Winnaleah and Scottsdale
run Year 11 and 12 vocational education and
training courses.
History of the initiative
In 1998, the Tasmanian Government,
through the Department of Health
and Human Services (DHHS) and the
Department of Education, conducted the
North East Tasmania Health Needs Study.
Local communities were interviewed and
among many concerns raised, young people
declared the need for “‘youth specific,
parent free’, meeting spaces in their towns”
(DHHS 1998, p. 40). The current Youth Health
Officer noted that the main problems in
the area for young people revolved around
isolation: there was nothing to do, nowhere
to go, and young people were bored.
The Health Needs Study alerted council
and the community to the needs of young
people, in particular, issues to do with
health and participation.
After the study, Dorset applied to the
Federal Government for Regional Health
Services Grants and received $800 000 over
three years to implement new regional health
strategies. The plan involved acquiring a
Youth Health Officer, a Primary Health Care
Coordinator, and a Mental Health Worker.
The council assumed responsibility for the
Youth Health Officer (YHO) position, while
the other health positions were outsourced
to the state government.
The appointment of a new Community
Development Services Manager with a
background in youth services, led to the
creation of a youth group in the district. Until
this time there had not been a dedicated
youth service worker in the council. In 2001
the manager garnered $1 500 targeted Youth
Week funds from the Office of Youth Affairs
(OYA) for a large “youth bash” in one of
the medium-sized regional towns, with local
and visiting Tasmanian bands, and some
sporting activities. The funds were spent
largely on transport, so that young people
from around the LGA could attend. During
the event, surveys were circulated to young
people, asking what they thought were
the major youth concerns in the area, and
whether they might be interested in forming
a youth group. Thirty people said that they
wanted to be involved.
“Overwhelmed” by the response the
manager set about finding ways to implement
the suggestions. She sought and received
more funding from the Office of Youth Affairs
to conduct strategic planning meetings and
meeting/procedure workshops for local
young people, also involving the police and
a youth worker from Launceston. A two-day
workshop ensued, with a large number of
young people participating. According to the
manager, it was a pleasant experience, but a
lot of work. The young people planned the
next twelve months, and formed a young
people’s group. They decided on election
procedures for office-bearers, and how
meetings would be run. An eleven-year-old
was elected the first president, “which was
pretty cool” in the manager’s opinion.
Around this time, a government department
was desperate to offload a number of old
ex-dental caravans. The new group was told
of the offer, and decided a caravan would
be useful; the manager was less certain but
agreed, and the KAMELEON van was born.
Three weeks after the formation of the
group, an operational plan was presented
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Flexible services through mobile outreach
to council and the group became an official
reporting committee to Dorset Council. It then
chose its name – they were now officially
FEWCHA. The President of FEWCHA was on
the selection panel that subsequently chose
the Youth Health Officer.
FEWCHA structure
FEWCHA membership is open to anyone
who wants to join, and the group is made up
of young people in Years 6–10 (from the last
year of primary school through to the last
compulsory year of high school). The latter
school years were omitted because there is
no academic education for Years 11 and 12 in
the LGA (although there is some VET at two
schools). However, according to the YHO no
one is excluded from the group, although
they leave for Launceston to study, or for
other reasons. Most of these young people
appear to maintain their connectedness to
the group and join holiday programs run by
FEWCHA when they are around.
At the time of interviews, there were about
16 active members of FEWCHA, and the group
meets once or twice a month on average.
Meetings are held at various locations across
the LGA, with the Youth Health Officer picking
up young people from various towns and
dropping them home after the meeting. They
also meet at the council chambers. Both
FEWCHA members and the YHO described
the meetings as “laid back” affairs. Members
raise what they want to discuss and projects
and events are discussed and planned, with
input from the YHO.
FEWCHA selects the way they want to work
and the projects they want to take on. One
of the first projects involved the conversion
of the ex-dental van into the KAMELEON.
This was designed to be attractive to young
people and provide entertainment, activities
and subtle health promotion. Much of the
conversion relied on outside funding – over
$1 600 was received from the Regional Arts
Fund Tasmania to pay a young “graffiti”
artist to oversee its decoration. Local young
people were involved in the design and
painting of the van, and the two-day exercise
received coverage in the local press.
More financial support came from the
DHHS, Innovative Services for Homeless
Youth, and The Centenary of Foundation.
These funds allowed the KAMELEON to be
fitted with Playstation 2 consoles, television
and VCR, computer facilities, as well as
music equipment, board games, comfortable
furniture (mainly beanbags), sports gear
and other sundry equipment. Also available
in the van are health information, sexual
health information and condoms, and the
YHO. The KAMELEON was launched at a
Youth Bash in April 2002. Later funds have
allowed for a similarly decorated annex to
be created.
The YHO sees the KAMELEON as a point
of contact for young people with health
and other council services. She sees the
equipment in the van as “a tool to build
relationships” with young people. Making
the young people comfortable, and giving
them what they want increases the chances
of getting them to “tell their stories”. The
KAMELEON started as a general outreach
tool – travelling to different parts of the
LGA, appearing at public events.
When interviewed, ten members of
FEWCHA all spoke highly of the KAMELEON.
It gained “two thumbs up” from the group,
some of whom described it as “great”. One
downside was the size of the van: it was
too small, and a bigger van would be better.
Another more general problem noted by the
group was that one van was not enough
Alive and Motivated
service provision for the LGA (a point taken
up below).
Small though it might be, KAMELEON has
attracted wider attention and has become
a sought-after part of public activity in the
LGA. When people are planning a public
event, they ask council if the KAMELEON
can be present as a special place for young
people. In November 2002 the KAMELEON
won the Heart Foundation Kellogs Local
Government Award for the best rural and
remote community project. The project
has also been declared Tasmania’s best
rural and remote project and the state’s
best overall project.
The YHO takes pride in these
achievements, but is most satisfied
because the idea and execution was
led by the young people of Dorset. She
remembers thinking the van might be a
white elephant and could not imagine
at the time that it might be a successful
enterprise. It was the members of FEWCHA
who believed it could work and she says
“it was only because of the young people’s
persistence that it happened”.
FEWCHA and other activities
There is a mix of ideas and plans involved
in the FEWCHA experience. In July 2003 a
two-day consultation, called “Big decision
for the FEWCHA” was held at Bridport. The
purpose of this was to encourage ideas
from young people about a potential
$150 000 grant from the Foundation for
Young Australians. Ideas raised included
building a large youth centre in Scottsdale.
Members of FEWCHA interviewed in
Scottsdale were aware that young people
from other towns might not be too pleased
with their town cornering the funds, but
they liked the idea of a big central place to
enjoy themselves. Other equally large and
problematic ideas were floated (including
a multiplex of some sort) and at the time
of interviews no consensus or decision
had been reached.
Previously, FEWCHA had teamed up with
another LGA and an independent youth
group and organised a tour of regional
Tasmania of Frenzal Rhomb – a well-known
Australian rock band. Members of FEWCHA
had also attended a young leaders’
conference in Melbourne, where they had
met such notables as racing driver Peter
Brock, football and television identity Eddie
McGuire and, most memorably for some of
the young women in the group, the lead
singer of Bachelor Girl. Activities were not
all so elevated, however. FEWCHA members
interviewed were also proud of the fact
that they had gone to one small town in
the LGA and weeded the main street. They
had been asked to do this for the town,
and were happy to do it as the town in
question had previously helped the group
in another matter.
Working with young people
The YHO has worked generally towards
improving feelings of “connectedness”
in young people in the LGA. As a longterm resident in the LGA with teaching
experience in local towns and social work
qualifications, the YHO was able to build
upon existing connections with young
people. Initially each town seemed distinct
and alone from the others. Her aim has
been to bring a sense of community among
young people from all parts of the LGA.
One of the unexpected outcomes has
been the new-found connection between
the rest of the community and its young
people. FEWCHA and the KAMELEON, and
the processes each have involved, have
been central to these activities.
Chapter 6
Flexible services through mobile outreach
All those interviewed – young people, the
manager, and the YHO were also pleased at
the more intangible effects of the group’s
existence. A number of FEWCHA members
said that they felt that council treated
young people better as a group since the
inception of FEWCHA. They were pleased
that an ex-mayor chose to come to all of
their meetings, a fact also related by the
manager. The manager and YHO spoke of
the increasingly prominent place of young
people in the LGA since FEWCHA. Council
was more aware of the needs of young
people, and had started broadening the
range of lower youth rates for council
charges, especially on venues. Council had
been very supportive, and never charged
venue hire for official FEWCHA events. The
mere presence of young people in council
buildings and chambers had had a positive
effect; relationships were being built “in
both directions”. These positive sentiments
spread to the broader community. The
community accepted FEWCHA as a “good
thing”, according to the manager, and were
actively involved in promoting the image
and activities of the group. This included
suggestions that they apply for particular
prizes and awards.
There are a number of challenges facing the
Dorset programs, most of them associated
with resources. Much of this relates to the
small size of the LGA and its consequent low
revenue base. The federal funding of the YHO
position is tenuous, and unless recurrent
funding is found, will in all likelihood cease.
Limited funding also restricts the number
and operation of programs. The KAMELEON
has been widely acknowledged as a very
successful program, but neither the young
people of FEWCHA nor the YHO believe it
runs regularly enough – it only goes out
when requested or when the YHO has time
to do it.
The manager and the YHO both worried
that there is almost no service focus on
young people from 17–25 years old.
FEWCHA works in part because of the
“captive” audience provided by schools.
No such audience exists for older young
people, making it hard to access this group.
Population limits also militate against more
tightly focused groups. There are problems
facing young mothers in the region, but
numbers are so small and geographically
diverse that it is almost impossible to
access them. This is true of a number of
other possible target groups.
The last challenge faced in the Dorset LGA
was that of personal cost for the workers
in the field. The YHO stated that the job
was “about a lifestyle, it’s not about doing
a job”. It was very hard, she said, to “put
boundaries around the job”. She goes to
Launceston regularly for supervision to
debrief concerning matters of counselling.
Although the YHO had said that counselling
was not central to her work, the manager
described her as the “only port of call” in
the LGA. It was enough of a strain that the
supervision was, in the manager’s words,
“absolutely necessary”. Like many such
programs, FEWCHA and other activities
for young people in the Dorset LGA are
dependent upon motivated, competent
workers for their survival.
Hornsby Shire Council Youth
Services – Outreach program/
outreach philosophy
The Hornsby Shire Council Youth Services
are working towards creating a flexible and
response-based service provision model,
with outreach its foundation. The diverse
Alive and Motivated
geographic and demographic spread of the
shire has informed this choice of model.
Of equal importance, however, is a desire
for evidence-based youth services, where
research and analysis lead to decisions that
best utilise the available resources.
Hornsby Shire is on the northern limits of
the Sydney metropolitan area, reaching to
the Hawkesbury River. Its population in 2001
was 154 700 and diverse, with 16.8 per cent
of the population speaking languages other
than English (most commonly Cantonese
and Mandarin) at home (Hornsby Shire
Council 2000, p. 24).
History of the initiative
The Youth Services Coordinator at
Hornsby Shire joined the council five years
ago. At that time youth services was run
out of one room in one suburb of the shire.
The section then moved into Hornsby
itself, based at a youth centre. Since then
the youth services budget has almost
quadrupled, and the services have become
increasingly outreach-based.
In 1999 council undertook a review
of Children’s and Youth Services. At that
time, Hornsby employed a Community
Development Officer – Youth; a centrebased coordinator and youth worker in
Cherrybrook, a suburb of Hornsby; and a
youth worker in an early school leavers
program. The major council expense besides
wages was a Vacation Care Program, which
consumed $62 000 of the total youth budget
of $163 000. This service was eventually
outsourced, and the funds reverted to
general youth services coffers.
As a result of the review, the Children’s
Centre in central Hornsby was closed and
transformed into a Youth Centre. It had been
under-utilised as a child care centre, due in
large part to the existence of many private
and council operated child care facilities.
The Cherrybrook centre, also deemed to be
under-utilised, was closed and its operations
moved to the Hornsby centre.
More important to the Report than the
rationalisation of council’s physical services
was the shift in the model of service delivery.
Council at this stage wanted to create a
“one-stop-shop” model, with the Hornsby
Centre as its focus. This was matched
by a consolidation of the Community
Development Officer and Vacation Activity
Services into the present Youth Services
Coordinator position.
In arguing for the development of a
mobile outreach service, the report authors
state that: “It is a method by which contact
can be made with young people who do not
frequent traditional youth services, but who
would benefit from the range of resources
and support that youth services provide”.
(Hornsby Shire Council 1999). In May 2000,
after much consultation with over 100 young
people and other interested parties, council
adopted a youth strategy that called for an
outreach plan.
The philosophy
The coordinator stated his commitment
to youth services that are “responsive and
flexible” in service delivery, a “medium
between youth and policy”, and sees an
outreach model as the best way to achieve this.
Part of this is based on cost-benefit thinking:
outreach (especially into school populations)
gives council “more bang for its buck”. It is
also philosophical, however, reflecting some
distrust of venue-based services, especially
given the disparate spread of population
throughout the shire. Youth workers “. . . are
not site managers”, and their expertise should
be used to best effect.
Chapter 6
Flexible services through mobile outreach
Unlike the situation in many local
government youth services, research is seen
as vital to achieving positive outcomes for
young people at Hornsby. The coordinator
cited the consultations involved in the
creation of the 2001 strategy and in the
upcoming youth plan as central to the
validity of these developments. However,
merely conducting research was not enough.
Without rigorous analysis of results, he
claimed, consultations could lead one astray.
He argued that young people were likely to
give stock answers when asked about their
needs. While not denying the importance of
drug and alcohol issues, and bullying, for
example, he stated that young people refer
to them almost reflexively – media coverage
declared them to be the most important
topics, so young people mention them.
The project
The outreach services provided by council
tend to fall into two broad groups: mobile
outreach and youth workers in schools,
although there is some overlap. The
importance of collaboration between various
services and organisations was important to
the work, but most immediately apparent in
the mobile outreach effort.
Youth Services conducted field research
supported by literature searches, which was
then matched with “best-guessing” needs of
particular areas or groups. By looking at what
young people said they wanted, thinking
about what current research said, and trying
to formulate responses based on those
factors, he hoped to provide best practice
(and practical) solutions to real problems.
Mobile outreach
In 2002 council and the Hornsby–Ku-RingGai Police and Community Youth Club (PCYC)
developed and trialled a mobile outreach
service around the shire. The trial found
that being in the right place (where young
people actually go), with the right vehicle
and equipment (electronic entertainment
gear including computer games, music and
video equipment, and cooking facilities on
board) led to successful interactions with
young people (Hornsby CC63/02). This
Mobile Resource Unit (MRU) has resulted
in an ongoing collaboration between the
council and the PCYC, which was in the
process of being formalised when the
council was visited.
One example of this approach applied
to the upcoming Youth Plan. The doubts
and fears mentioned by young people in
local research seemed to relate to issues of
identity, to broad questions of what it means
to be a young person/young adult today. In
response, a chapter of the upcoming Youth
Plan will be devoted to a discussion of
identity and its relation to youth issues. As
well as being an important part of improving
service provision, the coordinator sees this as
part of an educative process for council and
the general public. It was important, he said,
that the public should be able to read the
plan, but he also wanted it to challenge their
thinking about young people and services.
From the police perspective, the
collaboration has been successful on a
number of fronts. It humanised one aspect
of the police service in the eyes of young
people who might otherwise be antagonistic.
Having access to council staff and youth
specialists, in particular, has been important,
as police expertise with young people was
limited. There had been no major differences
of opinion or approach between the council
workers and the police, according to both the
PCYC representative and the council. When
the collaboration started, there was some
debate over whether or not police officers
should be in uniform when on the outreach
bus. The police successfully argued that it
Alive and Motivated
was important that they are immediately
recognisable, and as the PCYC officer said,
“we are proud of our uniform”.
Some more serious issues seem to have
been negotiated in practice if not in writing
(although the draft agreement might deal with
these). The general police focus is different
from that of council. For the Police Local Area
Command, the main aim is the reduction
of crime. Mobile outreach offered a flexible
response to different aspects of potential
and actual criminal activity. There had been
problems concerning so-called “gang” activities
in public spaces – in particular allegations
of “stand-over” conduct concerning mobile
phones around the railway station. There were
also the expected “anti-social” problems –
young people drinking and swearing in public.
The outreach bus was useful in defusing these
situations, and also in accessing young people
where they actually were.
The Youth Coordinator was also interested
in this “practical response” aspect of the
outreach bus project, but from a slightly
different perspective. He also thought that it
offered other opportunities: by responding
quickly to reports of such behaviour, the
MRU would help test the veracity of public
concerns – whether or not young people were
actually doing anything wrong, for example.
The added bonus for council was that they
were seen as being proactive on matters of
concern to the community.
Both parties acknowledged that their different positions and responsibilities could
create difficulties. For instance, police and
council Youth Services had different views
on drugs, with police unable to condone the
use of illicit substances, and Youth Services
promoting a harm minimisation focus. No
actual difficulties arising from this difference
was cited, but both sides were aware of the
potential for this.
In-school activities
The other major component of the
Hornsby Youth Services is in-school work
by the outreach team. Their activities are
focused on high school students (12–
18-year-olds) as a point of entry into the
wider community. As a number of informants
said, schools provide a captive audience of
young people. There are two major school
programs running at present. The first is the
“Big Breakfast”. Council Youth Services visit
selected schools before classes and provide
a free and nutritious breakfast while also
providing information on a range of issues,
and being available to talk to anyone who
might care to take the opportunity.
The schools targeted are those where
research and experience indicates that
inadequate breakfasts are likely to be
common. This project represents one of
the few hardware expenditures within the
outreach scheme – council invested $1 200
on a commercial toaster. Local companies
and stores provide fruit and juice at cost. The
outreach leader reported anecdotal evidence
that young people were taking leaflets and
the like while at the “Big Breakfast”, and
even discussing them with their friends.
The other major schools project has so far
only involved one school, but illuminates the
response-based nature of the overall plan.
After discussions with staff, council youth
workers were invited into a local high school
to conduct a series of broadly health-based
workshops. The Personal Development
Health Physical Education teacher at a local
girls high school, wanted “to do something”
for her Year 10 girls at the end of 2002
“to make the end of year valid”. In Term
3 she met the Hornsby outreach team at
a school welfare meeting. The Hornsby
people were interested in working in the
school environment, so the teacher invited
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Flexible services through mobile outreach
them to work with the Year 10 group. The
class discussed what topics would be most
useful, and agreed upon drugs and alcohol,
issues of mental health (especially stress),
and conflict.
The students elected to not have their
teacher present when these topics were
discussed. The teacher believed this freed
the students in their discussions – the
youth service people were perceived as
being less threatening than teachers, a
view supported by the Hornsby coordinator.
The teacher was so impressed with the
programs that she hopes to offer them
again in late 2003. The sessions ran for one
hour over four weeks, and involved various
service providers from outside council. The
teacher also invited the outreach team to a
camp on health issues, although they had
no official role in proceedings; they were
there in case anyone might want to speak
to them. The teacher said she was using the
council services like another resource base,
although she considered her relationship
with the workers as collegial rather than
client-based. The Hornsby Youth Services
are also involved in bullying programs for
Year 7 students.
As with the council/PCYC collaboration,
schools and youth services come from a
different orientation which is reflected in
some ambivalence by the Hornsby team
towards the schools program. While
the school environment offers many
opportunities, schools and people inside
them were often wary of “outsiders”
who “did not use curriculum-speak”. The
outreach team was doing the school’s
work with these programs – they were on
the curriculum. The outreach leader was,
however, sympathetic to the fact that
schools and teachers often lacked the time
to keep abreast of best practice and new
knowledge in the field. The coordinator also
spoke of the power of offering curricular
activities, but was concerned that schools
seemed to be “impenetrable fortresses”.
Despite these reservations, the outreach
leader was keen for the schools outreach
to become a permanent program, and to
expand in content and work across all years
of high school. She also expressed a desire
to work with Year 6 children to lessen the
trauma of moving up to high school. One
problem was the lack of interest shown
by other schools in the area – and also by
the restrictions of council boundaries. The
team could not work with schools outside
the council boundaries, but they could work
with selective schools like Cheltenham,
where many students came from outside
the council to study.
Interviews with a vertical section of council
staff at Hornsby revealed general agreement
about the best way forward in youth services.
There was a sense of commitment to and
support for young people across the council
hierarchy. All spoke about the importance
of asking what young people wanted, and
providing it through an outreach-based plan.
Both the manager and the deputy mayor
described council as “practically” apolitical,
and the “really good political support” that
youth services received from elected officials,
with at least two proactively supportive of
the model.
There was a strong consensus about
community consultation as both a tool
and an end in itself. Council had recently
undertaken a series of “cul-de-sac
consultations” – meetings that involved
barbeques and minor street parties – as a
means of finding out what people wanted.
The deputy mayor spoke of the communitybuilding aspect of these meetings; people
Alive and Motivated
met their neighbours, he said, sometimes
for the first time. The new youth plan was
based on similar consultations, including
a youth forum in council chambers. It was
possible that such things might end up
with only the “school captains” taking part,
but they believed they had achieved a fair
spread of the population.
From a council management perspective,
all council activities, including youth services,
depended upon well-managed finances. The
youth plan formed an important part of a
well-managed council, with staff and elected
officials confident that a properly researched
and resourced plan would minimise the
possibility of erroneous decisions.
As these case studies demonstrate, local
government is experimenting with novel
models of youth service which reflect the
background and skills of a new generation
of council workers hired particularly to work
with young people. They understand the
importance of including young people in the
design and operation of services, as was
the case with FEWCHA and the KAMELEON
project. There is also more emphasis on
evidence-based services, with Hornsby
acknowledging the importance of research
to the effectiveness of their services.
An emphasis on partnerships between
local government, police, schools, health
authorities and other service providers
is becoming characteristic of much youth
service provision, with partners negotiating
their way through their different agendas for
and perspectives on young people.
Engaging with Indigenous
young people
Finding appropriate ways to engage
with Indigenous young people has become
an important component of many local
government initiatives. Like other young
people, this group is frequently problematised
in terms of the risk they pose to community
perceptions of order and safety. These issues
are exacerbated for Indigenous young people,
in part because of their lower participation
rates in education and training, much higher
unemployment, and consequent higher
visibility in many communities. Except in
Indigenous communities, local government
authorities are overwhelmingly nonIndigenous, and engaging Indigenous young
people in programs or services requires
considerable skill and goodwill.
The following case studies have different
foci – employment, drama, building social
capital, and leadership – all of which seek
to acknowledge the contribution Indigenous
young people can make, if they are accepted,
supported and skilled in areas of interest to
them. These projects also have the potential
to build bridges between the wider Indigenous
and non-Indigenous communities, and assist
in what has been a growing movement of
reconciliation in which local government has
played a prominent role.
“About jobs” – Cairns City Council
“About jobs” is a community employment
initiative of the Cairns City Council and
Community Renewal targeted to the
communities of the city’s western suburbs.
Cairns is located in far north Queensland,
with an economy based on tourism, fishing
and cane sugar. The tourist strip of hotels,
restaurants, international designer stores and
souvenir shops winds around the Esplanade
of the mangrove tidal bay. The whole city is
surrounded by the Atherton Tablelands.
Alive and Motivated
History of the initiative
According to the coordinator of the project,
the background to this initiative includes
overty and interracial disharmony among
the very ethnically mixed communities of the
people of the Pacific – Cook Islanders, Torres
Strait Islanders, Samoans, Maori, Papua New
Guineans and Australian Indigenous people.
The mayor and other citizens were concerned
about violence in the Central Business
District, mostly among young people (men
and women) up to the age of 23–24. People
were concerned about the possible impact of
threats of violence on local tourism.
Many of these young people live
in the western suburbs (Manoora, for
instance, has an Indigenous population
of 17 per cent), which include the largest
concentrations of public housing outside
of the Brisbane area, and experience high
levels of unemployment and reliance on
income support programs. According to
one informant, a recent report documented
community concern about vandalism, breakins, abusive/offensive behaviour, juvenile
offences, family violence, sexual assault,
drug and alcohol misuse and truancy. These
problems were largely attributed to lack of
employment and poverty.
“About Jobs” commenced in April 2003.
It started as an initiative of the West Cairns
Youth Development Project, Community
Renewal which is funded by the Manoora
Community Renewal Project, auspiced
by the Queensland State Department of
Families, and delivered by Cairns City
Council. The West Cairns Youth Development
Project, in partnership with volunteers from
the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Corporation for Tourism Queensland
launched the pilot project to link residents
of Manoora and Mooroobool to local
employment opportunities.
The project initially ran on Saturday
mornings at the Manoora Community Centre
and Monday mornings at the Mooroobool
Community Centre. These days were
chosen as those most likely to be free for
most people in the target groups. The only
advertising was a long piece of butcher’s
paper attached to the fence outside the
community centre which read “Are you
bored, sick of being broke, want a job?
Drop in”. The first Saturday morning they
attracted 22 people, and the numbers
increased. They now have an average of
about five people a day through the centre.
One person brought in 10 relatives.
The project
The objectives of the project are ambitious.
They are to:
create economic wealth and employment
in disadvantaged communities in west
Cairns; involve members of the community
who are particularly disadvantaged in the
labour market in implementing strategies
to increase sustainable local employment
and self-sufficiency; and promote social
cohesion in the target communities
and a holistic approach to barriers to
employment (ATSICTQ 2003, pp. 1–2).
Initially the project was targeted at young
people, particularly those with Indigenous
and Islander backgrounds, as these were
perceived as the groups needing the most
employment assistance, and also those
creating social disharmony. However, as
the project has become more embedded
in the community, and individuals brought
other family members for assistance, it was
clear that project staff needed to include
adults as well. Officially the project now
identifies its target groups as disadvantaged
young people, the long-term unemployed,
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,
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Engaging with Indigenous young people
people from culturally and linguistically
diverse backgrounds, and mature aged
people over 40.
The project’s primary base is the Manoora
Community Centre, located in the heart of
the community on the corner of a busy
suburban street where locals pass by in
cars, on bikes, and many on foot with
babies in arms and in prams. The community
centre stands out from its neighbours as
it is covered in Indigenous artwork which
local people completed over one weekend.
Directly outside the centre is a much-used
phone box. Inside the centre there is a large
common room, small kitchen, computer
room and some office space. Outside on
the front verandah are a few plastic chairs
where project staff and other locals can sit
and chat to each other and passers-by.
The project is a lean operation. The only
paid employee is the coordinator, who is
a community planning and development
officer with Cairns City Council. She manages
external relationships with the council,
employers, and overall administration
of the project. Two volunteer staff from
the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Corporation for Tourism Queensland work
five days a week with the unemployed
who come in for assistance. All three are
mature women, living locally, one of whom
is Indigenous. The premises are owned and
subsidised by the Department of Housing
and project staff and community members
have access to computers donated by
TAFE, upgraded under a work for the dole
project with Mission Australia, and on desks
provided by the Department of Housing.
Apart from the coordinator’s salary, the only
funding the project has received to date is
$4 000 from the Cairns City Council, and
used to fund other related projects which
are described later.
When people come into the centre they fill
in a registration form which determines their
employment status, a basic employment
history and an audit of their personal skills
and abilities. One of the volunteer staff with
good computer skills then works with each
person on putting together their curriculum
vitae. This is not a straightforward task,
as many people have little formal previous
employment and need to have their
knowledge and skills sometimes painfully
extracted from them. For instance, young
women who initially claimed to have no
skills worth recording, but who might be
cooking for up to fifteen people at home,
looking after their own young children
and their aged parents come to see how
to promote these experiences to future
employers. Many of the young people are
also bi- or multi-lingual, but because these
languages are indigenous to Australia and
the Pacific, they have not been taught to
value them outside their communities.
Project staff encourage them to list these
languages as important skills.
Having put together a CV, the person’s
work readiness is then assessed by both
volunteers. This includes being confident,
having experienced an interview situation,
or having previous employment. If necessary
clients are trained in interview techniques
by the Indigenous volunteer, who has
extensive experience in education, training
and employment. Training consists of both
practical employment skills, and a broader
approach which focuses on the culture of
work (which is about, “attitude, attitude,
attitude”). Again this often has to start
with some fundamental, but often unstated
prerequisites for work, like personal hygiene,
clothing, grooming, verbal and non-verbal
communication, such as eye contact and
shaking hands. The project also makes use
of an Indigenous motivational speaker who
Alive and Motivated
encourages young people to contribute to
their communities, rather than simply focus
on themselves.
Next young people are coached in the most
asked questions in interviews. Then time
is spent talking to them about what they
want to do, and searching for suitable job
vacancies. Before contacting a prospective
employer, clients are helped to prepare
a script for the initial telephone contact.
Before a face-to-face interview, details such as
appropriate clothing, jewellery and transport
to the interview are all discussed.
If someone gets a job, project staff hear
about it formally from the employer and
informally from community members. Their
location and frequent casual contact with the
community mean they get to hear about who
is doing well and not so well and are therefore
able to offer support if it is needed.
The wider context
What makes this project important is the
broader history of employment of Indigenous
and Islander populations. Across Australia
these groups experience significantly higher
rates of unemployment than other Australians
and Cairns is no different. For more than thirty
years there has been a number of specific
employment initiatives aimed at these groups,
but these have failed to markedly reduce
inequalities in employment. Servicing these
groups is a thriving, now privatised, industry,
and in Cairns there are a number of large job
search agencies contracted to work with local
unemployed people. As each unemployed
person registers for employment with an agency,
it receives a fee from the Commonwealth
government, and is, in addition, paid for up to
100 hours per person for job search training.
If the person subsequently gets a job, the
agency receives a fee for each person. These
agencies have limited understanding of the
needs of poor, Indigenous or Pacific Island
peoples, according to project staff. Many of
the agencies are difficult to get to for people
without cars, and lack of regular transport is a
big issue for many people.
Related projects
The project’s location in the community
centre, and project staff involvement with
the broader community, has led to another
important initiative – the Friday night event for
young people. Held alternatively at the Indiji
Youth Centre and Mooroobool Community
Centre from 6–10 p.m. the event is hosted
by a local Samoan/Indigenous couple with
assistance from the “About Jobs” staff and
young volunteers associated with a church
group. Up to 200 young people aged from
12–20 (and sometimes younger) are given
a meal (donated from local businesses),
play a number of different sports, and hear
indirect health promotion messages about
binge drinking, chroming, and sexual health
(through brochures, casual conversations and
the like). Attempts to tackle inter-ethnic conflict
sensitively are made by having referees for
games from ethnic groups different from the
players. The event is assisted with $2 000
from Cairns City Council for foods and other
essentials. The group is currently seeking
access to a bus so young people can be
transported to the event and back home.
Project staff have also assisted with the
establishment of a girl’s soccer team. This
came about after some girls were involved in
minor vandalism. The “About Jobs” coordinator
successfully applied for some funds from the
Cairns City Council and Community Renewal,
and these have assisted with the purchase of
equipment and uniforms.
Other projects on the drawing board
include the establishment of an Indigenous
and Islander dance group, able to perform
Chapter 7
Engaging with Indigenous young people
in Novotel resorts and the casino. Currently
there are very few Indigenous or Islander
people working in visible positions in the
tourist industry, in spite of the prominence
of Indigenous culture in tourist promotion.
Stakeholder involvement
Key stakeholders in the establishment
of the “About Jobs” initiative and related
projects are the Cairns City Council,
Manoora Community Renewal Project, the
Department of Families and the Manoora
Community Centre Management Committee.
Education Queensland, Department of
Employment and Training and Department
of Industrial Relations have contributed
to the program by facilitating access to
information about services available to job
seekers. The Novotel Accor group which has
3 000 hotels nationally has recently been
working with the project in order to find
suitable Indigenous young people for their
Indigenous employment program and they
state that they are seeking up to 60 trainees
for Cairns who can be trained and employed
in the hospitality industry.
Another industry partner has been a local,
Indigenous-owned driving school, and the
project is using this association to encourage
people to obtain their driver’s licences. The
absence of a licence is a real disadvantage
for many positions, and having access to
an Indigenous driving instructor has meant
that a number of people have signed up for
driver training.
The Friday night events have been assisted
by a number of other individuals and
agencies, including the local police, police
liaison officers and staff from the Alcohol,
Tobacco and Other Drugs office who have
presented informally on a range of health
promotion issues.
Publicity for “About Jobs” and related
projects has been generated through Bumma
Bippera Indigenous radio which is widely
listened to by Indigenous and Islander
groups. “Good news” stories about the
projects have been run by the Cairns Sun.
This promotional work means that Cairns
City Council management, Community
Renewal and other key stakeholders have
heard and read positive stories which they
are able to use to generate continuing
support for the projects.
When asked about the way in which young
people have participated in the “About
Jobs” and related projects, the coordinator
stated that she sought advice from young
people working on after-school programs
and other projects. Ten turned up when
she asked them to a meeting to advise her
on what kids wanted (she supplied pizza
and coke), particularly for the Friday night
event, and they became her Youth Advisory
Committee. The group ranges in age from
14–24, and are mostly girls (eight out of
the ten). The group is ethnically mixed, with
mainly Cook Islanders, some Samoans, and
one Indigenous young person. Some are
associated with a local church group and
form part of the volunteers each Friday. They
meet weekly to discuss what’s happening
each Friday, and can be called in whenever
the need arises. Observations of a regular
meeting in which a post-mortem of the
previous Friday night event was held and
future plans discussed, revealed enthusiasm
about the sports offered and the food (“not
healthy stuff ”!).
According to project staff, approximately
105 people have now been registered for
employment in three months. Of these, 27
Alive and Motivated
have been placed in employment. This
includes an apprentice baker who, once
he finishes his apprenticeship, will be the
sole provider of fresh bread in the Cape
York region. Others have been placed as:
apprentice chef; security officer; police
liaison officer; bus driver; administration
assistant; and traffic controller. This
employment has not simply alleviated
poverty in families, it has also led to
noticeable improvements in self-esteem,
much broader networks in the community,
and less vandalism and graffiti, according
to the coordinator and volunteers.
The response from the local community,
with people bringing in family and friends,
has been tremendous, according to one
volunteer. She claims that Islanders, Murris,
and Kooris from down south have been into
the centre to register for work.
Each person interviewed identified a
number of factors as contributing to the
success of the project. These included the
comfortable, no-nonsense approach of the
staff, “we don’t come across as the system,
no cold office – they just walk in and say
‘hi, I’m here’”. Another talked about the
importance of showing each person that you
cared about who they are and their goals, of
getting to know their individual passions.
Central to success appears to be the
fortuitous combination of the skills and
personalities of the three women involved.
The management and community involvement skills of the coordinator; the gregarious
personality, passionate approach and deep
experience of the Indigenous volunteer; and
the complementary office and computing
skills of the other volunteer all contribute
to a balanced, nurturing team. All women
know about the way in which paid work
can transform lives (and how central unpaid
work is to community life!), they identify as
members of the community, and have heart
and compassion. These credentials seem to
be crucial to the people who came into the
community centre.
Cairns City Council in general, and the
coordinator’s line manager in particular, have
been supportive of the project. This involves
managing up the council, and dealing with
any necessary bureaucratic details.
Most of the difficulties identified by project
staff relate to funding and the frustrations
of dealing with the job networks. In
retrospect, the coordinator says she would
have gone straight to the Department of
Employment and Workplace Relations
(DEWR) to attempt to negotiate a more
formal working relationship between the
job networks and the project. This would,
ideally, have meant a transfer of funds to
the project for those staff registered with the
job networks, but who have been trained
and placed in employment by “About Jobs”.
These funds could have paid the voluntary
staff and allowed the project to provide
more support for clients. The continuity
of the project is dependent upon finding
more secure funding, and a submission has
been made to the Department of Education
and Training for salaries, and associated
project expenses.
The Messenger/Dreaming Project
– City of Fremantle
The Messenger/Dreaming project is a
collaborative endeavour between the City
of Fremantle and SWERVE, an organisation
of artists based in the Fremantle area in
Western Australia. The LGA encompasses
a range of residential areas, from upmarket inner city-style living in the city
precinct to lower socio-economic ex-
Chapter 7
Engaging with Indigenous young people
public housing developments. Industries
range from entertainment and restaurant/
café strips to heavy industrial and artistic
workshops and studios. It is still a major
port for the Perth region, both in terms of
trade and as the home of a major fishing
fleet. It is also possessed of an important
cultural and artistic heritage, with a strong
“alternative” bent.
The Messenger project is a physical theatre
project – stilt walking, bungee activities, and
acrobatics – provided for Indigenous young
people in one part of the Fremantle area.
The program culminated in a performance
for NAIDOC Week celebrations at the Fly By
Night Club in Fremantle on July 11 2003. The
Dreaming project concerns itself with local
“Dreaming” stories and cultural awareness
for local Indigenous young people, and aims
to encourage young Indigenous people to
positively identify with and to perpetuate
their culture and community.
Other groups, including the local Police
and Community Youth Centre (PCYC), arts
organisations and individuals, and the local
Indigenous community, have had and continue
to play important roles in the provision of the
program and in its acceptance and success.
History of the initiative
In 2000 the LGA created a reconciliation
policy document in close collaboration with
the local Indigenous community. During this
process, elders in the Indigenous community
voiced fears for the younger generation,
worried that they were becoming a “lost
generation”. The following year a decision was
made to create an arts program specifically
targeting young Indigenous people. To make
it more attractive to this group, it was decided
that such a program should be based in
the open air, and deal with contemporary
Indigenous culture.
The City of Fremantle was already running
an arts program for young people, which
introduced them to various artistic forms and
endeavours in the Fremantle area – including
the Spare Parts puppet theatre company, the
Film and Television Institute, and Bizurcus
(a local alternative circus company).
In 2000 and 2001, SWERVE ran the first
incarnations of the “Messenger” project in
Hilton, a suburb within the City of Fremantle
with a significant Indigenous population. The
name “Messenger” was based on the idea
of travelling door-to-door bringing news and
information; the originators from SWERVE
wanted the project to be like someone
bringing pleasant news to the community.
“Messenger” was predicated on the idea
of delivering services to the area – in this
instance local artists and performers wanted
to deliver their skills to the local young
Indigenous people. Central to the idea was
a sense of community building, and also of
artists and performers being able to deliver
back into their own communities. The
intention was to assist young Indigenous
people in the area to reconnect with older
members of their own community.
In January 2002, 40 young people
took part in a music, dance and painting
performance project run by SWERVE. This
eventuated in a rap-based piece, where a
backdrop was created while the song was
performed. The project performed at the
Fremantle Children’s Fiesta.
Towards the end of the 2001–2002
financial year, funds became available to the
City of Fremantle’s Community Development
and Community Arts Officer (CDO). Thus
the “Dreaming” project was born. The
CDO involved local community leaders
and elders, and travelled around the area,
visiting homes and inviting people to take
part in the project.
Alive and Motivated
Recognised cultural leaders took fifty
young Indigenous people on trips of
the local area and taught them specific
dreaming stories of the area, especially
the mouth of the Swan River. Over two
days the young people were taken to
the various sites involved, on the first
day by bus, and on the second by boat.
A workbook was developed for the young
people to fill in as they went. They also
created sand sculptures, made maps of
the areas, and took photos. The project
coincided with the centenary of the opening
of the river mouth. The young people met
a descendant of the engineer responsible
for opening the river, C. Y. O’Connor,
as well as meeting the Lord Mayor of
Fremantle. Having learnt the dreaming
story, the young people created a puppet
and dance piece telling the story, which
they performed at the Fremantle Festival.
Their work represented the greatest ever
involvement of Indigenous people in the
festival – the young people opened the
festival one day, performed the next, and
then led the festival parade the next.
Fremantle area, aimed predominantly at
8–15-year-olds. As the coordinating body,
SWERVE was deeply involved, but so were
other performance organisations. Cirque
Bizurque (formally Bizurcus) played an
important part. Cirque Bizurque is a longestablished Fremantle circus company and
circus school; it was a source of training
expertise, and its base was also used as a
venue for some other activities.
Messenger consisted of six weeks of
workshops and rehearsals, culminating in
a performance at a noted Fremantle venue.
The organisers were taken aback when 50
young people appeared on the first day.
This posed problems for the first day’s work.
As the coordinator noted, circus skills are
dangerous, and tutor-student ratios must
be low – at least six tutors or assistants
were present at workshops. Throughout the
project, no less than 35 young people took
part in the classes/workshops/rehearsals.
In 2003 the young people of the area
were keen to carry on learning and
performing. At this time, however, the
CDO was seconded to another LGA. It was
at this point that SWERVE informed her
that they had a project ready to go. The
combination of a ready-made program,
run by a group familiar to the council,
was persuasive and gratefully accepted by
council staff. SWERVE (collectively, but in
fact in the person of the coordinator) was
sub-contracted by council to coordinate
the Messenger project in early 2003.
While SWERVE was the main organisation
in control of Messenger, it was not alone.
The City of Fremantle provided a large
amount of money and in-kind support for
the project. The coordinator had use of
office facilities – phones, computers and
printers especially – that lowered the cost for
SWERVE. The LGA estimated that the costs
to council were about $6 750 and the total
project was budgeted at around $11 750.
Other funds were made available from state
arts bodies, the Office of Youth Affairs, and
other sources. Late in the project, the City
of Cockburn also became involved in the
project, providing the use of a bus (after
the PCYC vehicle broke down).
The project
The Messenger project was a physical
theatre project, involving numerous
arts and other organisations from the
The legal dangers inherent in circus work
were ameliorated by the fact that SWERVE,
Cirque Bizurque, and the PCYC had public
liability insurance for the participants.
PCYC could only provide this for financial
Chapter 7
Engaging with Indigenous young people
members, and the project paid memberships
for all participants.
The Fremantle PCYC was an integral part
of the project. The PCYC is situated in Hilton,
and SWERVE approached the manager of
the PCYC (the manager) to use the building
as a rehearsal space for the project. The
manager was happy to be involved in the
project on a number of counts. He knew the
people from SWERVE already, having met
some of them at various conferences, and
through their previous Messenger activities,
and was happy to work with them. He also
saw the project as an opportunity to make
a connection with the local Indigenous
population: although there is a significant
local Indigenous population in the area, with
a high percentage of young people, there
was no history of Indigenous engagement
with the PCYC.
Another positive outcome from his
perspective was that such activities were
viewed as an “effective and meaningful
form of crime prevention”; indeed the only
“real way to do it”. In more general terms,
he thought that the project provided a
space for young Indigenous people to
have positive interactions with police
officers. He was also set to take part in
the performance – playing a policeman
chasing young people across the stage,
he thought. He seemed quietly pleased
that the young people wanted him to be
involved at this level. The partnership
between the PCYC, community workers
and organisations like SWERVE was also
seen as a long-term benefit.
Indigenous elders were heavily involved in
this program. The network established after
SWERVE’s earlier work and the Dreaming
project, was used to publicise the new
project through the Indigenous community.
A SWERVE report notes that “involvement of
adult, family members and elders” was one
aim of the project. Information about the
project was disseminated via the “grapevine”
and the “bush telegraph”. Team members
visited around 15 key community members
and families in their homes, to explain the
purpose of the project, its structure and
management, and to invite their family’s
participation. During the project, community
members were involved as bus drivers, cooks,
support workers, and as the performance
approached, in producing costumes, helping
with staging and similar activities.
A local Indigenous man was the main bus
driver for the project. The bus was vital to
the success of the project: although the
project was based in Hilton, young people
from around the Fremantle region became
involved, and were picked up and dropped
home by bus. This service was important in
getting people to and from the workshops,
but it had ancillary benefits as well. The
manager stated that the presence of a
respected older male figure in the project
had a very positive effect among many of the
young people who lacked strong male role
models. Having come to know the driver,
the manager is keen to use his services in
other aspects of the PCYC program.
Food was planned as an integral part
of proceedings. Workshops took place on
Saturday mornings and morning tea and
lunch was provided for the participants.
Community members produced the food.
The powerful positive effects of getting
the younger and older members of the
community to eat together were consciously
sought by the organisers.
The wider context
Both the Messenger and Dreaming projects
are concerned with community building and
community restoration. Informants spoke of
Alive and Motivated
the broad and historical problems faced
by Indigenous Australians, and of the need
to help the local Indigenous community to
increase in self-confidence. They also spoke
of the importance of general community
building. The coordinator said that one of
the spurs to action had been a desire of
the artists in SWERVE to be able to work
over a sustained period of time in their
own community.
At the time of our visit, the Messenger
performance had not taken place, but
council staff seemed keen to undertake
similar programs again. Another version of
the Dreaming project was being prepared,
and it was hoped that the young people
who had taken part in the first Dreaming
project might become cultural ambassadors
or cultural teachers in the region, by taking
the stories and knowledge from the first
Dreaming into local schools and spreading
local cultural knowledge. There was also a
possibility of involving noted Indigenous
performers in a new version of the project.
From the coordinator’s perspective,
the strengths of the Messenger project
were largely unintended consequences for
individuals involved in the project. Some of
the young people had been accepted into
Cirque Bizurque’s circus school. During the
rehearsal/workshop period, about twelve
young people from the project had become
semi-regular users of the PCYC – following
the experiences of the project some had
joined the PCYC trampolining classes,
while others were just using the available
facilities in an ad hoc manner. Prior to the
project there was almost no Indigenous use
of the centre or its facilities, according to
the manager.
The chief practical challenge to future
projects like Messenger is funding. Messenger
cost about $1 000 per week to run the
program as it was, even with considerable
donated services. The coordinator was
working a three-day week, for example, whilst
being paid for only nine hours. In part the
project’s success contributed to the financial
strain. SWERVE had planned on about 30
participants, but stretched to accommodate
about 50.
The informal methods of publicising the
project also gave rise to potential problems,
such as leaving some families outside the
loop. This did not eventuate, however, and
the potential problem was also a strength
of the project. The fact that this project was
not run through schools or other “official”
bodies gave it a different emphasis within
the community, and made it easier for people
to become involved.
Acceptance of Indigenous social and
cultural practices highlighted some issues
and helped overcome other problems. Young
Indigenous people caring for their younger
siblings and relatives raised the numbers
in the project, stretching the capacities for
adequate supervision. They also made duty of
care an issue. The occasional transient nature
of the community also posed some challenges
to organisers outside the community. Young
Indigenous people do not always have
settled domestic arrangements, for a large
number of reasons. To accommodate these
diverse circumstances, the organisers had
to become aware of alternate places where
young people might be staying, in order to
pick them up.
The manager noted that some regular
users of the PCYC were a bit peeved by
the Indigenous-only aspect of Messenger.
They thought it should be open to all PCYC
Chapter 7
Engaging with Indigenous young people
users. The manager agreed that in “a perfect
world” it would be open to all but realised
that the success of the project was in great
part due to its specific Indigenous focus.
Moonah Community Group –
Moreland City Council
The Moonah Community Group is a
community strengthening initiative that is
auspiced by the Brunswick Public Tenants’
Association, managed by a group of local
residents and supported by the Moreland
City Council, in Melbourne. The group is
made up of residents of the Gronn Place
public housing estate in West Brunswick,
a relatively small estate of 80 flats in an
area where there are numerous single storey
public houses. Issues facing residents of this
estate are similar to those confronting others
living in high-rise public housing estates in
Melbourne’s inner suburbs. These include
social problems either felt or generated by
young people who are involved in substance
use, crime and other risk factors.
History of the initiative
Prior to the establishment of the Moonah
Community Group there had been a long
association between council staff and local
residents as a consequence of ongoing
issues to do with social order. Indeed those
consulted claimed that there had been at
least a ten-year history of social problems
in and around the estate. Youth crime, drug
taking, domestic violence, regular contact
with police and fire service officers, frequent
public fights and violence, family problems
and other “high risk” activity had been
identified by residents, council staff and
community service organisations. These
issues had been articulated in the local
media over some time.
Council officers had instituted a Youth
Activities Support Program for two years. As
a consequence of contact with local residents
the council youth worker had identified a key
group who had expressed concerns about the
future for young people and a commitment
to work together to provide opportunities
for locals. This prompted a request from a
group of parents who approached council
for a volleyball net for the young people.
This group of parents, many from the Cook
Islands, was motivated by a desire to “turn
things around”.
In 2001 this prompted a synergy between
local people and council, who had been
concerned about the social health of young
people and local residents. At the same
time resources became available through
the Victorian Department of Human Services
for initiatives aimed at strengthening
the community and for projects with a drug
and alcohol focus. Resources were sought
and $20 000 over three years was received
for the establishment of a community
group that would plan a range of activities
to counter youth-related problems and
involve other members of the community in
improving their own circumstances.
The project
The Moonah Community Group aims to
involve the community and achieve social
harmony by bringing people together
to participate in educational, social,
recreational and culturally diverse activities
in a safe, fun and healthy environment for
children, young people, families, adults and
older adults living in the Moonah ward.
The project has an emphasis on preventing
substance abuse amongst young people
and stresses the importance of building
positive connections between young people
and their families and community, arguing
that when this occurs young people are less
Alive and Motivated
likely to experience substance abuse and
other social problems.
Those groups considered to be at most risk
of experiencing drug and alcohol problems
include the following young people:
• those from culturally and linguistically
diverse (CALD) communities;
• those with a low level of education;
• those from a low-income family;
• those who are socially disconnected
from the wider community; and
• those who are disconnected from their
A youth committee and a general adult
committee run the project, meeting each
week to plan a variety of recreational and
social experiences for Moonah’s young
people. Initially this focus on young people
resulted in activities that were youth
targeted. However, this soon led to increased
involvement from parents, other family
members and adult residents. Both groups
decided to concentrate their efforts around
the Gronn Place public housing estate in
West Brunswick. Activities organised and
carried out by the Moonah group include:
• a draft agreement between the Moonah
Community Group and the Brunswick
Public Tenants Association;
• development of Moonah Community
Group membership cards;
• school holiday activities, including free
recreation activities and discounted use
of local recreation facilities;
• a community festival;
• two family sports days attended by over
80 people;
• an afternoon tea for local women and
their children;
• a Halloween party;
• a gentle exercise program;
training for members of the committees;
a mock submission writing process;
a logo competition;
the production of T-shirts and caps;
first-aid training;
a homework support group conducted
twice per week;
• preparation of media releases on positive outcomes of the group; and
• a breakfast program for local primary
school students.
The project is based on the idea that for
initiatives to be successful there must be
significant involvement of young people in
the planning and carrying out of events.
Each week a group of young people meet
independently of the adult group to talk
about their plans and aspirations. This
meeting is supported by a youth worker from
the Moreland City Council. Immediately after
this meeting the adult committee meets.
Young people are invited to be a part of this
meeting and routinely bring their discussions
and plans. The youth committee has direct
access to the group’s funds and bring their
requests to the larger group who, according
to those consulted, always support young
people’s plans.
The group draws on a model of youth
leadership features of which are: an
emphasis on family involvement; the
importance of older young people “buddying
up” with younger people; and team or
group work. This approach to encouraging
young people’s active participation is
strongly shaped by the cultural influence
of community members from the Cook
Island. During community events young
people are invited to make up four teams,
with much emphasis on cooperation and
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Engaging with Indigenous young people
collaboration. Team members are of different
ages and from different families so that
young people develop forms of leadership
that are not reliant on the already existing
social structures.
According to informants, this approach
encourages the involvement of those
young people who might otherwise not be
recognised as talented. Actively involving
young people during the course of the
activity rather than simply during meetings
and formal discussions is also important as
it makes the experience of leadership and
participation positive and fun and not simply
associated with formalities and conduct that
bores many. It also demonstrates to young
people that they can influence outcomes
and they can get involved even where there
might be a level of competition or conflict.
Finally this approach to participation
involves much contact and work with adult
members of the community. This allows
young people to articulate what they would
like to see happen, have adults model how
they participate and allows them to work
with adults without adults controlling the
According to participants, the key
accomplishment of the Moonah Community
Group has been its formation and subsequent
success in organising a range of events. The
group has registered over 240 members,
most of whom are residents in the area. Over
80 people attend community sports days.
Importantly, the group has been able to act
with a high degree of autonomy, initiating
and managing all of its projects.
The group’s work has also fostered
relationships with other neighbourhood
groups. For example, a similar community
group from Prahran was invited to attend
the last community sports day. As a
consequence both groups are planning to
arrange ongoing events.
Participants claim that the group has had
a substantial influence on the reduction
of crime and anti-social behaviour in and
around the estate. There is anecdotal
evidence of decreased vandalism on the
estate and increased positive interaction
between residents. Police and fire service
personnel have received fewer requests to
attend the estate and themselves claim that
violence, youth misbehaviour and anti-social
behaviour has dropped considerably.
Many participants directly attribute the
success of the group to the role played by
a number of key families, most of whom
migrated from the Cook Islands in the past
five years. This group of people, many of
whom are women, are highly motivated, put
many hours of voluntary work into the group
and enjoy considerable respect and influence
within their families and community.
Another reason for the group’s success
appears to have been the fact that state
government funds became available at
precisely the moment when the group was
forming and council was expressing an
interest in supporting initiatives in the area.
The particular emphasis of this funding
program, with its stress on addressing
the needs of young people by applying
principles such as community connections
and strengthening, seemed to match the
needs and aspirations of those involved.
The group faces a series of challenges
as they attempt to consolidate their early
successes. An immediate issue identified
was the need for the group to become more
efficient in planning events and programs,
and skilled for preparing funding submissions
Alive and Motivated
in order to attract further resources to allow
them to continue with their work.
Many thought that too much responsibility
was being shouldered by too few individuals,
that there were “the same faces . . . behind
the planning of all events”. One consequence
of strong leadership and involvement by
some community members is that others
can assume that the group is exclusively
committed to one group’s interests, and feel
alienated. This issue is exacerbated by the
transient nature of the estate population.
If key members of the community group
were to move out of the area in the early
stages of the group’s life this would leave
substantial gaps in skills and may result
in the group losing momentum until new
leaders are found.
Another tension involves the balance
between council support for planning and
events organisation and fears that it may,
unwittingly, exert too much influence over
the group. As one report identified, “it
was felt that external bodies may, in their
attempts to support, actually hinder the
process by tacitly assuming control resulting
in residents feeling disempowered and
alienated from the project”.
Another feature of the estate is the variety
of cultural and linguistic backgrounds of
residents. Communicating and sharing
ideas between community members can be
difficult enough even when all share a fairly
common language. When different families
use English as their second language this can
be accentuated as a problem. This means
that an important challenge facing a group
such as this will be articulating their plans
and aspirations in ways that are accessible
to many.
The continuity of the project is dependent
upon accessing ongoing funding. Given that
the project’s success was associated with
a policy shift towards funding community
engagement initiatives, Moonah is reliant on
the continuing popularity of this policy regime.
Should this change the group may need to
review its operational style and objectives if
it is to attract funds in the future.
PALS – Promoting Aboriginal
Leadership in Schools –
Campbelltown City Council and the
New South Wales Department of
Education and Training
The Promoting Aboriginal Leadership in
Schools (PALS) program is a collaborative
effort between Campbelltown City Council
and the New South Wales Department of
Education and Training (DET). There is also
involvement with three other LGAs, and
some federal funding has been provided.
As its title suggests, the program aims to
develop Aboriginal school leaders, in the
hope that they will in turn become leaders
in the Aboriginal and wider communities.
It is derived from an already existing
scheme, but the involvement of council
is unique.
Campbelltown is situated approximately
an hour by road south of Sydney. Covering
312 square kilometres, it is populated by
150 000 people, of whom 3 600 identify
as Indigenous (making it the LGA with
the second largest Indigenous population
in New South Wales). Industries include
heavy manufacturing and farming, and
residential areas comprise both old and
new developments.
Campbelltown City Council Youth
Services Unit employs three full-time staff
– a Youth Services Coordinator, a Youth
Project Officer, and an Aboriginal Youth
Project Officer. The council also employs
dedicated Aboriginal
Development Officer.
Chapter 1
Engaging with Indigenous young people
History of the initiative
In 2000, the Clarence/Coffs Harbour school
district [on the New South Wales northern
coast] identified the need to improve the
participation of Aboriginal students in
School Representative Councils (SRCs) and
other school forums. The program that was
subsequently developed became known as
SLIKK – Student Leadership is for Koori Kids.
It was very successful, and led to other DET
districts taking up the model (DEST 2001,
p. 36). The Federal Department of Education,
Science and Training Report of 2001 describes
the program:
a culturally appropriate leadership program
for secondary Aboriginal students, was
developed to raise the level of participation
of Aboriginal students in SRCs through
the development of skills and confidence
to participate fully in meetings and other
activities and to improve attendance and
retention levels (DEST 2001, p. 36).
Following the success of SLIKK, DET
encouraged other districts to work on
similar leadership projects, and $5 000
per district was made available from their
Indigenous Education Strategic Initiatives
Programme (IESIP). Part of the aim is to
retain Indigenous students until at least
Year 10. The need to increase retention is
important – across the nation only 85.7 per
cent of Indigenous students completed Year
10 in 2001, compared to approximately 98 per
cent of non-Indigenous students (DEST 2001,
p. 58).
In late 2001 meetings were held with
representation from DET, council, the
Department of Community Services (DOCS),
and various local Aboriginal groups, including
the local Land Council, and other community
groups. They agreed to work together on a
program that would combine mentoring and
leadership development.
The project
Training commenced in 2001, at this
time still following the SLIKK outline. Four
potential leaders were invited from high
schools with Aboriginal students within the
Campbelltown and Liverpool areas (both
being part of the same DET district). The
program targets students in Years 7–10, the
compulsory years of schooling in New South
Wales. Students in the lower years of school
have more time for such external activities,
while many Year 11 and 12 students become
increasingly focused on the Higher School
Certificate. The present Consultant Aboriginal
Education (CAE) described the selected
students as basically the “quiet” Aboriginal
kids in schools. They were not “bad”
kids, but shyness and fear of failure were
extremely evident in the group. They had
never been involved in leadership, and had
to learn the skill. A main aim of the program
was to reduce the risk and fear of failure
while supporting them, so that they might
take their place on Student Representative
Councils (SRC).
Members of the Aboriginal community
were invited to training sessions. Also present
were four Student Welfare Consultants
from DET district office, the Campbelltown
Aboriginal Youth Project Officer, and
Aboriginal Student Liaison Officers from
the various schools, who usually deal with
matters of student attendance and retention.
The transport, lunch, and venue costs were
paid by council and some government grant
moneys. The students were taken through
a series of exercises about what leadership
entails, and what it means to be a leader,
and they discussed SLIKK. Their first task
was to decide upon a name for the project.
The students selected the PALS acronym,
which was originally suggested by one
of the students. Having chosen a name,
the group worked on a logo – which was
Alive and Motivated
eventually designed by one student. This
was the last act for the program in 2001 – it
occurred in the last term of the school year.
More importantly, no plans were made for
the following year.
In 2002, staffing changes were made in
both DET and council and the new Council
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth
Project Officer noticed that the program
had “idled”, so he instigated a meeting to
restart PALS. This led to another training
day, this time funded with DET money.
About a dozen schools took part, again
from the Campbelltown and Liverpool
LGAs. In the end, 36 students attended the
training day. The support group was again
large – four Aboriginal Education Assistants,
two Student Welfare Consultants, the CAE,
two Aboriginal Student Liaison Officers, two
Aboriginal Community Liaison Officers, all
from DET, council’s Project Officer, and four
Aboriginal community elders.
A young Koori student leader from Sydney
Secondary College – a member of his SRC
– was invited, as were Aboriginal students
from Bass Hill High School. These students,
in Years 7 and 9 gave a PowerPoint
presentation on the Aboriginal culture day
they had run at their school. Bass Hill is
in the Bankstown City Council area, part of
the same DET district as Campbelltown. The
group workshopped the types of activities
that they might run in their own schools.
They broke into school groups, and worked
up ideas that might make the transition from
primary school to secondary school easier for
Indigenous children.
In the afternoon they did some physically
challenging exercises. The aims of these
were to show that these young people could
overcome obstacles and do things that
were foreign and threatening. Obviously, the
analogy was that having overcome these
scary moments, the young people could also
overcome the potentially threatening idea of
becoming leaders at school. Having mastered
the dangerous physical encounters, the young
people were presented with certificates by
members of the local Aboriginal community.
Reviewing their activities, the organisers
realised that while they had made
improvements on the previous year’s
activities, there were still serious flaws in
the concept. The 2002 program had given
the young people a sense of what it might
actually mean to be leaders within their own
community within school. They had also
received some recognition for their efforts on
the training day, from members of their own
community. These were improvements, but
the flaws remained.
Foremost among them was the fact that
school authorities were in the dark about the
content of the program. More importantly,
perhaps, the program had given the students
a sense of what might be done but not how
these ideas might be implemented. There
was no budget for the program, nor had they
worked on how funds could be obtained. To
make matters worse, Term 4 came along, and
everyone became too busy to carry through
with any new work. As the CAE describes it,
“we fell down big time”.
However, the project officer started the ball
rolling again in 2003, contacting the CAE to
get PALS off the ground. They decided that
there needed to be an increased involvement
of the local Aboriginal community. They also
determined that it was necessary to provide
relevant skills training to the participants to
support any future activities they decided
upon. These included:
• public speaking;
• project management; and
• meeting procedure.
Chapter 7
Engaging with Indigenous young people
While some schools were dropped from
the program, in 2003 the selection came
from a wider pool. Schools from the Fairfield
Council were invited, as well as those from
Campbelltown, Bankstown, and Liverpool
Councils. Now the program matched the DET
zoning, at least nominally. Campbelltown
was still the only council organisationally
and financially involved, however.
Rather than one big training day, this
year the organisers decided to work initially
and intensively with four representative
students, and then have them assist in
training the rest of the group. Community
leaders were also involved in this
preparatory day. One student was selected
from each council area to “train to lead the
leaders”. While the students were being
led through the speaking and management
issues, the community elders were also
working. Indigenous leaders split into
male and female groups, and planned a
cultural leadership session. The aim of
this was to encourage the students into
leadership by reminding them of leadership
in Aboriginal society, both historically and
in contemporary times.
A month later the main training day took
place. In addition to the cohort from April,
the organisers ensured that there were
official representatives from each school
with students in the program. These were
Aboriginal Education Assistants and SRC
teachers. The students were split into
small groups, and then taken through the
program by the “leaders’ leaders”. Adult
supervisors stayed with each group in case
the individuals needed help, but the aim was
to let the student leaders run the sessions.
One of the group of four was almost too
scared to attend the session, and only went
when assured that she would not have to
run sessions if she did not want to. She duly
attended, and ran all the sessions in her
category. After lunch, the students split into
male and female groups, and were spoken
to about cultural aspects of leadership by
the community leaders.
Assessing the May meeting, the organisers
realised that schools were still not officially
involved, although representatives had
at least been present. A change to the
organisation took place at this time, and
the four “leader leaders” were made part
of the committee.
At this time Aboriginal community leaders
decided that it was time that the students
got some reward from the exercise, and a
trip away was chosen as the best thing. The
project officer proposed taking the students
to Canberra for three days, hopefully to meet
some Aboriginal leaders, and to expose
the students to highest level leadership.
Canberra also has many sites of educational
and cultural interest. The project officer
convinced Campbelltown Council of the
merit of the exercise and the council paid
for the transport, accommodation and food
for the trip. DET funds covered the costs of
activities and admission to museums and
other cultural centres.
In Canberra, the students met with
numerous Indigenous leaders. At Parliament
House, Senator Aden Ridgeway spoke to the
group at length, and was photographed with
each student. At the Institute of Sport, the
group met Nova Peris, who has represented
the nation at both hockey and athletics and
was the first Indigenous Australian to win
an Olympic gold medal. Peris spent more
than twice her allotted time with the group.
They also met an Indigenous soldier at the
War Memorial. While in Canberra the students
completed a workbook. The trip was designed
to be intellectually challenging as well as
entertaining and enjoyable. The CAE described
the group as the best collection of students
Alive and Motivated
she had ever travelled with, saying that their
behaviour was “exemplary”.
On return from their trip, council hosted
an official Lord Mayoral Reception. This
included active participation from the PALS
group – presenting an I-movie of their trip,
singing a song composed for the occasion,
and being presented with certificates and
framed photographs to mark the experience.
According to the project officer, the “reception
went better than well! It was fabulous!”
Formal evaluations of the project will be
undertaken by DET and students involved. So
far, however, there have been some positive
outcomes. Since returning from Canberra, three
students have attended the State Student
Representative Conference. Six others have
attended the inter-district SRC Conference,
where they presented a 30-minute PowerPoint
presentation to the 70 participants on the
PALS program. One student has been selected
as an exchange student to Japan in 2004.
At least seven students have been elected
to their SRCs in recent school elections.
The whole 31 students will be running the
Regional Aboriginal Student Awards Night in
November 2003.
The two key organisers were keen to see
the program continue, but this decision
is outside their influence. Funding for the
ATSI Youth Project Officer position finishes
in the near future, and its continuation is
not certain. One informant noted that a
permanent cross-council position would
make things easier to fit the DET district
pattern, but that so long as there was
commitment by at least one person in the
council and DET, the program could continue.
Ideally, it is hoped that individual schools
will adopt the program and mainstream it
within their activities.
These case studies highlight many of the
key issues facing young Indigenous people
today – employment opportunities, cultural
identity, family and community relationships,
and leadership renewal. Each project has
assisted the young people involved to
become more positively engaged within
their own communities, by encouraging
participation by community elders and
other community members. There have
also been stronger links forged with the
non-Indigenous community – employers,
community service providers, police, the
arts community, and many government
departments. Common threads in the projects
are: the acknowledgment and acceptance of
Indigenous values and practices; embedding
activities for young people within wider
community activities; partnerships within
and between the Indigenous and nonIndigenous communities; and the importance
of committed staff acknowledged within the
Indigenous community.
Service delivery through the
For more than a decade governments of
all persuasions have been talking about a
“whole-of-government” approach to service
delivery which accounts for the holistic needs
of the community. Such an approach, it is
argued, provides what people need more
efficiently and effectively by focusing on
the whole person, and reducing duplication
between services. Local governments have
tackled this issue in a variety of ways
and the following case studies include: a
complex collaboration between council,
state government departments and other
community organisations to deliver youth
services; a collaboration between council
and non-government organisations which
links council youth governance structures to
the design and delivery of youth services;
and a council web site which acts as a
directory of youth services and as a forum
for young peoples’ views.
Frontyard Youth Services –
Melbourne City Council
Frontyard Youth Services provides a onestop free service for young people aged
between 12–25. It is located in Melbourne’s
Central Business District and targets those
young people most in need of housing,
legal, employment and income security
support. Unemployment is highest in the
15 to 17-year-old group where it is almost
25 per cent. In inner Melbourne 15.6 per cent
of young people are unemployed compared
to 4.7 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds. In
addition to Melbourne’s resident population,
nearly half a million young people visit the
city each week. It is estimated that between
1 000 and 4 500 people are homeless at
any one time in Melbourne. The majority are
under 34 years of age and had left home
by 19.
Alive and Motivated
History of the initiative
Since the mid 1990s Frontyard Youth
Services has offered support to young
people who are homeless or in need.
However the concept of a one-stop youth
service organisation has evolved over the
past 20 years with various youth services
having been supported by the Melbourne
City Council to provide a range of support
programs to young people. For example, in
1988 the Melbourne Citymission established
the Information Deli at the Flinders Street
Railway Station to provide information
and support to young people. Earlier an
information centre had been established in
the City Square. Melbourne City Council had
also provided funding for the Melbourne
Youth Service which co-located with the
Department of Employment, Education and
Training’s Youth Access Centre.
These attempts at establishing youth
services were given impetus by regular
critical incidents in the Melbourne Central
Business District and ongoing reporting of
youth problems in the media. Like many
capital cities, Melbourne attracts large
numbers of young people who are transient
and homeless. In addition, many young
people travel to Melbourne from adjacent
suburbs for support services which are
often centralised. The present location of
the service is Frontyard’s third site.
The project
Frontyard offers the biggest service centre
of its type in Melbourne’s Central Business
District. It provides a site for a range of
youth services to be offered free and in one
accessible location. This allows young people
to access accommodation support, computer
and information access, dental, employment
and training, family reconciliation, health,
income support and legal advice.
Frontyard involves a collaboration
between the City of Melbourne, the Victorian
Department of Human Services, Melbourne
Citymission and a range of youth service
organisations. In addition, each of these
organisations brings diverse sponsorship
and funding sources to the Frontyard
partnership. Melbourne Citymission performs
a lead agency function and also provides
direct client services to young people.
The City of Melbourne provides funds to
Melbourne Citymission for the positions of
Frontyard manager, a reception youth worker
and administrative support.
The general objective of the various
member agencies is to “work together to
address the physical, emotional and social
needs of young people aged up to 25 years”.
The collaborative venture allows Frontyard to
be a “recognised, respected and successful
provider and serviced system navigator
for young people at risk within the Centre
Business District”.
Frontyard articulates its core values as:
• positive client and provider outcomes;
• collaboration and cooperation;
• client empowerment and
• prevention and early intervention;
• accountability and transparency;
• dedication, cooperation and effort
of all staff; and
• community participation and
Each of the service organisations have
their own objectives, core values and
target groups. However the target groups
of Frontyard are identified as “12–25-yearolds, homeless, at risk, in need and those
either living or using the Melbourne Central
Business District”.
Chapter 8
Service delivery through the “one-stop-shop”
According to Frontyard policy documents,
the term “at risk” includes, but is not
limited to, young people experiencing or
potentially experiencing: homelessness;
family breakdown; early school leaving;
abuse – physical, substance, emotional or
sexual; mental health problems; and social
Services operating under the umbrella of
Frontyard include:
• Centrelink, which makes available its
officers at particular times during the
week, assisting young people (up to 25
years) to understand, claim and keep
income support payments as well as
providing referrals to Centrelink specialist services.
• Melbourne Gateway Reconnect, which
offers support and advocacy to young
people (12–18 years) and their families
living, working or attending school in
or around the Central Business District.
This program aims to assist young
people who have left home early or
helps young people and their families
get back together.
• Melbourne Youth Support Service, which
is an accommodation, information and
referral service for young people (15–
25 years). It offers face-to-face and
telephone support, assisting with
crisis and medium to long-term accommodation, legal issues, assistance with
drug and alcohol problems, health,
food and material aid, and training and
• The functions of the Victorian ombudsman, who will investigate complaints
concerning administrative actions taken
by any government department, public
statutory body or officers or employees
of any municipality to which the Act
• Young People’s Health Service, which
provides nurses, doctors and counsellors to young people (12–22 years)
in relation to sexual health, drug and
alcohol, emotional wellbeing, vaccinations, blood tests, pregnancy, and other
health needs.
• People’s Sexual Health Clinic, which
deals with a wide range of sexual health
and relationship issues faced by young
people (12–25 years). The clinic provides
sexual health check-ups, contraception
and condoms, vaccination, Hepatitis
and HIV testing, information about sexuality, pregnancy, sexually transmitted
infections, family problems and sexual
• Youthlaw, which provides free legal
advice and casework to young people
(up to 25 years). It also involves itself
in advocacy around issues to do with
young people and the law and offers
education programs relating to young
• Youthnet, which offers young people
(12–25 years) free two-hour access to
the latest computer software. Six computers provide Internet access and the
means for young people to surf, create
resumés, email, chat online, scan, build
web pages, play games and look for
work and accommodation.
Frontyard is also unique in terms of its
management. It is not a community-based
or managed agency. Rather it is governed
through a complex set of relationships
between a range of stakeholders. These
include the co-located services and each of
the groups that support them. Each service is
funded by a number of government, private
and non-government groups and managed
in different ways. In addition, Frontyard, as
the umbrella, has a strategic alliance with
three key groups, the Melbourne Citymission,
Alive and Motivated
which acts as an auspicing body, the
Department of Human Service, which has
a special interest as it funds many of the
co-located services and the Melbourne City
Council, which funds the key operational
functions (called the Frontyard Direct Service
Delivery Operating Platform) to the tune of
over $300 000.
The governing of Frontyard involves three
levels of management – service staff, service
managers, and strategic alliance partners.
Each fortnight all staff of all co-located
services are invited to attend a meeting
where a variety of issues are raised. Each
month managers of the co-located groups
attend a service management meeting.
Each quarter representatives of Frontyard’s
funding bodies meet with the manager to
discuss co-location issues and the future
development of the organisation. The
manager attends all three sets of meetings.
When asked about Frontyard’s mechanisms
for engaging with young people the manager
stated that the organisation itself did not and
could not rely on formal youth governance
methods such as youth advisory groups or
youth councils. These mechanisms have
proved unsuccessful with most groups of
young people, particularly those who use
Frontyard. Many of these young people are
in crisis and hence are not equipped to sit
on such structures. However, at least one
of the co-located services has a number of
young people sitting on its management
However, the manager did stress that
Frontyard, as the hosting organisation, and
the co-located services are all committed
to principles and methods that allow young
people to shape service delivery practice and
foster collaboration. For example, Frontyard
plans to frame policy ideals in positive terms
and have young people write down what this
means in their own words. The way that young
people articulate these ideals can be used in
publicly visible signage and other forms of
According to the manager, the existence of
a formal youth committee is less important
than youth services that allow young people
to be publicly visible and that give them rights
to access to space and place. Seeing young
people has a profound impact on the way
policies are formed and practice gets carried
out. In addition, giving young people a place
to come together, meet and communicate is
a critical ingredient in encouraging them to
shape the world around them. The Youthnet
project is one example of this with young
people being able to meet and communicate
through their Internet connections.
The redevelopment of Frontyard Youth
Services has resulted in increases in both the
number of young people supported and the
breadth of services offered in the Melbourne
inner city area. Over the past twelve months
the number of contacts made with young
people using the co-located services has
increased substantially.
According to both Frontyard staff and
Melbourne City Council representatives, an
important achievement of Frontyard has
been its ability to bring together a varied
group of organisations and provide a diverse
range of services to young people. Frontyard
has been able to target and attract young
people with some of the most demanding
of needs and issues. This demonstrates that
it is possible to offer multiple services in
a coordinated and cooperative way despite
these acknowledged difficulties. As one
informant said:
Chapter 8
Service delivery through the “one-stop-shop”
Frontyard is now a living and practical
illustration that local governments can get
involved in services that offer something
to the most needy. Eighteen months ago
it was a pipe dream. Now the aspiration
of offering a range of things to a range of
young people has been realised.
According to a number of people consulted,
another strength of Frontyard is that it has
managed to establish ways of managing
critical incidents without resorting to the
exclusion or banning of individual young
people. This has been achieved by staff
establishing a common set of principles
for guiding the management of young
people who breach acceptable standards of
behaviour. Important in this regard has been
a commitment to maintaining the safety of
workers and young people, not diminishing
or dismissing young people and building on
the strengths and talents of young people.
Initially this has been possible because
of the shared goodwill of those involved.
Despite the many differences that might
exist most maintain a solid commitment to
improve the circumstances of young people
who are experiencing social and personal
problems. The perception that large
numbers of young people have profound
needs appears to bring about considerable
solidarity of purpose amongst organisations
and staff. In other words, the extent of the
problem facing young people is a significant
motivating factor that prompts people to
work together and, during times of difference
or tension, allows people to identify mutual
points of interest.
Another important element in Frontyard’s
success is the degree of financial and
professional support offered by Melbourne
City Council. Council staff are involved in
a range of different ways in Frontyard’s
operations. Some service the organisation
by facilitating the funding and accounting
of funds. Others are involved in the
management of co-located services offering
support and advice on policy matters or
are members of the organisation’s strategic
alliance group and make representations
to other funding bodies. According to one
person, it has been important that there
is something of a formal distance between
council and direct service provision. This
has allowed Frontyard to carry out work with
young people who may be seen by some in
the community as too risky, dangerous or
personally undeserving.
One of the major challenges confronting
Frontyard is to maintain shared cooperation.
This can be particularly difficult given that
Frontyard is essentially a coalition between
very different organisations, often coming
from different professional orientations, with
slightly different mandates, target groups,
organisational structures and external
constraints. It can also be difficult because
of the different relationships service groups
can have with young people. For example,
there may be a substantial conflict of interest
if one service group is representing a young
person who feels aggrieved by another. It is
conceivable that a young person may ask
for the assistance of the legal service or the
ombudsman because they have a problem
with Centrelink.
Another challenge facing an organisation
like Frontyard is moving beyond the initial
goodwill expressed by all the players so
that processes are clearly articulated and
agreed. As one person said, youth services
can operate well for a limited period because
people share a general commitment to the
wellbeing of young people. However, this
will rarely sustain productive relationships,
particularly when inevitably conflict,
Alive and Motivated
management challenges or differences of
practice or style appear.
The challenge then for Frontyard is to set in
place formal agreements, clearly articulated
management processes and mechanisms
for dealing with conflict or difficulties.
The manager was adamant that for this to
happen the organisation must capitalise
on goodwill, achieve some practical and
publicly visible outcomes, use part of this
time to come to agreements or protocols,
secure long-term and safe funding and
consolidate in a stable location.
Onkaparinga Youth Development
Model, Onkaparinga City Council
The Youth Development Model is an
initiative of the Onkaparinga City Council,
which covers a large geographical area to the
south of Adelaide, South Australia, including
the southern beach suburbs, some Adelaide
hills suburbs and parts of the McLaren Vale
wine region. The Youth Development Model
is a framework for the provision of a broad
range of services targeted at young people
aged between 12 and 25 years of age.
History of the initiative
The Youth Development Model initiative
came from a desire to consolidate the
youth services Onkaparinga City Council
had inherited from its inception at the
amalgamation of three smaller local
governments in the 1990s. Each of the
original councils had run their own youth
programs. These programs consisted of
youth work/street work services, community
development programs and a “youth
events” program. After amalgamation it was
decided to consolidate the existing youth
services into a new model to deal more
effectively with the issues for young people
in the area.
A period of consultation prior to
1999 with key stakeholders, community
development workers and representatives
of young people, found the primary issues
for young people in Onkaparinga were:
homelessness; truancy; lack of affordable
accommodation; poor public transport
and lack of alternative forms of transport;
issues related to low self-esteem; a lack of
male role models in sole parent families;
and high youth unemployment.
A model to address the issues identified
by the consultation process was developed
in partnership with Mission Australia who
were given the task of implementing a pilot
program in 1999. The Youth Development
Model was formally implemented in 2000
with Mission Australia awarded a three-year
contract to 2003 as the service provider.
This contract was subsequently rolled over
to 2005. The Council intends to review the
contract in 2005 before tendering again.
The development of the project was
described by the community workers at
Onkaparinga City Council as being “evidence
based” and predicated on building a
partnership with a community service
provider, Mission Australia, rather than
direct service delivery by the Onkaparinga
City Council. Mission Australia must report
to the council quarterly and its contract
is monitored by a consultative process
with a team of highly qualified community
development workers employed by the
The Youth Development Model aims to
build community capacity and empower
youth through a strategic approach. Services
to young people are to be maximised by
producing long-term, sustainable outcomes
through the regional planning and allocation
of resources. The model runs programs
based on the local needs of young people
Chapter 8
Service delivery through the “one-stop-shop”
in regions within the boundaries of
Onkaparinga City Council, as defined by
a consultation process. Engagement with
young people and their active participation
in the development of programs and their
implementation processes is integral to
the model.
Programs provided include “speak out”
sessions for young people, regional youth
forums, the Onkaparinga Youth Council
and “VOLT” or Vocational Opportunities
Leadership Training, an Aboriginal Youth
Action Committee and regional youth
sector forums for community workers. The
council has essentially continued to run
the street work, community development
and youth event programs for the young
people that existed before amalgamation
along with additional services but within a
new consultative model.
In this context the Onkaparinga Youth
Council is intended to give young people
a forum where they can raise issues of
interest to them. Young people are also
represented on the reference group of
VOLT and other programs. The VOLT
reference group includes representatives of
the youth sector and local business people
and is intended to help young people in
Onkaparinga develop employment skills
and to help them establish business
Young people were originally recruited
to the Onkaparinga Youth Council by an
advertisement and interview selection
processes based on the applicant’s
knowledge of local and state issues and
how she or he would address these issues.
This was an expensive and time consuming
process and representatives for the youth
council and similar forums are now selected
through a network of young people involved
in the programs.
The model
The key objective of the Youth Development
Model is to support young people in the
Onkaparinga council area and encourage
their participation and engagement in the
design and delivery of youth services.
Support is not given by direct service but
through partnerships, principally with
Mission Australia.
The partnership is formalised in a
“partnering charter” and council-employed
community development workers meet
regularly with Mission Australia to discuss
the implementation of the contract. This
process was described by the community
development workers as a “dialogue with a
partner” and not an arrangement to control
the activities of Mission Australia. The
council was into “contract improvement”
rather than “best practice”, which was
redolent of economic rationalism, and it was
stressed that Mission Australia had been
given the contract because their community
development philosophy fitted well with
that of the council. Onkaparinga community
development workers said the partnership
was working well and the consultative
processes were in place and effective.
Whilst happy with the way the partnership
with Mission Australia was working, the
Onkaparinga City Council had found that
considerable time and effort from themselves
and their business partners. A community
development approach required the council
and partners to share similar values and meant
time had to be taken to establish common
ground. Work on relationship building is often
part of the invisible, and difficult to measure
part of community development work.
Alive and Motivated
In addition to Mission Australia, the
community development workers saw the
council as in a broadly defined partnership
with a diverse group of stakeholders.
Partners in the broad sense included the
Southern Youth Network, Centrelink, Shine
SA, Second Story, the VOLT program, the
Salvation Army, the Baptists, the Christian
Brothers and Neparandi.
More formally the community development
workers saw the council as being in
alliance with the Department of Human
Services, Family and Youth Services and
the Department of Education and Children’s
Services to provide outcomes for young
people in the southern regions of Adelaide.
The community development workers
at Onkaparinga City Council believed the
success of their partnership with Mission
Australia was reflected in the high number
of young people participating in their
programs. In the last twelve months 11 500
young people had taken part in activities
delivered by the council’s partners.
The model’s success was founded on
strategic planning to ensure services were
integrated with participation principles and
to ensure that resources were pooled so
there was no duplication of services. Council
workers said the model was not fragile, it
had solid foundations and pointed to the
length of the contract offered to Mission
Australia. This was held as evidence of
the council’s long-term commitment to the
model and to delivering services to young
people in Onkaparinga.
development of effective working relations
between the council and Neparandi, a
community-based Aboriginal social action
group, the development of a youth Internet
web site and a film project with Aboriginal
young people. Those interviewed said that
there was strong interest from other local
governments in the Youth Development
Model. The mayors of the City of Salisbury
and the City of Alexandria and representatives
of the City of West Torrens and Adelaide
Hills councils had visited them to discuss
the model. There had also been inquiries
from local government representatives
in Queensland and Western Australia. In
fact, external interest has grown so much
that community development workers had
to devote significant amounts of time to
dealing with inquiries from other councils.
What is interesting about the Youth
Development Model is the way in which
community development principles appear
to have been successfully integrated
with a business partnership model in the
outsourcing of services to young people by
the Onkaparinga City Council. Community
development workers pointed to the
importance of forming an alliance with an
organisation with a similar value base as
integral to successful partnering, in this
case Mission Australia.
From the community development worker’s
perspective the strong emphasis on consultation with stakeholders and participation
by the client group in the design and delivery
of services helps to explain the model’s
success. Other factors for the success of the
model may include a long-standing culture of
social cooperation in the Onkaparinga region
where it is common for even politicians from
opposing political parties to work together for
“the good of the South”.
The model’s perceived success, forward
planning by the Onkaparinga community
development team and partners, and
continuing long-term support from the
Onkaparinga City Council indicate that it will
Chapter 8
Service delivery through the “one-stop-shop”
continue to be implemented and evolve. As
such the Onkaparinga City Council’s Youth
Development Model may continue to provide
an interesting example of a successful
partnership between local government,
NGOs, community organisations and
business interests.
Although the Youth Development Model
was viewed as a council asset and a
positive contribution to the community, the
community development workers consulted
pointed to some continuing issues for
young people in Onkaparinga that need to
be addressed.
More accessible information about the
model is necessary so that more young
people know about the programs it offers.
Some young people in Onkaparinga perceive
local councils to be remote, bureaucratic
institutions that do not support their needs.
Unless information about the model and
the way in which it is engaging young
people is available to them through media
they regularly access, these views remain
Moreover, it is important to engage more
with young people who face barriers to
participation from being homeless or without
transport to localities where activities take
place. It is these young people, in particular,
who pose challenges for service providers
and practitioners, because of the multiple
disadvantages they frequently face.
Spinach web site –
Adelaide City Council
The Spinach web site was established
and is maintained by the Adelaide City
Council. The council’s local government area
covers the Adelaide central business district,
the residential district of North Adelaide,
the clubs and pubs of Hindley Street and
the Rundle Street café zone. Adelaide’s
parklands ring the city and its downtown
area attracts many young people from other
parts of the metropolitan area looking for
There are also three University campuses
(Adelaide University, and UniSA City West and
UniSA City East), two TAFE colleges and one
public and five private high schools located
within one kilometre of each other and
clustered around Adelaide’s North Terrace.
Approximately 48 000 young people study
within the square mile of South Adelaide.
A significant number of other young people
sleep rough in Adelaide’s parklands or sleep
in night shelters in the inner city.
History of the initiative
The Spinach web site was a response to
consultations with young people and youth
workers by the Adelaide City Council in
early 2000. The council planned to produce
a youth newsletter to keep young people
informed about its activities. But after
consultations the council decided to opt for
a young people’s web site instead.
A second round of consultations were
then held with young people, youth workers
and representatives of youth service organisations in Adelaide City Council area to see
what they would like to see included on the
Spinach web site. The name “Spinach” was
chosen because, as young people told the
council, “spinach is good for you”.
The Adelaide City Council came to see
Spinach as a way of encouraging the
participation of young people in the activities
of the council. The site would be a forum
which would provide ways for young people
to comment on what they found interesting
about council services and activities and
what they did not.
Alive and Motivated
The project
The Adelaide City Council hosts Spinach
internally. It is a branch of the Adelaide City
Council Information Technology Department.
Spinach exists in cyberspace and its nonstaff assets consist of the server it runs on
and community goodwill. Spinach is fully
funded by the Adelaide City Council. In the
past there was a partnership arrangement
with Bank SA but this is no longer the
case. A small team of professionals employed
by the council runs Spinach. The team
consists of:
• a project manager;
• a web designer;
• a graphic design team; and
• volunteers from TAFE.
The project manager has professional
qualifications as does the web designer. The
graphic design team have TAFE qualifications
and are assisted by volunteers studying at
TAFE. In addition, a significant number of IT
volunteers work on Spinach.
The Spinach web site (www.spinach.org.
au) has been designed to appeal visually
to young people between the ages of 12–
25 (although people younger and older are
known to visit the site). It is deep green,
with a groovy musical introduction. The
home page has buttons which link users
to “What’s on”, “Speak up”, “Recreation”,
“About Council”, “City Help”, “Participate”,
“Gallery” and “Competitions”. People can
take part in online voting polls, and the
latest daily poll we saw was on “Should the
voting age be lowered to 16?” Interestingly,
only 36 per cent of participants thought it
should, with 60 per cent opposed!
Spinach Forums invite young people to
have their say on a number of different
topics. Clicking on “Events and competitions”
give people information on what’s on, and
an opportunity to say what they thought of
events. Another section on “Need a hand
in the city?” is complemented by “Where’s
good to get help?” “Spinach Scribbles”
allows young people to write about “What’s
bugging you lately?”
In “Destination Adelaide”, a site targeting
newcomers to the city, young people can
access information on:
• housing and living independently;
• employment;
• city safety issues;
• navigating the city;
• home sickness;
• health care and other services; and
• budgeting.
The site has changed in recent years in
response to changes in web technology.
It now runs more online polls and forums
to engage with its users. Advances in
navigation and new levels of graphic design
have been incorporated into the site to
keep it up to date.
The site also trials ideas put forward
by young people. For example, it had a
music section for a while called “Music
House”. After some time, it was found to
be duplicating the services of other sites
that were solely devoted to music and
was dropped after consultation with young
users of the site. Similarly an experimental
site set up to post poetry by young people
was dropped after consultations revealed
that visitors to the site did not click on the
poetry section frequently.
The Spinach project seeks to engage young
people with the activities of the council and
provide a forum for their views on council
services and wider concerns. Spinach is
Chapter 8
Service delivery through the “one-stop-shop”
advised by a Youth Advisory Committee
called YOUNG VOICES, which is a joint
initiative of the Adelaide City Council and
the Youth Affairs Council of South Australia
(YACSA). Young people from YACSA’s Youth
Participation and Action Group (YPAG)
provide advice and feedback on council
related issues, including Spinach. According
to the web site there are almost 100 young
people involved in the VOICES project.
Spinach is also linked with a network of
youth workers – the Central Workers with
Youth Action Network (CWYAN) who provide
feedback and take part in consultations.
Moreover, Spinach is connected to the Young
Ambassadors network; young people who
live, work or study in the city and promote
Adelaide, and with international students
studying in South Australia.
Apart from these formal networks, the
web site provides a range of informal
mechanisms for participation. Anonymous
feedback from young people is received
continuously through polls and forums on
the site, which can take place at any time
of the day or night. Anyone who leaves an
email address is replied to and all queries
followed up. Other groups of young people
are involved through promotions, events
and competition pages on the web site,
online forums and polls. Recreation and
sporting groups involving young people
also have input through consultations with
the Spinach project team.
Spinach receives 4 500 hits per week and
the rate has increased 300 per cent over the
last twelve months. This suggests that the
site is reaching at least some of its target
group, assisted by the active involvement
of young people who have advised on the
site and its contents. The combination of
content – comprehensive youth services,
sport and entertainment, and participatory
forums – seems to be working well.
According to the project team young people
have developed ownership over Spinach since
its inception because they are the ones driving
it. The team acknowledged the importance of
keeping the needs of its client group at the
forefront of all of their operations.
Team members were adamant that in
consultations with young people it was
important not to set up expectations that
cannot be met. There are not enough
resources to meet the needs of everyone, so
Spinach seeks to create the opportunities
for young people to contribute, and where
possible to implement those suggestions.
This was obviously a delicate balancing act.
Limited resources means that it is not simply
a case of responding to all requests, but
negotiating with their young stakeholders
about what can realistically be achieved.
Spinach was the first web site of its kind
in Australia and has won a best practice
award. It has also attracted the attention
of local government elsewhere in Australia
and the project team has been invited to
advise other councils on the construction
and content of their own sites.
As a fully owned and operated council
project Spinach is free of commercial
pressures, which gives the team considerable
creative freedom, whilst providing a public
medium for the young people of Adelaide to
comment, give feedback on and influence
Adelaide City Council policies.
The immediate challenge facing Spinach
is to make it more accessible for those
young people less likely to visit the site.
Currently, it does not cater for young people
Alive and Motivated
on the basis of specific social categories
such as gender, class, ethnicity or other
circumstances. This means that some
young people miss out, for example, simply
because they do not have Internet access
(or any computer access). Adelaide City
Council is attempting to address this issue
by providing some open access computers
in its city offices, and has had some success
with street kids apparently beginning to use
this service. The intimidating nature of many
council buildings throughout Australia will
continue to inhibit their easy use by young
people, however.
The team was also conscious that Spinach
was ratepayer-funded, which required both
financial caution and additional ethical
responsibilities. There was a danger of
being unable to make reasonable efforts to
implement the suggestions of stakeholders.
Like other publicly-funded services, it has
to tread a fine line between servicing the
needs of its very broad client group, without
alienating its funding sources – local
These case studies illustrate the innovative
models of youth service developed by local
governments to better service the myriad
needs of young people. For Melbourne
City Council this has meant a complex
collaboration with a variety of partners
in the government and non-government
sector, with council maintaining some
distance from direct service provision. For
Onkaparinga, it has involved a long-standing
relationship with a single non-government
provider, with a more “hands-on” scrutiny
by council community development workers
of services provided. Both projects have
involved sophisticated negotiations over
agendas, philosophies and approaches to
young people.
Each of the three projects take the issue
of participation by young people very
seriously, but have different approaches to
their inclusion. Melbourne City Council youth
workers have highlighted the importance
of making young people publicly visible
in policy and practice, and regard formal
governance mechanisms as less appropriate
for their clientele. Both Onkaparinga and
Adelaide City Councils, on the other hand,
have encouraged close links between their
formal youth governance structures and their
service provision. The apparent success of
each project indicates there are many paths
to inclusion.
Youth practice in local
This research has offered an overview of
youth services provided by local government
throughout Australia, and some detailed
case studies of programs identified by
councils as innovative. In this chapter we
attempt to identify quality youth practice
in local government by drawing upon this
work and the growing scholarly literature.
The chapter begins with a typology of local
government youth practice and then moves
to an analysis of participatory mechanisms
designed to engage young people with
local government. Impediments to the
participation of young people are identified,
as well as ingredients for good practice. We
conclude with principles and practices for
quality local government youth practice.
Towards a typology of local
government youth practice
The evidence from this research is there is
actually much diversity amongst those who
support local government youth practice.
Different local authorities people have
different reasons for encouraging young
people’s participation. Some directly offer
specialist services to young people while
others choose to support general community
initiatives. Others put considerable energy
into creating youth policy statements and
plans in contrast to those who consciously
avoid tying down council commitment or
limiting to set policy imperatives. To better
understand this diversity the report will
discuss some of this diversity in relation to
philosophy, the groups targeted for attention,
rationale and methods, collaboration, levels
of youth participation and focus.
There have been many ways of
conceptualising the differences in youth
practice. Some have noted the different
ideological persuasions, philosophies and
values shaping different approaches to
youth practice (Thorpe 1985; Cooper &
Alive and Motivated
White 1994; White 1990; Van Moorst 1983).
Implicit is the idea that philosophies offer
their supporters forceful and, on the face of
it, coherent explanations for social problems
and a blue-print for action and youth work is
often more concerned with the transmission
of values than particular ends (Maunders
1990, p. 43).
There was evidence from this research of
diversity in philosophy amongst workers.
Some saw their role as managing youth
crisis and anti-social behaviour, others to
mediate on behalf of the disadvantaged,
some to steer the dysfunctional back on
the “straight and narrow”, while others saw
themselves as advocates for young people.
While some held articulate, reflexive views
of youth work practice and their roles in it,
many did not.
Target groups
understanding variety in youth practice is
the different kinds of groups targeted for
attention. Many councils targeted particular
age groups, covering mainly the 12 to 25
age groups. Others targeted according
to self or social identity so that specific
sub-categories of youth, such as “at-risk
youth”, “Aboriginal youth”, “ethnic youth”,
or “local youth groups” were the focus. In
Cairns young “people of the Pacific” were
the target of the “About Jobs” program,
and groups of “taggers” became the focus
of the Kwinana Youth Arts program. Other
councils, in an attempt to support others
who may be directly involved in work with
young people, target community groups or
established organisations. Sometimes this
involves councils offering funding or in-kind
resources, setting up meetings, undertaking
policy work, coordinating the work of
disparate groups or helping others plan for
the future.
Many local governments were insistent,
however, that their programs, services
and activities are available to all young
people living within their geographical
area. Programs were described as inclusive,
with sometimes very general descriptions
of groups of young people involved. This
seems to be despite the fact that many
youth workers see their key role as servicing
disadvantaged young people or those in
most need. It is also despite the fact that
in most instances resources alone prohibit
local government offering their programs to
all young people.
Rationale and methods
Another kind of typology of youth practice
involves categorising the different rationales
and methods organisations use to achieve
outcomes (Bessant and Webber 1999; Jeffs
and Smith 1987; White 2002). Tensions
exist, for example, within local government
between those who subscribe to a structural
efficiency model of reform and those who
advocate a local democracy model of reform
(Aulich 1999).
Most of the youth services staff interviewed
did not articulate their understandings of
these models in this manner, but spoke
of the differences between how they, as
workers, operated and the approaches of
other levels, such as managers and elected
members, in their organisations. These
findings are similar to other work which has
illustrated variations between and within
local governments on appropriate models
of community service provision (Saggers
et al. 2003).
Collaboration and diversity
Local government youth practice can
involve collaborating with others from
many different work situations including
Chapter 9
Youth practice in local government
government or non-government agencies,
paid or unpaid work, secure agency funding
and job positions or short-term funding
arrangements and job contracts. Many of
our case studies, such as the PALS program
in Campbelltown and “About Jobs” in Cairns,
involved significant collaboration between
intersectoral stakeholders, and paid and
voluntary staff.
In addition, the location of youth
services are markedly different with some
organisations based in metropolitan areas,
some in rural and regional areas, and some
in clubs, centres and offices. Organisations
vary in size and structure, from small to
medium sized local groups to large church
organisations and government run hostels.
Increasingly youth services, such as the
Onkaparinga Youth Development Model,
are being contracted out to private and for
profit companies as well as larger charitable
groups (see Hall 1993 for a discussion of
the different kinds of relationships local
governments have with other groups).
A review of the case studies reveals
differences in the focus of projects.
Melbourne’s Frontyard, Onkaparinga’s Youth
Development Model and Hornsby Youth
Services represent projects that first and
foremost offer a service to young people.
Some of the services operating out of
Frontyard, such as the State Ombudsman
and Youthlaw, principally focused on
representation and advocacy of young
people. Service programs are more inclined
to target those identified as most in need
or disadvantaged. In contrast the Moonah
group, “About Jobs” and the PALS program
appear to be strongly influenced by local
networks with an emphasis on family,
community and leadership.
Many councils have or are establishing
a formal youth policy statement or strategy
which articulates where they will direct
their attention in relation to young people.
Virtually all councils, such as Dorset Council’s
FEWCHA, had attempted the establishment
of formal youth governance structures such
as youth advisory groups or councils. Others
included less formal means of governance.
In its support of the GRIND Youth Newspaper
Darwin City Council adopted an approach that
saw youth practitioners mentoring, modelling
and offering guidance. The Palmerston
Library Young Adult Program and the “About
Jobs” initiative concentrated much of their
attention on training and educating young
people, particularly so they might be better
prepared for the labour market. In many cases
this involves offering organised activities and
leisure options to young people, such as the
Moonah and KAMELEON projects.
The Palmerston Public Space Protocol was
first and foremost an exercise in consulting
and building agreements between young
people and other community stakeholders.
Both the Messenger/Dreaming project
and the Kwinana Arts program in Western
Australia involved community education and
social action, using cultural development and
arts work as tools. Arguably many of the
projects involved an element of management
and regulation of youth issues and young
people’s behaviour. This was particularly so in
the Northern Midlands Police Caution project
and the Palmerston Public Space Protocol.
Youth participation and
local government
The thread running through almost all
of the various youth programs visited is a
strong emphasis on youth participation,
either formal governance structures or other
informal attempts to involve young people
in community life. This should come as no
Alive and Motivated
surprise as youth councils and other formal
youth participatory initiatives are not new,
as we have discussed earlier.
Between the late 1970s until International
Youth Year in 1985 many groups and
organisations promoted the benefits of
youth participation and the encouragement
of young people in decision-making
processes (Maunders 1990; Bessant,
Sercombe and Watts 1998). The popularity
of youth participation waned considerably
during the 1990s however, but in the
past five years it has re-emerged, this
time with active government promotion
of young people in civic life, community
and governance (Wierenga 2003, p. 9).
This follows similar trends in other western
countries (Matthews 2001).
Local government as a venue for
youth participation
Arguably local government is an ideal
setting from which to engage in youth
participatory practice as the most local of
governmental jurisdictions in the Australian
political system (Kiss 2003). Particularly in
the past twenty years local governments
have faced increasing pressures, from
within their constituencies and from other
layers of government, to increase their
provision of human services. Indeed every
Local Government Act contains important
references to the local government/
community nexus (Kiss 2003, p. 103). As a
consequence young people, as one of the
key constituencies of local government,
have become one of the core groups local
government are bound to engage with.
Relative to other organisations, local
government have a strong resource base,
able to draw on a local rates base as well
as commonwealth and state grants. In
addition, and partly as a consequence, local
governments often have large and established
infrastructure, capital and other assets from
which to draw. These resources can be and
are more easily mobilised by youth initiatives
that are affiliated with local government.
One effect of this is that career structures,
supervisory support and conditions for
those working with young people can be
significantly better in local government than
in other parts of the community services
industry. As one youth development worker
who had previously worked in not-for-profit
organisations noted:
there is so much more institutional
support for youth workers in local
government . . . I have much more security
of tenure . . . there are much clearer lines
of management and responsibility . . . I
get plenty of professional development
and support for furthering my education
and skills . . . if I have a problem there
are others I can consult . . . and most
importantly there are allies for young
people who, when they decide to support
you, offer tremendous institutional and
community clout . . . all this means that
I can plan, know with confidence what
I can achieve and expect . . . some say
government can be slow and constraining
but it can also be liberating if you’ve
worked in the community sector.
Local government can also be a helpful
location from which to launch youth
participatory work because of the many
partnerships and collaborative relationships
that routinely occur in and around councils.
Often local members have a vast network
of strategic affiliations with local business,
interest groups, churches, schools and
neighbourhoods. This means that council
becomes a physical and political centre
around which human and social capital
gathers. Establishing events, forums and
facilities that see young people come into
Chapter 9
Youth practice in local government
this context often provides opportunities
for them to engage in civic building. For
example, much of the success of the GRIND
group is attributed to the many unexpected
associations that have been built as a
consequence of the group being physically
located in the Darwin City Council’s offices.
As the youth development officer said, “if
GRIND wasn’t here (in the council building)
there is no way that young people would
have got access to so many leading
community and business people”.
What are youth participatory approaches?
Although the approaches used to
encourage youth participation vary there
were some common features encountered
among local governments. Most with whom
we spoke drew upon methods informed
by what in the development studies
literature is conceptualised as Participatory
Learning Analysis (PLA) and/or Participatory
Rural Appraisal (PRA). These methods
are prompted by claims that top-down
development or governance have serious
shortcomings. The view is that externally
imposed and expert-driven forms of policy
and community governance have become
ineffective, particularly for those groups
(such as young people) who traditionally
have poor access to decision-making (Cooke
and Kothari 2001, p. 5).
The central motivator of those adopting
this method is to allow “the people”,
particularly those who otherwise are marginal
to governance, to become paramount in
any attempts to plan and manage things
that affect them. Implicit in this work is the
supposition that the knowledge and active
involvement of “the people” will transform
planning and lead to improved outcomes
(Mosse 2001, p. 16).
These methods are characterised by:
• a heavy reliance on “simply talking”
(and where necessary interpreters);
• adequate time given for talking;
• the use of visual communication tools
in conjunction with discussion and
conversations (such as photo stories);
• the reliance on local concepts, traditions, ideas and knowledge;
• the use of art and other cultural
production to express and articulate
young people’s ideas (such as paintings
and drawings);
• the use of narrative or story;
• the use of spatial and temporal mapping and modelling exercises (including
ground maps);
• time spent in context and on country;
• the sharing of information between
people in a community; and
• collaboration with young people “talking up” with the backing and support
of the old people (Abbott et al. 1998;
Chamber 1994; Walsh & Mitchell 2002).
These ideas are proving popular amongst
youth practitioners because it can be difficult
to engage young people in meaningful ways
in planning and governmental processes, the
relevance of which is often not immediately
obvious to many of them. They may have
difficulty understanding what it is that policy
makers and leaders are doing and what
they might be after. They may also have
trouble articulating their experiences or
engaging in research exchanges that are
dominated by adult “talk” or discussions
(Bessant et al. 1998).
Hence, many youth practitioners draw
heavily upon participatory research and
community cultural development traditions
(Walsh & Mitchell 2002; Chambers 1994;
Bessant et al. 1998; Perlstein & Bliss 1994).
Alive and Motivated
These traditions rely on the use of a suite
of tools that allow young people to engage
in arts and cultural production, fun and
innovative activities as a means of generating
insights, experiences and knowledge. This
practice style is often predicated on the view
that young people’s expression, mastery
and communication through the arts is a
powerful way of encouraging young people
to articulate their cultural values and bring
deeper meanings of their experiences to the
public arena (Adams & Goldard 2001).
Levels of youth participation
Youth participation can be thought of
as operating at different levels along a
continuum (Westhorp 1987; Holdsworthy
1992, p. 15). This continuum begins with
attempts by practitioners to have young
people communicate their ideas through
ad hoc input and structured consultation,
through to more formal means of guaranteeing
young people’s input and control. Others
have suggested that youth practice can
range from situations where adults are in
full control of youth programs and make no
effort to change this, to encouraging young
people’s passive involvement, to consulting
young people, to building partnerships
with significant collaboration between
young people and adults, through to
situations where young people become selfmobilising and autonomous (de Kort cited
by Holdsworthy 2001).
So this can mean youth participation
is used to describe young people simply
attending some kind of event or activity. For
example, during the initial events carried out
by the Palmerston Public Library there was
concern at the lack of young people attending.
Participation can also mean speaking with
young people without taking particular note
of what they have to say. Some of those
consulted claimed that youth advisory
councils can fall into this category. In other
instances it can mean young people taking
on responsibility for the planning, managing
and execution of initiatives that are important
to them. The GRIND group and the Kwinana
theatre company are perhaps examples of
this form of youth participation.
Youth participation can also involve young
people engaging in full civic life, enjoying
similar civic rights and obligations to
others, voting in local elections, petitioning
officials, enjoying access to public space in
the same way that others do. While we saw
evidence of some young people enjoying
elements of this kind of participation it was
more common to have such participation
enshrined in policy.
Reasons for participation
Many of those consulted had the view
that there are considerable benefits, both
to young people, communities and local
governments in adopting youth participatory
approaches. Some, such as those involved
in the Palmerston Public Space Project
thought that youth participation could help
guard against youth alienation or deal with
youth problems. Others, such as those in
the “About Jobs” and GRIND projects saw it
as a helpful way to educate and train young
people, offering them skills useful in the
labour market.
For some, young people have a right and
an obligation to participation. Like others
in their community young people ought to
be included in the life of the polity, shaping
decisions and contributing to civic life.
Others claimed that senior managers were
more inclined to see youth participation as
an important element in the efficient and
effective management of programs, drawing
upon the diverse interests and ideas of the
consumers of services. Commonly expressed
Chapter 9
Youth practice in local government
sentiments in our research and throughout the
literature are that participatory approaches:
• can lead to better decisions and outcomes;
• can promote the wellbeing and development of young people;
• can extend young people’s knowledge
of local issues;
• can strengthen a commitment to and
understanding of human rights and
• can protect the interests of young
• can develop young people’s skills;
• can be fun and enjoyable;
• can help challenge negative stereotypes
about young people;
• can recognise capacities;
• can help break down barriers between
people in Indigenous communities;
• can assist as a planning tool for groups
locked out of formal consultative processes, as it unpacks large, complex
tasks into smaller, manageable jobs;
• can help build connections between
young people and their community;
• is what young people want; and
• is a fundamental human right (Lansdown
2002; Barnett 2003; Australian Youth
Foundation 2002; Wierenga 2003;
Matthews 2001; Walsh & Mitchell 2002).
Means of participation
It also became clear that there are a range of
ways in which young people can participate.
For example, young people involved in the
GRIND project participated in research,
planning, production, evaluation, peer
support, representation and advocacy, policy
analysis and development, campaigning and
lobbying, management of the paper, use of
the media, and speaking in public. In the
case of Spinach, Frontyard and KAMELEON
young people’s participation was less public
and formal and was expressed more through
their involvement with the Internet and other
media and the forging of relationships with
other young people.
Like the methods articulated in a 1996 study
of youth involvement in local government
decision-making carried out by the NSW
Department of Local Government (Paterson
1999) all the councils involved in this study
used many mechanisms to involve young
people. These included focus groups, youth
meetings/forums on specific issues, online
forums and discussion groups, council staff
consulting directly with young people, nonongoing youth committees, self-completed
surveys, Youth Week, Youth Councils,
council staff consulting indirectly with young
people, public meetings on specific issues,
and representations to council meetings.
A cautionary note
Although youth councils and other formal
structures appear to have been tried by
many local authorities, their value needs
to be assessed in the context of the above
debate about participatory approaches. Like
Matthews (2001, p. 299) some reflexive
practitioners concluded that many youth
councils are flawed and inappropriate
participatory devices, often obfuscating
the voices and interests of many young
people. Others concluded that claims youth
councils offer young people opportunities
for democratic and civic engagement are
exaggerated, a point made also by Bessant
(2003). These formal and orchestrated
attempts at youth participation were
sometimes viewed as a forum for adult
decision-makers, keen to demonstrate their
youth credentials. A number of informants
suggested that there was a risk that
reproducing parliamentary type events and
Alive and Motivated
structures can produce cynicism in young
people and become the training ground for
young people to become non-participants in
the future (Matthews 2001, p. 314).
What gets in the way of
youth participation?
Research on youth participation, and our
own work, has identified a number of features
which inhibit the active engagement of young
people. Often the structures and processes
by which decisions are made have been
designed by and for those who have very
different interests than young people. This
means that the culture of formal governance
can be very alienating, unfamiliar, out of
reach to many young people and produce
or exacerbate barriers such as:
• negative attitudes to and stereotyping
of young people;
• lack of clarity and sense of purpose;
• tokenism;
• lack of familiarity in adult decisionmaking systems;
• lack of trust by adults in the abilities of
young people;
• skill deficits in young people;
• cultural and/or religious differences;
• poverty and social disadvantage;
• lack of time and resources;
• problems with sustaining membership
and maintaining the involvement of
experienced young people;
• “junior politicians” using events as a
platform for their individual interests;
• excessive formality;
• relying too heavily on “articulate” young
people or students;
• the idea that “young people can do
nothing” or the idea that “young people
can do everything”;
• lack of knowledge of youth issues by
council staff;
• lack of transport options for young
• lack of reciprocity; and
• focusing on an agenda that is driven
by council staff or members without input from young people (NSW Department of Local Government 1997, p. iv;
Australian Youth Foundation 2002, p.
4; Barnett 2003, p. 18–20; NSW Commission for Children and Young People
2003; Paterson 1999, p. 45; Wierenga
2003, p. 41).
It is also important to recognise that youth
participatory methods can never eliminate
the tensions involved in local governance
youth practice. As Walsh and Mitchell
(2002) remind us, participatory work also
brings with it new dilemmas. For example,
adopting youth participatory approaches
does not resolve questions such as: when to
plan and when to act, whether participation
is compatible with some cultural lore and
custom, to what extent young people take
on ownership of an issue, and who bears
the cost of planning.
Contacting young people
A number of operational or technical
challenges were identified which, while
important, do not represent a fundamental
threat to youth participatory work. For
example, local council workers consistently
face a challenge in being able to contact
young people (as indeed we did when
attempting to interview young participants
in programs). While organisations such as
schools, churches and other youth groups
may provide a source of contact it can still be
difficult to involve young people, particularly
in the early stages of an initiative.
Chapter 9
Youth practice in local government
This was certainly a problem that the
Palmerston Public Library was confronted with
when they began attempting to recruit young
people for their Young Adults Program. As a
council worker said, “we tried going to the
schools, the youth organisations, and even
putting ads here in the library . . . initially we
got nowhere”.
Maintaining interest
A number of people talked about the
challenge of maintaining young people’s
interest and participation. Youth can be a
difficult time when people are vulnerable to the
criticisms of others. For many, it is uncool to
be seen involving oneself in local government
activities and becoming a good citizen.
Another challenge relates to the transitory
nature of youth. As the FEWCHA and
KAMELEON projects illustrate, no sooner do
young people master the knowledge, skills
and abilities necessary to participate well than
they move on, or into adulthood and can no
longer legitimately claim to represent youth.
This means that one of the most important
ingredients for youth participation, time, is
often in short supply. This is exacerbated by
competing demands on young people’s time.
For many councils securing ongoing and
reliable funding for youth participation is
difficult. Global trends towards government
expression of communitarian values have
meant that presently there are some resources
available for youth participation. However,
this has not always been the case and indeed
may well be short-lived. In a climate of fierce
contestation for public funds, “warm and
fuzzy” activities like youth participation are
sometimes perceived as less important than
“bread and butter” issues like education,
health and employment.
A further challenge when working with
young people in local government settings
is that the language necessary for communicating with young people is often subtly
different from the language used to communicate with council. In addition, there are
differences in communication between youth
services staff and council management. This
means that much of the skill of youth workers
involves interpreting and clarifying what
different people are saying. As one member
of the Darwin business community said:
. . . a real trick to overcome is the language
. . . a lot of what I heard sounded pretty
fluffy initially, but then I’m sure a lot of
what I said wouldn’t make a lot of sense
to some of the kids either.
Involving a diverse number of young people
can be a major challenge. In particular, finding
ways to involve Indigenous young people
was seen as one of the biggest difficulties
facing local governments. Cultural difference,
a history of racism and institutional exclusion,
language, education, income, transport, as
well as a host of social problems facing many
Indigenous young people were identified as
key reasons why many local council youth
initiatives found it difficult to be as inclusive
as they would have sought. Indeed these
differences were often cited as reasons for
focusing more exclusively on these groups,
as was the case with the projects in Cairns,
Fremantle, Campbelltown and Moreland.
Building confidence
Young people’s lack of confidence,
particularly in the early stages of an
initiative, was identified as a challenge for
council staff. This was further magnified
when they came into contact with council
Alive and Motivated
conventions that saw their access to
space and council facilities limited. Many
staff of council youth teams counted as
one of their earliest and most difficult
tasks challenging other staff’s attitude
that young people should not be allowed
access to council buildings, resources and
council property.
For some projects, like the “About Jobs”
initiative, this was overcome by locating
the project in a community centre central
to daily activities, and about which local
people have a sense of ownership. Young
people and other community members
spent a weekend covering the entire
building with Indigenous designs, and it is
a visual reminder in the community of their
accomplishments. It is hard to imagine this
project being run from the very impressive,
but intimidating, main office of Cairns City
Council in the central business district.
Community support
Developing and maintaining community
support for some youth programs is
sometimes difficult. For example, in two
local governments we contacted, urban
art projects, targeting young “taggers”
or graffiti artists, were seen by some as
indulging criminal behaviour and a waste
of ratepayers’ resources. Critics had their
views regularly aired in the local media,
putting pressure on the political futures of
local councillors, particularly those seen as
supporters of young people. This in turn put
pressure upon the youth services teams. As
a consequence, workers stated that there
needs to be significant capacity for youth
activities to “hold the front” or present an
uncontroversial public image, particularly
during the early stages of work.
This demonstrates some of the tensions
involved in balancing the interests of the
broad community and young people. It also
serves as a reminder that there are some
difficulties associated with aspirations for
community development. Indeed it may be
the case that significant numbers of “the
community” would rather see young people
excluded from civic participation and public
life. As one youth worker recalled:
I remember working in a local government youth centre that was managed
by a community reference group. After
some conflict between two groups of
young people they wanted us to ban
Aboriginal young people entirely from
the centre. In that case I found myself
working against the interests of that
particular community because what they
wanted was illegal and immoral.
Similar tensions can exist when working
with different groups of young people. For
example, while it can be wonderful to see
a group of young people demonstrating
leadership, planning events and taking on
control over decisions, this may mean that
other groups of young people inadvertently
feel or become excluded. It can also make
it difficult to recruit new members and
groups. These concerns were expressed by
a number of staff who worried that very
capable young people could threaten or
annoy other young people and hence restrict
membership and the ongoing survival of a
youth and community group.
Formal governance structures
Others consulted had more substantial
criticisms of youth participation. For example,
many with whom we spoke were sceptical of
formal governance structures and the idea
that youth participation is necessarily about
getting youth representatives involved in
a formal governance structure or some
mechanism that is mirrored upon adult
organisations. As one youth worker said,
Chapter 9
Youth practice in local government
“too many local governments have only
got one thing in their youth participation
repertoire: youth advisory councils or
representative structures”.
There were at least two things that made
this potentially difficult for those seeking
youth participation of any substance. The first
is that many see it as a method that is not
effective, particularly if councils are wanting
disadvantaged young people to participate.
As the manager of Frontyard said, “few if any
of the young people we see will get involved
in a youth advisory council . . . these are for
young people with much more advantage”.
The second problem with formal youth
governance structures is that many councils
will rely on this strategy as their only youth
participatory mechanism.
Appropriate media
Another criticism of formal youth
governance structures is that young people
are increasingly participating in social
and community life through the use of
virtual tools, multimedia and interactive
technology. As a consequence many young
people are more inclined to participate by
“surfing” through a complex array of issues,
using technologies that are fast, exciting
and allow them to engage in very different
temporal and spatial zones, as the Spinach
project illustrates.
Traditional youth governance structures
are time intensive, demand young people sit
through much that is disengaging and boring,
is dependent on travel to distant places
and limits their contact to a small number
of people. In contrast participating in a chat
site allows young people to choose when
they engage, opens up more opportunities
for contact, makes it possible to participate
at one’s own pace, can allow them to “travel”
elsewhere to communicate with others and
involves less imposed constraints by adults.
In addition, the culture of virtual community
allows one to maintain privacy and indeed
bracket age-based relations so that young
people can recreate their identities and
maintain a greater deal of autonomy.
Participation to cure social ills
Youth participation is often seen as
having a significant youth problem-solving
capacity. In other words, in the minds of
many, youth participation can help deal with
the many social problems experienced by
young people. So the logic goes, if we can
get young people to engage more in the
life of their community they are more likely
to resolve these problems (Bessant 2003,
p. 11). Indeed, most of the projects we
visited had their origins in concerns about
alienated or disaffected young people who
were “causing trouble”.
Unfortunately there is little evidence that
participation, in itself, can alleviate social
disorder. As one Melbourne worker said:
it is wrong to think that youth participation
will somehow magically cure social issues
that are of a global magnitude . . . in so
doing you are also implying that young
people should be sorting out these
problems themselves . . . what you are also
saying to young people is that we hold you
responsible for these social ills.
Or as another Western Australian youth
worker said, “a lot of this youth participation
stuff is an attempt to take the heat off the real
problems like poverty and unemployment”, a
view shared by Bessant (2003, p. 11).
Unpacking collaboration and community
Much has been said and written about
the important part that collaboration
between levels of government and the
community plays in assisting young people
Alive and Motivated
to participate. For example, Botsman
and Latham (2001) have argued for a
shift towards what they call enabling
state principles in an attempt to have
governments better respond to social
needs. This work emphasises the need
to seek “joined-up solutions to joinedup problems”, the importance of having
communities identify local problems and
solutions, that change is dependent upon
linking and that partnerships between
community, government and business are
necessary for responding to young people’s
needs (Edgar 2001; Latham 2001; Botsman
2001; Latham 2003; Pusey 2003; Wierenga
2003; Hughes, Bellamy and Black 2000).
Precisely what this means or how it might
be achieved in local government settings
remains unclear.
Community too is a problematic concept.
For some, community is a warm and
comfortable zone, a place of safety that
involves pulling together in solidarity,
particularly during times of crisis and
trouble. However, community by its very
character also necessitates exclusion,
boundary making and the constraining
of freedom. Local governments that are
genuinely committed to the interests of
young people need to understand that
to talk about collaboration with the community will involve dealing with the complex
tension between civility and freedom.
Contradictory messages
A fundamental barrier to young people’s
inclusion in community life is, then, the
contradictory messages they receive. For
example, practitioners and councils talk
about social inclusion at the same time
as introducing curfews, allowing banning
notices to be applied, establishing
public space protocols that apply special
conditions on young people’s behaviour
and access to space, and doing little to
challenge the abuse of young people’s
human rights and equality.
Local government youth practice in
Australia is diverse – in terms of philosophical
underpinnings, target groups, rationale and
methods, range of collaborations, and focus.
At the heart of much of it lie ideas about the
participation of young people. At one end of
the continuum, participation is thought of
simply in terms of the attendance of young
people at events and activities. At the other
end are notions of full civic engagement
by young people. Youth practice in local
governments sits all along this continuum,
and council staff struggle to find ways to
engage young people more meaningfully. As
part of this struggle, factors which inhibit
the full participation of young people in
the life of their communities are becoming
better understood.
Towards quality youth
Local governments throughout Australia are
taking up the challenge presented by young
people in their communities in different
ways. Given the geographic, economic,
social, cultural and political diversity of the
communities they represent it is not surprising
that the youth practice they engage in draws
upon many different models. Sometimes
these models are consciously chosen, but
frequently they emerge as a result of the
histories, personalities, and dynamic local
contexts in which they are embedded.
This particularity of context must dictate
what constitutes quality youth practice.
However, there are some universal principles
acknowledged as important, and flowing from
these some suggestions for good practice.
What works?
Not surprisingly, conclusions among our
informants about what assists good youth
practice were varied. However, there was
agreement on many characteristics of local
government activities that increase young
people’s active involvement in their local
community. Often insights were general
and related to the operational business of
working with young people. For example,
many suggested good practice:
• is based on choice;
• has some tangible outcome for those
• is related to important issues for young
• involves training, skills development
and ongoing support for young people;
• demonstrates to young people that their
work is valued;
• acknowledges the contribution of young
• is adequately resourced;
• takes into account young people’s limited access to time, money, transport and
social support;
Alive and Motivated
• provides young people with a sense of
ownership in decisions;
• is regularly reviewed;
• involves negotiation and being flexible;
• respects the privacy of young people;
• allows young people to communicate
and write in their own words;
• provides young people with feedback;
• deals with a broad range of issues;
• ensures that events are held at venues
accessible to young people;
• publicly recognises the contribution of
young people;
• provides young people with food and
drink; and
• has at least one councillor actively
Other features of good practice and
key elements that contribute to it in local
government are discussed below. This final
chapter then summarises the findings from
the review of literature, the survey and case
study research to answer the key research
question: what assists local governments
improve the quality of life for young people?
Community resourcing
In describing what they did, many
local government workers referred to
the importance of forming alliances and
supporting the work of those, outside of
council, who worked with or on behalf
of young people. It became apparent
that in any given local government much
of the direct service work is carried out
by youth and community organisations
independent of council. Considerable time
and resources are committed to supporting
local networks, assisting groups to build
and maintain infrastructure, gain funding
and be informed about what others in the
area are doing.
A key theme featured strongly in the
literature and also in our consultations was
the fundamental importance of relationships
in youth practice and youth participation.
Typically these relationships are founded on
principles such as trust, respect, empathy,
reciprocity and a belief in the inherent value
of young people. A key to the success of many
projects is the quality of the relationship
between council-sponsored youth workers.
One young person encapsulated the
importance of these workers, “without Katie
(the youth worker) none of this is possible.
She is what holds things together because
she has such a lovely combination of skills
and qualities and she is always available
for us”.
The “About Jobs” initiative in Cairns is
dependent upon the relationships established
between the paid council worker, the two
voluntary workers (including a prominent
Indigenous woman) and the community, of
which they are all acknowledged members.
This requires very different responsibilities
from workers who leave the workplace at the
end of the day and escape to leafy suburbs
Having fun
It is also critical that local government
initiatives aimed at youth participation be
fun and interesting. Young people, especially
those who had longstanding involvement
in youth activities or groups, counted as a
most crucial element in maintaining their
involvement, the importance of having a
good time and enjoying themselves. As one
young person from Darwin put it:
one of the things you hear a lot of young
people say is that they are bored or they
drop out of things because they’re tired
of something. One of the reasons GRIND
(the Darwin Youth Newspaper) gets so
Chapter 10
Towards quality youth practice
many young people involved for so long
is that it is really fun.
no real substitute for time. You can’t push
things and can’t expect results overnight”.
Another theme emerging with surprising
regularity is the importance of food in
holding together youth participatory events.
According to many of our informants, food
and drink chosen by young people or
known to be popular with them is almost an
essential item in youth participatory events.
The combined elements of fun, food and
friendship were cited by young people as
important ingredients for the success of the
GRIND youth newspaper initiative. As one
young person said, “GRIND meetings and
working together is fun . . . without this we
would soon lose interest”. Another made
the point that, “food is important too . . .
most of us come to the meetings straight
from school and as you know teenagers
are usually at their hungriest at that time
of day”.
Securing space was seen as another
important element in youth participation.
Compromising young people’s access
to public space limits their capacity for
civic engagement and the forming of the
alliances necessary to participate in public
life. A number of people consulted remarked
that the trend towards regulating public
space for young people is inconsistent
with aspirations to build community. As the
Manager of Frontyard said:
There is no point in talking about
youth participation without first a real
and firm commitment by groups like
local governments to securing a space
and place for young people. You can’t
remove young people from the street
and public life and then say you want
them to participate.
Young people involved with an evening
event which grew out of the “About Jobs”
initiative, spoke about the importance of
food (“but not healthy food!”) for their
participation as volunteers. Each Friday
night food is the first order of business, as
many children and young people attending
may have had little to eat during the day.
It was the experience of most of those we
consulted that particular groups of young
people get targeted for extra regulation
and are disqualified from openly accessing
public space. For example, Indigenous
young people, young women and disabled
young people find it most difficult to enjoy
public space in safety and unencumbered. At
times this may mean that local governments
provide space for the exclusive use of
certain groups of young people, and pay
special attention to the safety and design
of certain areas to provide special access.
A further important ingredient for success
in youth participation is time. Consistently,
people we spoke to pointed to the need for
patience on the part of local governments if
they want to see young people get involved
in community life. Those from the Kwinana
Youth Service mentioned the importance of
long-term initiatives so that young people
can take time in influencing the life of a
youth program. A person involved in the
Frontyard initiative said, “look, there is
Practical activity
Another important element in youth
participatory work is that it must involve
young people in action, work and practical
outcomes. As one young person said, “young
people won’t sit around and just talk, we
get bored with this . . . we’ve got to get
Alive and Motivated
into something”. It appears that the most
successful participatory projects are those
that get young people actively involved in
doing and making things, working together
on some product, event or towards some end
other than simply talking, being consulted,
or influencing others.
Some of this practical activity may
come about in reciprocation for young
people’s efforts. For example, members
of the GRIND team in Darwin attributed
part of its success to opportunities such
as attending skills workshops in media
production, reviewing films for free, getting
new release CDs, and attending rock
concerts and meeting band members. The
Palmerston Public Library have a program
of training that results in members of the
Young Adults Group gaining regular casual
work as library staff.
people’s interest is also creativity and
innovation. One of the strengths that
many young people bring to institutions
like local government is that they can
be less constrained, more inclined to
embrace innovation and often keen to
find expressive ways to communicate with
others. Spinach, the Messenger/Dreaming
project, the GRIND, Kwinana Youth Arts,
and a host of the Frontyard projects all
incorporate a large cultural development
component, drawing on and encouraging
the often ingenious, imaginative and
resourceful skills of young people.
Flexibility and diversity of initiatives
Young people are as diverse as others
with different interests, levels of knowledge,
tastes and contributions to make. Local
government therefore best caters for young
people’s diversity when it engages in a
range of ways with different groups of
young people. While important, participatory
bodies which necessitate certain levels
of confidence in the public arena may be
inaccessible to many young people. Some
youth specific spaces may, by virtue of its
ownership by one group, exclude other
groups. Inadvertently some traditional youth
programs (particularly where they involve
involvement in organised sporting activities),
may discriminate against young women.
As one youth development officer said, “it
is really important that local governments
have a range of strings to their bows . . .
we need to offer different things to different
young people”.
Simple talking
Communication is often so basic to civic
engagement that it is often ignored as an
important ingredient. Young people, like
many other community members, rarely
share the language of planners, councillors,
the business sector and other “experts”
involved in local governance. Indeed one of
the critical skills that young people learn
as they get involved in local government is
the language (often technical, rhetorical and
quirky) of local government discourse. At the
same time understanding young people’s
language is often not simple. Like policy
discourse, it too can change very quickly
and be shaped by many trends and different
cultural influences.
Young people’s own language is both
important to them and the best means
by which they can express their interests
and views. Plain language use, clear
communicative processes and a rapport
between young people and council are
then essential to good youth practice.
Avoidance of what Watson (2003) describes
as the new public language is crucial for
youth practitioners.
Chapter 10
Towards quality youth practice
Clarity of purpose and commitment
A further feature of good youth
participation practice is clarity. Many
concluded that it is important that council
make its commitment public, either through
formal youth policies or other public
expressions. While some made the point
that youth participation work should not
be preoccupied with “wordsmithing” this
commitment ought to be shared by both
councillors and council staff and clearly
expressed on the public record.
Clarity about the purpose of the service or
program is also important. Frequently, this
may mean asking young people for whom
the service is intended to describe it in their
own words, as has happened with users of
the Frontyard service. This work has been
displayed throughout the service and used
to communicate service functions to the
public. Another example is the Spinach web
site where the language of the site has been
chosen by young people for young people.
Promotion of success
One of the key qualities of many young
people involved in the settings studied is
an overwhelming optimism. What was very
apparent when we visited local councils
around the country was how reliant successful
youth initiatives were upon the passion,
energy and efforts of young people. However,
young people’s sanguinity often stands in
sharp contrast to how they are portrayed
and treated by many adults and institutions.
Indeed, there exists an institutional culture,
particularly among funding bodies that youth
programs have to first establish some kind
of deficit before being eligible for funding
support. As one young person remarked:
“we don’t get to celebrate our achievements,
instead we have to make ourselves out to be
‘deros’ to get any funding”.
On the other hand, the most successful
youth initiatives were those celebrated and
promoted. Initiatives such as those carried
out in Moreland, Darwin and Kwinana enjoyed
growth and popularity as a consequence of
celebrating the successes of young people.
Therefore celebrating what works and how
young people have contributed has a duel
purpose; it intrinsically represents good
youth practice and it helps build success.
Adequate council resourcing of youth
participation initiatives is a key to its success.
However, resourcing does not necessarily
mean large amounts of money for youth
programs. Indeed one of the features of some
of the programs chosen for study was that
they made very efficient and effective use
of relatively little. For example, the GRIND
youth newspaper involves over 60 young
people in the production of four editions of
a newspaper that has a distribution rate of
over 3 000 copies.
Councils can also play an important role
in supporting young people to gain access
to other resources and opportunities. For
example, in 1998 the Alcoa company in
Western Australia was keen to support a
community arts project. Kwinana Council
staff heard about this and brokered a
deal between Alcoa and a small group of
young people who were keen to form a
youth theatre group. This was the genesis
of the Short Fuse Youth Theatre Company
which now has a membership of over 100
young people.
Acting strategically
A key element in good youth practice
is the ability to operate strategically. Most
people with whom we spoke indicated
that, because of negative treatment of
Alive and Motivated
youth issues, there is often political risk
associated with council support for young
people. For example, one councillor
maintained that he often experienced
a backlash when he publicly supported
council’s involvement in youth activities.
As a result it was important for council to
be strategic about their plans, to carefully
manage when and how they introduced
new programs and to manage potentially
controversial work leading up to council
elections or important political moments.
One of the ways they did this was to initiate
events and activities during favourable
times for young people. For example, one
council had received considerable positive
media coverage of one of its youth events.
In the following weeks council staff were
able to easily convince councillors that
this event should be included in council
annual budgets.
The role of failure
A consistent feature of most youth
initiatives undertaken by local government
is that they appear to be at least partly
prompted by failure to manage youth
problems. This can present some problems
and frustrations for those keen on building
opportunities for local government to
engage with young people. For example,
as the Youth Arts Officer at the Town of
Kwinana remarked, “this means we have
to try and build our programs around
trying to fix up youth crime or resolve
problems for messed up kids . . . it also
means motivated and talented artists get
painted as young deros and dysfunctional
At times, however, this problematising
of young people also accentuates the
successes and achievements of youth
programs. It can make them appear novel,
interesting and even exciting to other
members of the community. Indeed, there
is evidence from our research that the
more demonised young people become the
more attractive their work and activities
become. For example, workers involved
in the Kwinana Youth Arts projects noted
that many people were more drawn to
the young people’s performances and
artwork when they realised they were
from what one described as “Kwinana, the
dangerous part of town”. With uncanny
wisdom young people seem to have
understood this when they chose to call
the annual youth arts festival “FreakFest”
as a symbol of the successes of those
otherwise constituted as the freaks, the
misfits and the dangerous.
Respect, sensitivity and goodwill
Many of our informants spoke about the
importance of a particular set of qualities that
assist with youth participatory endeavours.
Most agreed that without genuine goodwill
on the part of council there could be little
success in encouraging young people to
participate in civic life. Likewise most took the
view that young people cannot be expected
to sustain a sense of their own worth or
participate in public life if institutions and
local government neglect them or show
them little respect. One worker made the
point that:
the greatest enemy of our project
(establishing a public space protocol)
was disrespect for young people . . .
we needed to ensure that we included
adults in key positions that would act
as moderators and demonstrate their
profound and intrinsic respect for
young people.
Selection and education of staff
Many consulted during this research
attributed much of the success of youth
Chapter 10
Towards quality youth practice
initiatives to the energy, dedication and
commitment of youth practitioners and
other council staff. These people are
important for a number of reasons. They
often act as a resource, undertaking
duties and following through with jobs at
the request of young people. In addition,
these people act as the conduit through
which council resources are accessed by
young people. For example, Darwin City
Council’s Youth Development Officer who
administers council money provided for
various activities, has made arrangements
for the GRIND team to have a specifically
allocated computer, accommodated in
the Youth Space, adjacent to the youth
officer’s desk. She is also the central
person in assisting with the planning
of skills workshops and other events,
and at the request of young people has
been given an important role on the
newspaper production team, passing on
correspondence, maintaining records,
reminding other members of deadline and
what they had agreed to do.
Many interviewed also spoke about
the importance of the style and manner
of youth practitioners. They talked about
how central these people are in constantly
offering positive affirmation of young
people’s achievements, instilling in youth
groups a culture that encourages and
builds people’s confidence.
Council staff can also fulfil an interpretive
function, explaining council processes to
young people and helping understand
the language of other groups. This can
be crucial, particularly given that in these
settings young people have regular contact
with adults whose language and ideas are
technical, abstract to a general audience or
unfamiliar to young people. For example,
one young person we spoke to said that
the council youth worker:
helps walk us through what is being said
and often answers many of the questions
that come up after we’ve interviewed . . .
she is also really good to have around
when people join the group or when the
younger ones are confused about what is
going on and what certain things mean
. . . she is always getting us to explain
things to each other.
Given the importance of council staff in
this regard special attention must be paid
to the recruitment, training and ongoing
support of youth practitioners. In particular
these members of staff must be encouraged
to build the skills of talented interpreter,
able to move between a number of very
different language and cultural domains,
able to communicate with young people
at the same time as understanding the
technical systems, policies and conventions
of local government.
The contribution of young people
Finally, but most crucially, youth
participatory activities are reliant on the
energy, commitment and contributions of
young people. Talented young people,
particularly those with abilities that often
go unnoticed, were the most important
ingredient for success in youth participation.
As one youth worker said, “we talk about
what we should do to get young people to
participate and often forget that without
them it wouldn’t happen”. Another said,
“it doesn’t matter how much spinning you
try and do, how much you promote your
formal committees and YACs, unless you
manage to find young people who are
alive and motivated you don’t get youth
participation”. Local governments can
do much to enhance opportunities for
young people when they celebrate their
achievements and focus public attention
on the contributions they make.
Alive and Motivated
Towards a framework for quality
local government youth practice
governments committed to providing
quality practice to young people are
many. Local governments are faced with
increasing and often-competing demands,
have to deal with emerging and difficult
issues, and need to tackle an array of
complex local conditions
It would be a mistake to prescribe or
impose from outside courses of action or
claim that particular methods or programs
can be applied universally. Accordingly,
the following represents an attempt to
establish some broad parameters or key
principles for specific local initiatives.
A plan for improving youth practice in
local government
On the basis of the evidence from the
literature and our research, there are a number
of aims and corresponding actions which
contribute to quality local government youth
practice. Council staff seeking to improve their
practice could include these in their plans for
working with young people (Table 13).
With the possible exception of freedom
from harassment, the aims are not difficult
to achieve and many of our case studies
incorporate some if not most of them. Youth
practitioners could use Table 13 as a check
list from time to time in the life of particular
projects, and with respect to the whole range
of their youth services and activities, to
gauge the extent to which they are meeting
the likely needs of young people.
Principles to guide quality youth practice
The plan articulated above is based
on international principles pertaining to
the rights of young people. While such
principles are contested within sections of
the Australian community, we believe they are
fundamental to shaping innovative attempts
by local government to build respectful youth
initiatives. These include the following:
• councils express and model due respect
for the dignity and rights of young
people (see Article 3 UN Convention on
the Rights of the Child);
• councils take seriously young people’s
human rights, in particular the rights
other citizens are accorded, such as
rights to suffrage, the right to petition,
the right to responsible representation
in government and the right to be heard
in judicial and administrative proceedings (see Article 12 UN Convention on
the Rights of the Child);
• councils clearly articulate who they will
target rather than simply claiming that
their services are available for all, taking into account the special needs of
marginalised groups (see Preamble UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child);
• councils accord young people space,
place in civic life, freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly
(see Article 15 UN Convention on the
Rights of the Child);
• councils build relationships of substance, integrity and respect with young
people, protecting them from interference to their privacy, family, home or
attacks to their honour and reputation
(see Article 16 UN Convention on the
Rights of the Child);
• councils create opportunities for participation that are fun and enjoyable
for young people, recognising the important part food, leisure, music and
popular culture play in young people’s
lives (see Article 31 UN Convention on
the Rights of the Child);
Chapter 10
Towards quality youth practice
Table 13: A plan for improving youth practice in local government
Clarity of purpose
Make clear the level of participation sought – attendance,
advice, or full civic participation
Employ youth practitioners Employ, nurture, finance and educate youth practitioners
with experience, dedication, education, an interest in young
people and an ability to use language that is recognised both
by young people and within local government settings
Constellation of activities
Publicly demonstrate their loyalty, respect and faith in young
people by funding and initiating a constellation of programs
and activities to cater to young people’s wide variety of
interests, needs and passions
Community involvement
Model their respect for young people by persuading local
business, elected members and other community leaders to
give their time and loyalty to youth initiatives
Creativity and ingenuity
Find imaginative, creative and ingenious ways to excite
young people about the possibilities of involving themselves
in civic life
Celebrate young people
Publicly demonstrate their admiration for young people’s
achievements, action and potential
Make life interesting
Draw upon participatory methods that excite young people,
enthuse their passion and aspire them to do great things
as citizens
Find ways to include young people, their interests and their
matters to be integrated into the main business of council
Listen to young people
Provide means by which young people can call attention to
their interest and what is important to them
Freedom from harassment
Restore young people’s ability to contribute to the safe use
of public spaces and public facilities without unnecessary
• councils engage in long-term work
recognising that young people need
patience and time to build futures for
themselves in their communities (see
Article 5 UN Convention on the Rights
of the Child);
• council strategies and programs involve
young people in action, work and practical outcomes, reciprocating their efforts
and protecting them from economic and
social exploitation (see Article 32 UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child);
• council initiatives use methods that
are creative and innovative and involve
young people in literary pursuits, cultural development and artistic endeavours (see Article 31 UN Convention on
the Rights of the Child);
• council practice is clear, public and
communicated in a language and
Alive and Motivated
style that is comprehensible to young
• council devote appropriate levels of resources to the needs and interests of
young people, giving priority to their
income, housing, employment, health
and other primary material needs (see
Preamble United Nations 1989); and
• council validate and practically support the work of local organisations
and families, particularly where these
groups fulfil an important role in meeting
the needs of young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
(see Articles 9, 10, 18, and 30 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child).
Quality youth practices
In addition to appointing youth practitioners and advocates, resourcing youth and
other community services, supporting formal
youth governance structures and maintaining
a commitment to youth initiatives, these
principles might be implemented through:
• the adoption of a local charter of youth
• according young people the right to vote
in local government elections and make
petitions to council;
• dismantling local youth curfews, instead
instituting initiatives that encourage
young people to responsibly use
public space and make young people’s
involvement in public institutions
more visible;
• council becoming involved in a constellation of initiatives, catering for
diverse groups of young people that are
targeted clearly;
• the appointment of local Commissioners
of Youth who will act as special advocates for young people;
• designing council facilities and manag-
ing public space so that they are multifunctional and available for a range of
purposes and events;
giving young people more open access
to the council buildings and facilities;
investing in public buildings, facilities and
services that are designed to encourage
young people’s safe access and use and
offering incentives to those who make
special provision for young people;
organising opportunities for groups of
young people to meet others who
share similar social and cultural interests;
buy quality literature, books and other
resources, making these accessible to
a broad range of young people and
being mindful of young people’s
linguistic diversity;
council challenging the unfair and discriminatory practices of other levels of
government, business and community
groups and mounting strategic campaigns
to counter practices that compromise the
rights and interests of young people;
encouraging community leaders with
high profiles to model respect and moderate community antagonism towards
young people;
resource youth and community groups
to encourage them to meet regularly,
share information and, where possible,
protecting young people’s special
entitlements accorded under state
and international law;
using these rights as a foundation upon
which alliances are formed so that any
partnerships which breach or compromise
these rights must not be entered into;
auditing existing agreements, protocols
or contracts between “stakeholders” in
relation to these rights;
Chapter 10
Towards quality youth practice
• encouraging local media to represent
the contributions of young people,
report responsibly on youth issues and
interests and have young people involved in the production of local media
content; and
• building programs that convince key
community leaders, businesses and
other groups to act as allies and
mentors to young people.
Young people have
they are “alive and
involved in programs
their choosing. Their
demonstrated that
motivated” when
and activities of
engagement goes
well beyond the skate parks and youth
advisory councils of the past, involving
everything from frontline service delivery
to fringe arts and performance, newspaper
production, and online participatory
forums. Local governments also do more
han offer services to young people. Some
outsource, others resource existing groups,
many spend time articulating formal youth
policy, while considerable energy goes into
planning, coordinating and engaging in the
politics of representing young people. Any
local government seeking to encourage
young people, in all their diversity, to make
a contribution in their community, have
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Appendix 1
Detailed methodology
Reference Group
Our first task was to form a Reference
Group. The purpose of this group was to:
facilitate access to local government; select
case study sites; advise on appropriate ways
of consulting young people; review research
progress; and monitor access and equity
issues. The group comprised elected and
employed members of local government,
a youth work academic, two members of
the 2002 National Youth Roundtable, and
an ATSIC employee. They came from seven
states and territories (see Appendix 2).
Literature review
The literature review surveys: changes
to local government over the past three
decades, and the increasing emphasis on
community services; the way in which young
people have been depicted in scholarly
literature and the impact of this in youth
policy and practice; the development of youth
work; and the growth of approaches which
emphasise community development and
capacity building among young people.
Instrument development
To ascertain the range of youth services,
and service models, offered by local
government a brief online survey (with hard
copy versions available) was developed
(Appendix 3). The survey was designed
to provide descriptive data on: the
identification of services/policies/programs
provided by each local government
authority (LGA) target group(s); funding
sources; in-house or external service
provision; involvement of young people in
the process; and employment of dedicated
workers for young people. The draft survey
was reviewed by the Reference Group, and
the final version uploaded online in April
2003. Survey questions were pre-coded
to enable computer analysis. The online
survey data was automatically loaded into
Access database files (hard copy data was
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loaded manually), and later transferred to
Exel and SPSS formats for analysis.
In addition to the online survey, an
interview schedule was developed for the
interviews upon which the case studies
were based (Appendix 4). These were used
as a guide only, and adapted for each
interview. Questions explored the history
of the initiative, its aims and objectives,
activities, participation by young people,
achievements, and challenges.
Sample selection
Approximately 750 local government
bodies throughout Australia, representing
diverse metropolitan, regional, rural and
Indigenous communities were contacted
and asked to complete the survey.
Identification of councils was possible
through a database obtained from the
Australian Local Government Association
(ALGA). Those LGAs whose email addresses
proved non-existent or rarely accessed (29
in number) were provided with a hard copy
of the survey. Most, though not all, were
Indigenous bodies in remote Australia, and
were predominantly in Queensland and the
Northern Territory. LGAs were informed of
the survey before its release, at the time of
its release, and a week into its run. A prize
was offered for participation. During the last
week of its advertised run, LGAs which had
not responded were targeted and asked to
complete the survey. 219 valid responses
were received, a rate of approximately one
in three.
Data collection
Selection of case studies
Selection of programs for case study
analysis involved a number of criteria. Selfidentification through the online survey
involved: the existence of an innovative
program for young people that could work
well elsewhere; the availability of suitable
documentation of the program; participation
of young people in the program; and a
willingness to be interviewed. In addition,
case studies overall needed to demonstrate
diversity in terms of:
• location (urban/rural/regional/remote);
• jurisdiction (all states and territories);
• Indigenous, culturally and linguistically,
and gender diverse composition;
• provider
outsourced services);
• type of council (corporate/community
orientation); and
• history of service delivery (long-standing programs/novice programs).
A list of potential sites was reviewed by
the Reference Group and 14 study sites were
chosen with all states and territories (except
the ACT) included (Appendix 5).
Field visits
Field visits were brief (two to four working
days) and the timing was dependent
on the availability of local government
employees. In some instances these times
did not coincide with easy access to young
people, and opportunistic interviews and
casual conversations were necessary. Indepth interviews were conducted with
administrators, coordinators, practitioners,
and participant/recipients of the services/
programs wherever possible.
Data analysis
Online survey data permitted descriptive
quantitative analyses of: the range of local
government services provided for young
people; recreational facilities; target
groups of local government services; main
sources of funding for youth services;
forms of youth participation in local
government; groups in receipt of in-kind
support; in-house and external service
provision; youth services employees
of local government; and innovative
programs for young people (Chapter 3).
Initially, we had hoped to be able to do
some statistical analyses of these data,
but the limited sample and data set made
this not worth pursuing.
Interview data was used to develop case
studies of each program selected for a site
visit. While most of the data in the case
studies is comparable, some variability exists
due to the different researchers involved,
differential access to documentary data and
to informants for interview.
Writing the report presented some
challenges. These have to do with the style,
length and comprehensiveness of the report.
We have tried to write for an informed lay
audience, and restricted academic language
as much as possible, while locating youth
services within broad academic debates
about young people. The case studies are
featured, in spite of their length, because
we believe they provide concrete examples
which others can adapt to their own
situations and the detail is important.
Alive and Motivated
Appendix 2
Reference group
John Bailey
Darwin City Councillor
Judith Bessant
Associate Professor and Director, Social Policy and Advocacy
Research Centre, Australian Catholic University
Stuart Boyd
Social Planner, Adelaide City Council
Janie Dickenson
Mayor, Launceston City Council
David Khoury
Member, 2002 Australian National Youth Roundtable
Ralph Lahey
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Mount Isa, Qld
Paul Martin
Manager, Community Support Services, Shire of Mundaring, WA
Mandy Smith
Team Leader, Community Engagement Group, Adelaide City Council
Selena Uibo
Member, 2002 National Youth Roundtable
Appendix 3
Online survey
The Local Government and Young People Survey
Dear Local Government Officer
Please take a few minutes to complete this survey. Your assistance will provide a valued
contribution to a national research project investigating the programs, policies and services
Local Government offers to young people.
If you need to obtain information from other officers in your Local Government to complete
the form below, please distribute it to the relevant officers with the sections you require
information on marked out. Please ask them to return the form to you. The form below
should be filled in and returned to the address below. If the spaces are not large enough,
please attach comments.
1. Please provide the following contact information:
Job Title
Local Government Organisation
Street Address
Address (cont.)
Postal Code
Mobile Phone
Work Phone
Web site address (URL)
Does your Local Government provide programs, policies or services that are specifically
targeted at young people? (Circle the appropriate answer).
3a. Does your Local Government provide any of the following young people specific
programs, policies or services? (Tick as many as are applicable)
Leadership programs for young people
Community – young people policies
Counselling services for young people
Youth crime prevention
Sexual health counselling for young people
Alive and Motivated
Drug and alcohol counselling/programs/services for young people
Advisory services
At risk programs
Outreach programs for young people
Welfare programs for young people
Accommodation (crisis and or medium/long-term)
Curfews for young people
Health services for young people
Mental health services for young people
Employment training services for young people
Personal development programs for young people
Arts/crafts programs for young people
Drama/theatre programs for young people
Sports programs for young people
Recreation programs for young people
Indigenous young people programs/policies/services
Non-English speaking background young people programs/policies/services
Women’s programs/policies/ services (specifically for young women)
Men’s programs/policies/ services (specifically for young men)
Library services for young people
Other programs/policies or services for young people
3b. If your Local Government provides “Other programs/policies or services for young people”
please list them here:
4a. Please indicate which of the following groups are targeted by your Local Government’s
young people specific programs policies/services: (Tick as many as applicable)
Indigenous young people
Young people from non-English speaking backgrounds
Young people with disabilities
Gay and lesbian young people
Unemployed young people
Young people at risk
Young women (only)
Young men (only)
None of the above
4b. If “Other” groups are targeted by your Local Government’s young people specific policies
please describe these groups here:
What is the main source of funding for your Local Government’s young people
specific services? (Tick as many as applicable)
Local Government rates and charges
State or Territory Government funding
Commonwealth Government funding
Non-Government Organisations
Private enterprise
6a. What age groups are targeted by your Local Government’s young people specific
Under 12
Over 25
Other age range
6b. Please specify other age range here:
7a. Are there opportunities for young people to participate in planning your Local Government’s
young people specific programs/policies/services? (Circle the appropriate answer)
7b. If yes, there are opportunities for young people to participate in your Local Government’s
young people specific programs/policies/services please describe how these opportunities
take place:
Does your local government provide network facilitation and/or service coordination
for community youth service providers (i.e. service providers not directly employed
by your local government)?
Does your Local Government contribute to the development of youth policies and/or
legislation at a state or national level?
10a. Does your Local Government provide grants, council premises or office facilities to
any of the following groups: (Tick as many as apply)
Community young people groups
Alive and Motivated
Rural young people groups
Church or religion-based young people groups
Scouts or Girl Guides
Youth drama theatre
Youth arts/craft groups
Youth recreation groups
Youth sports clubs
Youth school groups
Other youth groups
10b If your Local Government provides grants, council premises or office facilities to
“Other young people groups”, please name these groups here:
11. Does your Local Government support a young people advisory committee?
12a. If your Local Government provides any of the following services please indicate how
they are provided: in-house, external, a combination of the two, or N/A:
Counselling services:
Mental health:
Employment training services:
Personal development:
Drama theatre:
Programs/policies/services for Indigenous young people:
Programs/policies/services for young people from non-English speaking backgrounds:
Programs/policies/services specifically for young women:
Programs/policies/services specifically for young men:
Library services for young people:
Community – young people policies:
Crime prevention:
Sexual health counselling:
Drug and alcohol programs/policies/services:
Advisory services:
At-risk programs:
Outreach programs:
Welfare programs:
Accommodation (crisis/medium or long-term):
Recreation programs: Other young people programs/policies/services:
12b. Please describe any other young people specific programs/policies or services
provided by your Local Government and indicate whether they are provided in-house
or by contractor (s):
13a. Does your Local Government provide any program/policies/services that are not
specifically for young people but are accessed by young people?
13b. If yes, your Local Government provides programs/policies/services that are not
specifically for young people but are accessed by young people, does it provide any
of the following services? (Tick as many as are applicable)
Leadership programs
Counselling services
Crime prevention programs/policies/services
Sexual health counselling
Drug and alcohol counselling/programs/services
Advisory services
Outreach programs
Welfare programs/policies/services
Accommodation (crisis and or medium/long-term)
Health services
Mental health services
Employment training services
Personal development programs
Arts/crafts programs
Drama/theatre programs
Sports programs
Recreation programs
Indigenous people programs/policies/services
People from NES background programs/policies/services
Women’s programs/policies/services
Men’s programs/policies/services
Library services
Alive and Motivated
13c. If your Local Government provides “Other programs/policies/services” that are not
specifically for young people but are accessed by young people please describe
them here:
14a. Does your Local Government employ any of the following officers who work with
young people: (Tick as many as apply)
Youth workers
Youth development workers
Outreach workers
Youth disability officers
Youth employment officers
Recreation officers
Social workers
Migrant affairs officers
Arts/Drama activities officers
Sports officers
Recreation officers
Accommodation officers
Other program/policy/service officers working specifically with young people
14b. If your Local Government employs “Other young people program/policy/service related
officers” please state their job title(s) here:
15a. What types of recreational facilities used by young people does your Local
Government provide? (Tick as many as are applicable)
Tennis courts
Australian Rules football ovals
Soccer grounds
Rugby fields
Hockey fields
Basketball courts
Cricket grounds
Swimming pools
Skate parks
Ice-skating arenas
Roller-skating arenas
Meeting halls
Club rooms
Internet/email facilities
Community centres for young people
BMX parks
Other facilities
15b. If your Local Government provides “Other facilities” that are used by young people
please list them here:
16a. Is your Local Government running any innovative programs/policies/services for
young people that work well and could work elsewhere?
16b. If yes, your Local Government is running innovative programs/policies/services for
young people that work well and could work elsewhere please describe them here:
17. If your Local Government provides services that are specifically for young people
would you be able to supply information (e.g. reports or brochures) about each service:
18. If yes, you do have information, may we contact you to discuss communication of the
information to us?
Please return this survey to:
Alan Charlton, Research Officer, Local Government and Young People Project,
Institute for the Service Professions, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, WA 6027.
For further information, contact Alan on Ph: 08 6304 5375, Fax: 08 6304 5387,
Email: [email protected]
Copyright © 2003 [Edith Cowan University]. All rights reserved.
Alive and Motivated
Appendix 4
Interview schedule
• Introductions
• Outline of the research
• Why their project was chosen
• What will happen to the information
• That they can choose to exit the process at any time
• Check how much time they have
• Ask them to sign consent form
1. Interviewee details
• Name
• Employer
• Position
• Permanence
• Relationship to project: LGA employee, councillor, client, interested outsider, etc.
2. History of the initiative
• Setting the scene
• What were the key reasons for beginning the initiative?
• What was the perceived community need?
• Who noticed the need? e.g. was the need noticed by the LGA, the police, the
“community”, the young people, etc?
• Was the need evidence-based, or was it theoretically/ideologically driven? e.g. strategic
decisions lead to this type of project or the need (from whatever perspective) leads to
this project idiosyncratically
• Where and when did the work begin?
• How long has the local government been involved in this work?
• Who was initially involved?
• What else was going on at the time?
3. Structural conditions
• What is the organisational structure?
• What “outside” forces (e.g. neighbours, government policy, politicians, media
campaigns) shape this initiative?
• Any broad changes to government policy, funding have occurred?
• What are the socio-economic conditions of the local area? e.g. unemployment, age
demographics, local economy, housing?
• What are the key issues facing young people in the area?
• What are the class, gender, cultural backgrounds of young people who are targeted by
the council?
• What are the opportunity structures in the setting? i.e. future growth in the economy.
4. The project
Project Objectives
• What are the objectives of the project?
• Do they/have they change/d?
• If so, why?
Project target
• Which groups of young people are targeted and which groups get involved?
Project structures and procedures
• Staff employed
• Training/qualifications/experience of staff
• Volunteers
• Relationship to LGA
• The work itself – what do you/they do?
Project assets
• Buildings, etc. Owned outright, leased, supplied by LGA or other
• Equipment etc (or computers etc) ditto
• Vehicles. Ditto
Project funding
• Fed Govt, State/Territory Govt, LGA, outside, user-pays, what?
5. Participation
• Does the project support young people’s participation?
• How does this project support young people’s participation in local government and/or
community activities?
• In what ways do young people participate in the planning, management and running
of the project?
• What are the barriers to youth participation?
6. Best practice
Project strategies
• How would people describe their approach? i.e. community development, service work,
advocacy, support.
• What programs are offered? i.e. drop-in centre, outreach work, YACs, recreation facilities?
• What strategies have been tried?
Alive and Motivated
Best Practice
• What do you mean by best practice?
• How do you know when something is best practice?
• What are some examples of best practice?
• What gets in the way of best practice?
• Can you think of an examples of “worst practice”?
7. Achievements
• Successful implementation – it did what we thought it would
• It did other things – unexpected positive outcomes
• Internal LGA change – changed/reflected change in LGA understanding/philosophy
Reasons for Success
• What have been the key ingredients for success?
• First attempt at this sort of thing
• New personnel (in LGA council, LGA staff, project staff )
• Planning
• Recognised real need and matched it
• Why does this project work as opposed to: others like it, other projects in the LGA
others in the past?
8. Problems, difficulties and lessons
• Realising/noticing the need
• Convincing [whoever] of the need
• Staffing
• Attracting clients/users etc
• Problems inherent in the Project (it doesn’t/didn’t do what we thought it would)
• What would you do differently?
• What have you done differently this time around?
• What lessons have you learnt from the project?
9. Organisation form and relationships
• Who works in the setting?
• How many people?
• What kind of education, training and other credentialisms are used to recruit people?
• What kind of professionals work in this setting?
• How are organisations structured?
• What about the organisation makes the work difficult?
10. Other work local government undertakes
• What other youth projects does this local government undertake?
• How do these projects relate to the initiative under study?
(Try to get this info from documents rather than take up lots of time in interviews)
• Old reports
• Information brochures
• Formal evaluations
• Funding applications
• Policy documents
• Archives
• Newspaper collections
• Interview workers and managers
11. Stakeholder involvement
• Who are the key “players” or the relevant “community”?
• What organisations, interest groups, public figures actively collaborate with council
in the work?
• Are there any competing interests/conflicts and how do these impact on the work?
• What alliances have been formed?
• Differing thoughts about how accountability might work with regard to different communities
• Reactions from LGA – realistic or not
• Responses to/from users
12. Ideas and language
Also perhaps as the interview progresses keep a note of key words and ideas that are
regularly used, e.g.
capacity building
crime prevention
offer information
disadvantaged youth
• What do people believe they ought to achieve?
• What are some of the key ideas and slogans?
• What kind of values are held?
• What ideas about youth is most popular in this setting, e.g. golden age, delinquents,
problems, victims?
13. Growth, routinisation and decay
• What has happened over time?
• Have initiatives been taken up by others?
Alive and Motivated
• Have innovative approaches become conventional interventions?
• Has the work lost popularity?
14. Monitoring and evaluation
• How is the work evaluated?
• Reasons for evaluation?
• Who evaluates?
• How successful is the work, according to whom and by what means of measurement?
• Legal responsibilities
• Fed/State/LGA requirement
REMEMBER: It is also worth keeping our eye on discrepancies, contradictions, tensions
and ambivalence
Appendix 5
Case study sites
The GRIND newspaper, Darwin City Council, Northern Territory
Palmerston Public Library Young Adults Program, Palmerston City Council, Northern Territory
Public Spaces Protocol, Palmerston City Council, Northern Territory
The Longford Police Caution Project, Northern Midlands Municipal Council, Tasmania
FEWCHA and KAMELEON, Dorset Municipal Council, Tasmania
Hornsby Shire Council Youth Services, New South Wales
“About Jobs”, Cairns City Council, Queensland
The Messenger/Dreaming Project, City of Fremantle, Western Australia
Moonah Community Group, Moreland City Council, Victoria
Promoting Aboriginal Leadership in Schools, Campbelltown City Council, New South Wales
Frontyard Youth Services, Melbourne City Council, Victoria
Youth Development Model, Onkaparinga City Council, South Australia
Spinach web site, Adelaide City Council

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