Youth Centres

Youth centres provide safe, flexible, friendly spaces where young people can access a range of programs and activities.

There are currently nine multi functioning youth centres in the ACT and surrounding region, including Gugan Gulwan Youth Aboriginal Corporation, which is profiled in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Section. Youth centres are often the first point of contact for young people accessing the service system. They are generalist services that can act as a gateway to other services identified  in this resource.

Youth centres are important anchors for the youth sector, with the capacity to be responsive to emerging issues. As a worker you should know where the youth centres are in your area and work towards building a relationship with them.

Creating a Youth Friendly Space

Following are some ideas on creating youth-friendly spaces.

Environment:

  • Try and make the space reflective of youth cultures.
  • Get yourself some posters – blank walls are boring.
  • Play some music.
  • Make sure the space is friendly and welcoming – not confronting.
  • Make sure it is a space that young people are able to suss out on their own terms.
  • Have space for different activities for young people with different interests.
  • Make sure that you have a diversity of materials around that reflect a diversity of cultures and interests.
  • How are desks positioned? Is there a barrier between you and them? Who has the better chair? What does that say to them?
  • You can ask young people their opinion about the space. They may come up with some easy ways to make it more comfortable.
  • Who is your target group? Are you focused on a specific group of young people? If so, what are their issues (e.g. AOD, mental health, disability, drug and alcohol, legal)?
  • You may create your space in a way that’s different to other spaces. For example, if you’re working with young people experiencing mental health issues, you may wish to make it look different to a clinical setting they may encounter.
  • You may want the space to have things that young people might not have in their space at home like plants and books.
  • Try and offer food and drinks.

Staff:

  • You can reduce formality by your attire. Your clothing is your uniform. Different clothing sends different messages about who you are and what you represent. If you want to create a youth friendly space you want to dress in a way that is accessible to your target group. You don’t have to change the way you look, but you might not need to wear a suit.
  • If you have a receptionist remember they may be the first and most consistent point of contact for young people. It’s important they relate well with young people and have some training in this area.
  • Remember you are part of the space and represent the space – try not to be too formal.

Practice:

  • Minimise administrative and formal processes. For example, signing in, if necessary, should be made simple.
  • Consider issues of power relationships. As the service provider you have the power (by controlling the space and resources and being able to influence access to welfare and support). You need to make every effort to challenge that power differential.

Other issues to consider:

  • There may be a range of issues that need to be considered, such as literacy. Consider how to communicate messages to them. Lots of text-heavy signs and posters may be confronting or irrelevant.
  • How can you ensure privacy and confidentiality?
  • Is your building easy to access? Do you have disability access?
  • Can young people easily get to your building? Are there regular buses that go to your service?
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