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youth work ethics

YAPA actively promotes ethical youth work practice and the youth work code of ethics.


Youthwork Ethics blog

A blog on ethical dilemmas in youth work, at



Code of ethics

The Code of Ethics for youth work was originally developed by Dr Howard Sercombe in conjunction with the youth sector in Western Australia. The ACT youth sector has adopted this code, and YAPA endorsed the code a couple of years ago. We are working towards it being adopted as a national code of ethics for youth work.

The code is voluntary - there is no legal requirement in NSW to comply with it.


Other resources on ethical issues in youth work

  • Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia (YACWA): Code of Ethics booklet (PDF) includes an explanation and case example of how each point in the code can be applied in the workplace.

  • Youth Coalition of the ACT: powerpoint presentation to explain to young people what the Code of Ethics means for them. http://tinyurl.com/ore5o

  • The National Youth Affairs Conference in 2007 held a plenary session on a Code of Ethics for Victorian youth workers and the professionalisation of the youth sector. Speakers included Siyavash Doostkhah, Youth Affairs Network of Queensland, Tim Corney, youth sector professional, Heather Stewart, youth studies lecturer at Australian Catholic University, Howard Sercombe, a leading Australian youth work academic, & Jason Clarke, mind worker, Minds at Work. Download audio mp3 of the plenary session: warning large files part 1 9.2MB, part 2 9.5MB, part 3 8.6MB, part 4 6.8MB.

  • Code of conduct? A code of ethics is different to a code of conduct. There is a model code of conduct in YAPA's Model Policies at

  • See also academic articles on youthwork ethics below.


Academic articles on youthwork ethics

Articles by Dr Howard Sercombe, a leading Australian youth work academic:

  • Planning a profession Paper presented at the YAPA conference in Sydney 2005

  • Power, ethics and Youth Work: Howard Sercombe explores the meaning of power in the context of youth work. He proposes that power is a mutual relation, and is given up or 'ceded' to another person. Primarily, this a relation of cooperation, but often is corrupt or oppressive. The paper explores what common ethical terms - like empowerment, dependency, corruption and exploitation - might mean in the context of youth work practice.
    (PDF) www.yapa.org.au/youthwork/facts/powerethics.pdf

  • The Youth Work Contract: This paper aims to establish some core understandings of youth work practice and some of the attendant ethical considerations. The nature of the contract between young people and youth workers is explored, along with the often conflicting expectations that come from funding bodies, communities, management and other professionals. Also discussed are the contributions, as well as some of the difficulties, that understanding youth work as a profession might make to one's practise of it.
    (PDF) www.yapa.org.au/youthwork/facts/youthworkcontract.pdf

  • The Youth Work Professional
    (PDF) www.yapa.org.au/youthwork/facts/youthworkprofessional.pdf


Youth Studies Australia articles

Youth Studies Australia is in some libraries. These articles are available for a fee from the Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies ysajournal@acys.utas.edu.au

Youth Studies Australia, v.23, n.4, December 2004 is devoted to issues in youth work practice:

  • Youth work: The problem of values, by Tim Corney
    Recent research undertaken by Tim Corney suggests that there are specific value frameworks and practices that currently underpin the university training and education of youth workers and that this has ramifications for TAFE-level training and the professionalisation of youth workers. "This would appear to suggest that a behaviourist form of CBT would be incompatible with the training of youth workers. As such, this has profound implications for the validity of the community services youth work training packages and their delivery within the TAFE system as a legitimate form of youth work training." Youth Studies Australia, v. 23, n.4, 2004, pp.11-19.

  • Youth work: The professionalisation dilemma, by Howard Sercombe
    Youth work today is at a crossroads. Are the factors that make youth work such a unique and effective service the same ones that will be sacrificed if it is professionalised? Or are the problems besetting the occupation 'untouchable' without a professional structure, and are the other benefits of professionalisation too important to defer the process any longer? Howard Sercombe ponders these and other factors in the debate, and explains why he think the professionalisation of youth work is an issue whose time has come. "Professionalisation potentially offers an alternative base for discipline, and a foundation for resistance to various government enterprises which may be oppressive to young people or in violation of their civil rights." Youth Studies Australia, v. 23, n.4, 2004, pp.20-25.

  • Youth work: The Loch Ness monster and professionalism, by Judith Bessant
    Like the Loch Ness monster, the subject of youth work professionalism raises its head now and then. Judith Bessant outlines the arguments for and against the development of a youth work professional identity in the hope that this will stimulate debate about the future of youth work in Australia. "The issue of ethics raises a related question about whether an ethical rationale exists for professionalising youth work, and whether such a rationale ought to be the primary reason for professionalisation." Youth Studies Australia, v. 23, n.4, 2004, pp.26-33.

  • Youth work: Has it reached its use-by date? by Vaughan Bowie
    Vaughan Bowie examines the changing nature of youth service provision in a climate of increasing economic rationalism. One impact of this development may be that services require different types of youth workers. Bowie examines the implications and challenges for youth work training and education providers in responding to this and other crucial issues facing the field. Thus these growth areas in the provision of services for young people "require a range and type of youth service professional not currently educated and trained in youth work courses". Youth Studies Australia, v. 23, n.4, 2004, pp.34-38.

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