Image by Philip Bohle
Jonathon is a youth worker in north west Tasmania. He works to expand young people’s options for living in the region, modelling healthy relationships and taking a harm minimisation approach to his work.
Jonathan provides a place of safety where young people can be honest about their experiences, be supported to overcome fears and try new things. He helps them build resilience to live a good life and is respectful towards young people and the difficulties they can face in the world.
Jonathan has had an interesting career overseas, working in freelance personal protection where he escorted royalty around Europe as a bodyguard. His move into social services has been a bit like a jigsaw puzzle and he can look back now and see how all the pieces have come together. This began with his transferrable skills from his work in international personal protection.
“In body guarding, everyone thinks you are protecting them from terrorists and stuff like that, but really you are protecting them from themselves. With disability support, well you’re not so much protecting them from themselves but you’re helping them to thrive.”
Jonathan’s first role in the community services industry was in disability support. He also worked in outdoor education with young people , and then gained work in youth mental health. He jumped from there into a therapeutic residential home for children with trauma, while working as a TAFE disability support teacher. Jonathan landed a dream role with his current organisation where he delivers health promotion talks in schools, runs large-scale youth events and facilitates weekly youth programs. Step-by-step, he has built his skills through these diverse but connected roles.
“It probably sounds like I’ve jumped around an awful lot, which I have. But that’s quite normal in this industry. So, to start in disability support and end up in youth work or aged care is not unheard of by any stretch.”
Helping Youth Embrace Life
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the job is exposing young people to the great outdoors. This can be a new experience for those who don’t have easy access to the wilderness. He’s taken young people rock climbing, hiking and caving among other pursuits. Jonathan enjoys the activities himself but also loves seeing youth take on a challenge and experience the benefits of controlled risk taking. He says it is a privilege to see a young person achieve their best and to witness the dawning awareness that a good life is within reach.
“These are kids that are coming along because they don’t want to be at home and suddenly, we’ve taken them from four hours sitting at home with nothing to do to four hours of a new experience, which is really opening them up and getting them to have little epiphanies about their potential.”
By sharing these moments together, Jonathan’s influence can have a huge impact on a young person’s life, and he says this is the most fulfilling part of the role.
“You can very quickly become that person of trust and safety, which is huge to offer to anyone, but especially young people.”
Image by Philip Bohle
Training Young People for a Different Future
As part of his job, Jonathan also runs training sessions in schools to build youth expertise in navigating healthy relationships. Disclosures about unhealthy relationships from young people who trust him are common. Because he is a safe person, young people often open up to Jonathan about their circumstances, sometimes telling him of abuse or neglect. Jonathan says this can be difficult to hear but he is privileged to be a trusted adult for someone who feels they have no one else to talk to.
“It highlights the need out there that kids have for safe adults. And I sometimes just feel like, my goodness, you shouldn’t be telling me this. I should just be some bloke that comes to school and does a chat every now and again and is paid. But it’s been the biggest surprise for me in this job, the fact you can have a massive influence on people.”
To support his own emotional resilience, Jonathan receives support from a psychologist. While he was sceptical at first, he now sees great benefit from this support. It helps him from succumbing to vicarious trauma, which is a risk when caring for young dealing with difficult situations at home or school.
“It can take you by surprise a bit, it can affect you. We have really good clinical supervision here so you can talk about this stuff with our supervisor. So yeah, I was a bit blasé at first, but I have to say it is definitely worth taking that seriously, taking advantage of it.”
Through this support, Jonathan has developed his resilience and now has longevity in the role enabling him to continue to be a safe adult presence in his community. He is a role model, sharing ways to live an adventurous life while building skills to make great choices. By doing so, Jonathan has become a respected leader in the social services sector in north west Tasmania and a person who draws from his own life experience to provide stable support to help young people thrive
Our sincere thanks to Jonathan for his contribution to Work with Purpose. To find out more about working in social services access an information guide here.
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