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Each quarter, our peer reviewed journal publishes up to six research- and practice-based articles on Australian youth. Find out more.

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Information resources

History of youth studies

An interesting history of the youth work profession is given on the infed website (encyclopedia of informal education). There you will also find an overview of the March 2007 British history of youth and community work conference, organised by the editorial board of the journal, Youth and Policy.

Also see:

The Society for the History of Children and Youth (USA) is hosted by Marquette University. H-Childhood is an edited electronic network focused on the history of childhood and youth. The network is co-sponsored by the Society for the History of Children and Youth  (SHCY) and H-Net. 

Consult your nearest academic library for a list of books on the history of youth work.

Specific resouces:
The list below includes resources ACYS has reviewed, as well as resources we have discovered but not reviewed:

Bessant, Bob (ed.) assisted by David Maunders (1987), Mother state and her little ones: Children and youth in Australia, 1860s-1930s. Centre for Youth and Community Studies, Philip Institute of Technology, Coburg, Victoria. (See note)

Bessant, Judith (1995), "Hanging around the street": Australian rockers, sharpies and skinheads of the 1960s and early 1970s. Journal of Australian Studies, 1995, n.45, June, pp.15-31.

Bessant, Judith, Sercombe, H. and Watts, R (1998), Youth studies: An Australian perspective. Longman, Melbourne.

Butcher, M. & M. Thomas, (2001), GENERATE: Youth culture and migration history in Western Sydney, Institute for Cultural Research and Migration Heritage Centre, ISBN 1863418946, 65pp. (GENERATE was a research, training and exhibition project designed to realise the contemporary nature of migration heritage, and to highlight the positive contribution that young people from migrant backgrounds make to the creation of that heritage. This report documents the preliminary findings of the research component of the project.) Contact the Institute for Cultural Research (Sydney) to purchase copies of the report, ph (02) 9685 9600.

Ewen, John (1983), Youth in Australia: A new deal and a new role for the 80s, Centre for Youth and Community Studies, Philip Institute of Technology, Coburg, Victoria.

Gilchrist, R. Jeffs, T. and Spence, J. (2006), Drawing on the past: essays in the history of community and youth work, Leicester, National Youth Agency.  ISSN/ISBN: 0 86155329 2

Gilchrist, R; Jeffs, Tony; and Jean Spence (eds) (2001), Essays in the history of community and youth work. Youth Work Press, Leicester, UK, 247pp. ISBN: 086155 245 8
Summary: "Any profession that fails to learn from its past is doomed to repeat its mistakes. Community and youth work has made a huge contribution to the wellbeing of communities but, with a few honourable exceptions it has failed to produce its own histories. By neglecting to record its successes and its failures, it has left itself vulnerable to those who would foist on it warmed-over policies that have been tried and found wanting in the past.
"This book is part of the process of putting that right. Developed from papers given at the History of Youth and Community Work conference at Ushaw College in Durham, it includes 15 chapters written by leading practitioners and researchers. Each one reflects upon a particular organisation or aspect of work from the past two centuries – from the earliest moves to make provision for young Londoners to the operation of HM Inspectorate in the 1980s. Together they not only pay homage to the pioneers in this field, they help to create a better understanding of contemporary practice and provide the means to resist pressure to go down the wrong road.
"More than sentimental nostalgia, these histories offer a vantage point from which contemporary practice can be interrogated. They are an important resource for the student and indeed anybody who cares not just about the past but also the future of community and youth work." (Abstract from web page at, last viewed 8 May 2002; page no longer available.)

Gilding, Michael (1997), Australian families: A comparative perspective. Addison Wesley Longman, South Melbourne. ISBN 0 582 80368 3, $34.95.
Summary: This sociological study considers the changes in family structures, relationships and social networks within the broader context of social institutions and relationships. The first chapter introduces the main controversies around the family and considers sociobiological accounts of the family, before discussing sociological definitions and perspectives of the family. In the second chapter, the history of the family in Western societies, and in Australia in particular, is traced from the 19th century.

Irving, T., Maunders, D. and Sherington, G. (1995), Youth in Australia: Policy, administration and politics. Macmillan, Melbourne.

Jeffs, T, and Mark K. Smith (1999), 'The problem of "youth" for youth work', Youth and Policy, v.62, pp.45 – 66. Also available in full text on Mark Smith's website, the informal education archives,

Maunders, David (1984), Keeping them off the streets: A history of voluntary youth organizations in Australia 1850-1980, Phillip Institute of Technology, Coburg, Victoria.

Mental Health Branch, Commonwealth Department of Health and Family Services, (1997), Youth suicide in Australia: A background monograph, 2nd ed. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

Noone, Val (1995), 'A new youth for a new Australia: Young Christian workers around 1960', annotated conference paper on the history of the Catholic Youth Organisation in Australia, originally published in Footprints, Journal of the Melbourne Diocesan Historical Commission, December 1995.

Shevels, C. (1993), 'Ideology and the history of youth work' (paper); proceedings of a conference edited by J. Gaha, Social work: making an impact shaping the future: Proceedings of the 23rd biennial conference of the Australian Association of Social Workers, 27-30 September, 1993. Australian Association of Social Workers, Newcastle, NSW, 1993, pp.216-219.
Summary: The author traces the history of youth work, then discusses what is happening in youth services today, and where we should be heading. Her focus is mainly on policies and services for young people in Victoria or New South Wales who are either very disadvantaged or caught up in the juvenile justice system.

Smith, M. (1988), Developing youth work: Informal education, mutual aid and popular practice, Open University Press, Milton Keynes.
Summary: Provides a history of youth work that emphasizes popular initiatives and explores the demise of the Youth Service; discusses informal education as a process rather than as an institutional form.

Spence, Jean: For books on the history of youth by this author, see the University of Durham website

White, R. (ed.) (1993). Youth subcultures: Theory, history and the Australian experience. National Clearinghouse for Youth Studies, Hobart. Available for purchase from this clearinghouse.

White, R (ed.) (1999). Australian youth subcultures: On the margins and in the mainstream. Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies, Hobart. Available for purchase from this clearinghouse.
This book provides a new dimension on various aspects of contemporary youth cultures and subcultures: it explores the activities, attitudes, behaviours, images and experiences of young Australian people from widely diverse social backgrounds and personal circumstances. Its focis is on everyday activities and life stories of young people as they negotiate their identities, their leisure time, their sexuality and their multiple places in society.

White, R. and B. Wilson (eds.) (1991), For your own good: Young people and state intervention in Australia, La Trobe University Press, Bundoora, Victoria. 123pp. (Published as a special issue of Journal of Australian Studies.)
Summary: This book provides a selection of studies on youth policy in Australia, addressing the continuities and breaks in youth policy development over time and across different state boundaries. It also considers the chronic silences in areas like gender and Aboriginality in the formulation and implementation of youth policy. The chapter, 'Whose future on whose terms?' by the book's editors Rob White and Bruce Wilson acts as an introduction to the remaining chapters, and to the topic of youth policy. There's a chapter on vocational guidance, training and employment of youth in NSW from the time of the Depression to the post-war boom, by Geoffrey Sherington, and the remaining chapters are individually indexed. Those chapters of this book are titled:

  • 'Described, measured and labelled: Eugenics, youth policy and moral panic in Victoria in the 1950s', by Judith Bessant;
  • 'Transitions to nowhere: The effects of government policies on young working class people's access to employment/ training', by Bev Beasley;
  • 'Aboriginal young people in the southwest of Western Australia: Implications for youth policy', by Len Collard and Dave Palmer;
  • 'Safe from attention: Young women, STD's and health policy', by Kerry Carrington.

White, R. (1990). No space of their own: Young people and social control in Australia, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.

Wyn, J. and White, R. (1997). Rethinking youth, Allen and Unwin, Melbourne, ISBN 1 86448 162 5.

The Centre for Youth and Community Studies, Philip Institute of Technology, Coburg, Victoria no longer exists, but copies of its publications will be available through your local academic library.