What is Youth Work?

“Youth work is a practice that places young people and their interests first. Youth work is a relational practice, where the youth worker operates alongside the young person in their context. Youth work is an empowering practice that advocates for and facilitates a young person’s independence, participation in society, connectedness and realisation of their rights”

Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, National Definition of Youth Work, 2013.


Youth Work WA was involved in the development of the National Definition of Youth Work with AYAC during 2013.

What is not Youth Work?

Just as there are many important people working in healthcare that aren’t doctors, and many working in law who aren’t lawyers, many people who work with young people are not Youth Workers. This doesn’t make their contributions less important, but it does distinguish them from the profession of Youth Work. This distinction is important for many reasons. Primarily it is important for young people to know what is and is not a part of their relationship with you to allow them to make an informed decision about how they connect with your service.

To be considered a Youth Worker in Australia, you should practise according to the definition above, and in Western Australia your practice should be aligned to the Code of Ethics for Youth Work in WA. If you find it impossible to align your work to the Code of Ethics, your role wouldn’t be considered youth work.

If the following statements don’t apply to your service or to the way you work with young people then it’s probably not Youth Work;

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

The following roles are not considered Youth Work by the sector because the nature of the professional relationship with the young person or the definition of their role is materially different to that of a Youth Worker. This list is not comprehensive.




Youth Justice Worker, Youth Justice Senior, Youth Justice Leader

Youth Custodian, Detention Officer or Prison Officer

Youth Psychologist


Childcare Assistant or After School Care Worker