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About Korowai Tupu

About Korowai Tupu

A New Step in a Long History of Youth Work

Youth work in Aotearoa has a rich history, a strong present and an exciting future. 2017 marks a key transition point and a significant step in our ‘coming of age’ journey. We celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first code of ethics, a significant milestone that the profession is marking.  This coincides with the launch of a professional association for youth workers.

Youth work is a community in Aotearoa that has strong foundations, built through the contribution and leadership of many people, networks and organisations. Youth workers are currently working collectively to build an association that genuinely reflects the aspirations and needs of this very important part of this vital youth development ecosystem.

Building on the work of our parent organisation, the National Youth Workers Network Aotearoa, in 2016 Ara Taiohi launched a pilot association and extended an open invitation to youth workers across the sector to participate in the design of the association. More than 240 youth workers became founding members in a process that has been marked by the enthusiasm of people who have offered their insights, help and energy.

In te reo Māori, the word “rangatiratanga” means leadership- literally the weaving of people together. The work of constructing this association has been like weaving- many different perspectives and different voices have taken form in the membership and resolution processes using the skills of many people.


Why a Professional Association?

For youth workers a professional association is about what we profess to young people, and whom we choose to associate with.  We profess to young people that we will genuinely care for them, that we desire to form an authentic, quality relationship with them, and support their positive youth development.  We choose to associate with others who share this kaupapa in order to strengthen one another. These concepts are not new to youth work.  A professional association owned by youth workers is merely the next step on this journey.  It is a mark of our sector that this has been led by youth workers and for youth workers.  We continue to take responsibility for our practice as we desire the best outcomes for young people, their whānau and communities.

Youth workers form a critical part of the workforce needed to support positive youth development for our young people in Aotearoa New Zealand. This professional association will empower youth workers to continue to develop the competencies and ethics that underpin their practice, and to have input into the systems that will enable the profession to grow and develop. We fundamentally believe that youth workers should define the competencies and philosophy that sit beneath the practice of youth work in Aotearoa, rather than a minister or ministry.

International evidence tells us that having a strong national voice on professional issues affecting youth workers is a critical part of a positive youth development ecosystem, along with good policy on young people and sustainable resourcing to the sector.

In 2017, youth workers working with young people across Aotearoa are more qualified than ever before, but despite this, rates of pay for paid youth workers have declined against the national average wage in the last 10 years. Law changes affecting youth workers and youth development organisations have had significant impacts on youth workers. The need for those who work with children and young people to provide evidence of membership to a relevant professional association has inspired youth workers to contribute to an association they actually want to associate with.  Youth workers recognise the need for a strong voice to advocate and shape the learning area of youth work and qualifications that sit alongside these.

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Philosophy and Models

The philosophy, models and practice of contemporary youth work in New Zealand has been influenced and shaped by Māori practices and knowledge, Pasifika cultures, positive youth development, recreation and outdoor education theories and models which have been hugely influential.

Youth work in Aotearoa is diverse- from work in schools based on academic and adventure based learning, to support for gender and sexuality diverse young people, through recreation and culturally based programmes through to church based programmes and services. These wide ranging contexts create richness, and despite the broadness of the spectrum, the common ground is a consistent commitment to positive youth development and ethical practice. Youth work as a profession has embraced this spectrum, and in launching this Korowai Tupu we recognise the tension held between the diversity of our profession and the need for an inclusive collective framework. Our Code of Ethics for Youth Workers provides this inclusive framework which aspires to hold youth workers who work in a way that is ethical and focused on positive youth development, in relationship with each other.

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