Searchers for Self:
Working with Young People in Australia

Dianne Nixon
UnitingCare Services, Burnside

Andrew O'Brien
UnitingCare Services, Burnside

$44.00 inc GST
128 pages, 240x174mm, Softcover
ISBN 9781921333-118

November 2008

The Book
What is it about young people that makes them so fascinating and yet at other times makes them appear so frightening? Is the generation gap real? This book explores many subjects about the reality of working with young people in Australia and is a valuable resource for anyone who interacts with young people in their working lives
The topics covered include the historical perspective about adolescence; the main developmental theories; working with young people in all their diversity and how to work with young people facing major issues such as alcohol, drug and mental health problems.

This book is for students and those who work with young people to help guide individual or group learning. The exercises and case studies provoke thought and discussion so that links for the reader can be made to make connections between theory and practice.

Topics in this book relate to the National Curriculum for Youth Work and the book is intended as an aide for all Youth Work students and others working with young people who would like to extend their understanding in this important area of work.


The Authors
Dianne Nixon
has worked in the welfare and education fields for over thirty years, including seven years as a TAFE teacher. As a social worker she worked in the newly emerging field of child protection in the 70s and 80s, and for the last ten years she has worked in various positions in a NSW non-Government child and family welfare agency. Positions have encompassed policy development, program evaluations, submission writing and program support. Dianne currently manages the agency Education Program, focusing particularly on the educational needs of the children and young people in out of home care programs.

Dianne has a deep commitment to ensuring knowledge is accessible to students and enjoys challenging ideas and extending skills. Her interest in adolescence has been inspired by the young people she has worked with and known.

Andrew O’Brien has worked with young people in government and non-government organisations for the past 16 years. His work has enabled him to interact with young people in schools, juvenile detention centres, youth centres, residential care and foster care. Currently, he is the manager of youth-focused out of home care programs for a large children and families charity in NSW.

Andrew O'Brien has also been on a number of voluntary boards of organisations that promote children’s rights, including Defence for Children International (Australia). As a founder of the CREATE Foundation in the early 1990s, Andrew has kept the principles of social justice, children’s rights and the participation of young people in decision making at the centre of his work. While this is his first book, he has had a number of articles published in state, national and international journals.


1 The History of Adolescence
1.1 What are the age boundaries of adolescence?
1.2 Youth culture: attempts to resist adult power or successful mass media labelling?
1.3 What has history and research taught us about adolescence?

2 Adolescent Development
2.1 Physical development
2.2 Understanding development
2.3 Psychoanalytic theory
2.4 Psychosocial theory
2.5 Cognitive theory
2.6 Moral development
2.7 Bioecological systems theory

3 Adolescent Health
3.1 Physical changes in early adolescence
3.2 The psychological effects of puberty
3.3 A healthy lifestyle
3.4 Keeping healthy throughout sex, drugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll
3.5 Stress, drugs, alcohol and mental health

4 Understanding Diversity
4.1 The legislative base
4.2 Cultural diversity
4.3 Racism and discrimination
4.4 Working with migrant and refugee young people
4.5 Working with young people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background
4.6 Working with young people with disabilities

5 Young People, Participation and the Law and Government
5.1 The law and young people
5.2 The international context for youth
5.3 The national context for young people
5.4 The non-government national youth voice
5.5 State governments and statutory bodies
5.6 The non-government state youth bodies
5.7 Do you want to know more?

6 Working with Challenging Young People
6.1 Attachment and resilience
6.2 Characteristics of traumatised youth
6.3 Challenging behaviours
6.4 Working with violence in a care setting
6.5 Therapeutic approaches
6.6 Working with families and the community
6.7 The importance of building service networks
6.8 Understanding case management
6.9 Worker survival
6.10 Do you want to find out more?

7 Youth Work Principles, Policies and Practices
7.1 Service provision requirements
7.2 Service support requirements
7.3 The need for a Code of Conduct
7.4 Procedural fairness or natural justice
7.5 Record keeping
7.6 Advocacy
7.7 Confidentiality and Duty of Care
7.8 Principles of good youth work