Code of Ethics

Background to the code of ethics


The Code of Ethics for Youth Work was originally developed by Dr Howard Sercombe in conjunction with the youth sector in Western Australia.

The ACT youth sector has adopted this code, and Youth Action endorsed the code in 2004. We are working towards it being adopted as a national code of ethics for youth work.




Code of Ethics



Youth workers exist because of young people’s exclusion from full membership of the common wealth, in the struggle by young people for survival and recognition on the one hand and the struggle by society for order and control on the other. The core of youth work practice lies in the relationship with the young person as the primary client, expressed through a commitment to advocacy and healing in their work with the young person and the wider society. The following principles are informed by this core position.

1  Primary client


The primary client of the youth worker is the young person with whom they engage. Where conflict exists between obligations to one young person and another, it is resolved in ways that avoid harm and continue to support the person least advantaged by the resolution.

2  Ecology


Youth workers recognise the impact of ecological and structural forces on young people. Their work is not limited to facilitating change within the individual young person, but extends to the social context in which the young person lives.

3  Non-discrimination


Youth Workers' practice will be equitable.

4  Empowerment


The youth worker seeks to enhance the power of the young person by making power relations open and clear; by holding power-holders accountable; by facilitating their disengagement from the youth work relationship; and by supporting the young person in the pursuit of their legitimate claims. Youth workers presume that young people are competent in assessing and acting on their interests.

5  Non-corruption


Youth workers and youth agencies will not advance themselves at the expense of young people.

6  Transparency


The contract established with the young person, and the resulting relationship, will be open and truthful. The interests of other stakeholders will not be hidden from them.

7  Confidentiality


Information provided by young people will not be used against them, nor will it be shared with others who may use it against them. Young people should be made aware of the contextual limits to confidentiality, and their permission sought for disclosure. Until this happens, the presumption of confidentiality must apply.

8  Cooperation


Youth Workers will recognise the limits of their role. Youth workers, in consultation with young people, seek to cooperate with others in order to secure the best possible outcomes for young people.

9  Knowledge


Youth Workers have a responsibility to keep up to date with the information, resources, knowledge and practices needed to meet their obligations to young people.

10 Self-awareness


Youth workers are conscious of their own values and interests, and approach difference in those with whom they work with respect.

11 Boundaries


The youth work relationship is a professional relationship, intentionally limited to protect the young person. Youth workers will maintain the integrity of these limits, especially with respect to sexuality. Youth workers will not sexualise their clients.

12 Self-care


Ethical youth work practice is consistent with preserving the health of youth workers.

13 Duty of Care


The youth worker avoids exposing young people to the likelihood of further harm or injury. 

14 Integrity


Youth Workers are loyal to the practice of youth work, not bringing it into disrepute. Youth workers will respect the strengths and diversity of roles other than youth work.