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Broadbent, R., Corney, T., 2021, Professional Youth Work: Principles, Practices and Priorities. Youth Workers Association, Australia.


Broadbent, R., 2021, Living, Learning and Building Professional Youth Work Practice

The paper "Living, Learning and Building Professional Youth Work Practice" by Emeritus Professor Robyn Broadbent emphasizes the integration of both lived and learned experiences in professional youth work practice. It argues for the necessity of a theoretical, evidence-based framework to guide youth work, contending that relying solely on personal or anecdotal experiences (the "lived experiences" of youth workers and the youths they serve) can limit the effectiveness and scope of practice.

Key Points:

  1. Theoretical Frameworks and Evidence-based Practice: The paper underlines the importance of grounding youth work in solid theoretical frameworks that are supported by empirical research. This approach helps translate personal experiences into actionable policy and advocacy that can address broader social issues.

  2. Lived Experience as Reflective Tool: While the lived experiences of youth workers and young people are invaluable, they need to be contextualized within a broader theoretical framework. These experiences provide deep insights and personal narratives that are crucial for reflective practice but should not be the sole basis for developing professional practices.

  3. Balancing Lived and Learned Experiences: Effective youth work requires a balance between direct, personal experiences and academic learning. This balance helps practitioners make sense of individual experiences in a wider context, allowing for more informed and comprehensive practice strategies.

  4. Narratives and Empathy: The paper discusses how narratives derived from lived experiences can foster empathy and provide a personal touch to professional practice. However, it cautions against these narratives overshadowing the need for a structured, research-based approach.

  5. Critique of Neoliberal Policies: Broadbent criticizes neoliberal economic policies for their focus on individual responsibility over collective support, which can disproportionately affect vulnerable youths. The paper advocates for a theoretical understanding of systemic barriers to effectively challenge these policies.

  6. Research, Advocacy, and Professional Training: Youth workers are encouraged to engage continuously with both current and historical research to enhance their practice. Professional training should also include elements of reflective practice to prevent the perpetuation of personal biases and enhance the efficacy of interventions.

  7. Power Dynamics and Empowerment: The document calls for an understanding of power dynamics within youth work, advocating for practices that empower young people by actively including them in decision-making processes that affect their lives.


Broadbent's paper calls for a sophisticated blend of lived and learned experiences in youth work, stressing the importance of theoretical frameworks that can effectively incorporate personal narratives into broader social strategies. This approach not only enhances the professional capacity of youth workers but also ensures that interventions are both empathetic and strategically sound.


The YWA acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past, present and emerging and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

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