Doing Youth Work in the ‘Asian Century': Let a Hundred Schools of Thought…

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 11:25
Location: Hörsaal 47 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Kerry MONTERO, RMIT University, Australia
The relevance of the philosophical disciplines to diverse areas of human service practice has been explored fruitfully by a number of authors. In the area of youth work practice, which has often struggled to define its claim to specialist professional practice,  its ‘purpose’ and ethos,  Aristotelian traditions have opened up productive avenues for thinking about the purpose, and the doing of youth work (Bessant 2009,  Emslie 2014).

In recent years there has been a renewed interest in the ways that Chinese philosophical traditions may compliment and  augment our  ways of thinking about the nature of human experience and our relationship to the world – the ‘contextualised self’.  These insights relate to not only human relationships, but our relationship to the ‘non-human’. Using a case study of youth work in a road safety education context, I explore the philosophical dimensions of this practice, drawing on insights from Chinese philosophical tradition, particularly Confucian schools of moral philosophy. I ask whether there is potential in this tradition for enriching the philosophical foundations for youth work.

Youth work in Australia is characterised by great diversity and complexity, embedded in a rich tradition derived from its indigenous and multicultural history. It also carries the legacy of its colonialist origins, with its history of stolen children, institutionalised abuse and repressive policies targeting young people.  At a time of rapid social, political and economic change, youth work should be able to draw on core principles of openness, creativity and adaptability, to open itself to new/renewed ways of thinking/doing youth work.

In this paper I explore the opportunities offered by Australia’s unique geographical and cultural position in the ‘Asian century’ for the development of models of youth work that dynamically work with, and within, the rich philosophical traditions of cultures that have characteristically been ignored, silenced, poorly understood.