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Kat Daley – youth work researcher and practitioner | S1E10

November 23, 2021

Kat Daley – youth work researcher and practitioner | S1E10
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In this episode:  Deep dive into the realities of chronic disadvantage, inherited poverty and life on the margins. Making choices in tragic circumstances. What's involved in running the largest youth work degree program in Australia. Bringing lived experience to tackling systemic injustice. Curiosity, security and social class. 

About the Guest:  Kat Daley is the Program Manager for the Bachelor of Youth Work and Youth Studies at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. Her work examines issues of poverty, child abuse, homelessness, self-injury and mental health and she is author of the book, Youth and Substance Abuse (2017). Prior to academia Kat worked in the youth alcohol and other drug sector, initially in outreach and later in research. She has developed resources for the Youth AOD Toolbox and the Youth Drugs and Alcohol Advisory service (YoDAA) and co-led Victoria's first Statewide Youth Needs Census. Her current work is focused on how young people and women are impacted by policy changes in the corrections system. [Kat's LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathryn-daley-69230362/]

Recorded 5 November 2021

Links:

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About the Host: Danu has been thinking hard about education, technology and society for 30 years. His ambition is to start a company that offers holistic learner-first experiences that set the soul on fire. He is based in Auckland, NZ and is currently working as a consultant on research information systems, academic performance and games for education. [Danu's LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/danupoyner/]

Music: Kleptotonic Swing by Tri-Tachyon

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Website: stillcuriouspodcast.com
Twitter: @stillcuriouspod
Email: stillcuriouspodcast@gmail.com

Transcript
Kat Daley:

To be curious is a privilege that comes with time and economic security. I don't think they realize how busy they are. Like they all work seven days. There's no weekends, there's no days off. there's no space to be curious, but that's normal to them. So I do wonder if they will actually ever get the space to be curious if it's so sort of ingrained in them to be at the grind 24 7.

Danu Poyner:

You're listening to the Still Curious Podcast with me, Danu Poyner my guest today is Kat Daley, who was the Program Manager for the Bachelor of Youth Work and Youth Studies at RMIT University, which is the largest youth work degree in Australia. Kat's research examines, young people and chronic disadvantage, youth policy, self-injury, gender, corrections and poverty. I met Kat nearly 10 years ago when I was a Teaching Assistant at RMIT. while she was doing her PhD and we taught a course on research methods together. In this episode, we discuss the realities of life on the margins.

Kat Daley:

If you spend a day in court, you just watched the haves tell the have-nots how to live their life

Danu Poyner:

And the kind of issues and people Kat encounters on a daily basis. We cover why youth studies matters.

Kat Daley:

What I always found really problematic was that all of the research on best practice for working with young people, with drug issues, Was not applicable to the young people I was working with

Danu Poyner:

Kat's pathway into the academy and where she got her drive for tackling systemic injustice.

Kat Daley:

She was like, you did the right thing. Do it again tomorrow, you know? You've got to stand up for other people. Don't worry about getting suspended from school

Danu Poyner:

It's a powerful, personal and political discussion, but one in which Kat's sense of purpose and positivity ring clear throughout. Enjoy it's Kat Daley coming up after the music break on today's episode of the Still Curious Podcast Hi Kat. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast. How are you?

Kat Daley:

Thanks. How are you?

Danu Poyner:

Oh really well thanks. So you're the program manager for the Bachelor of Youth Work and Youth Studies at RMIT University, which I understand is the largest youth work degree in Australia. And you describe your work as being about young people and chronic disadvantage, young people's pathways in and out of substance abuse and improving the wellbeing and opportunity of disadvantaged young people in the community. That's really powerful. I guess what's the most important thing for someone to understand about what you're doing.

Kat Daley:

So we are the only degree that offer essentially a double major in youth studies and youth work. And the difference between the two put simply as youth studies is looking at sort of the sociological understanding of young people looking at How, how we as a society conceptualize and theorize, and can make sense of young people as a collective group of people, not, not to be sort of worked with the worked on, but just how do we understand that? We have a very strong policy bent in our degree in terms of looking at how policy is made in relation to young people, how are they applied to young people and how are young people included or excluded in sort of, you know, that policymaking process. And the reason that we feel that's really important for the future workforce to understand is because as a worker you are working with usually one client now, one young person, and it's very easy to fall trap into this idea that it's an individual. That you're working with them and there, and for them, it obviously is an individual issue and you do need to work them as an individual, but the pattern like that, the, the experiences they are having, they might be part of a broader social pattern. And that as workers, we need to be aware of that, not just to be better workers, but to be better advocates for young people, because youth workers should be advocating for young people. And if you are sort of siloed into this idea that everybody's problems are their own individual problems. It places responsibility at the feet of the individual, rather than the social or political dimensions that might come into it. So that's what, that's what we teach them. You know, we teach them skills, we teach them youth work skills. Students do a lot of placement. We do multiple placements at organizations. But in terms of that theoretical layering, that distinguishes a degree from a vocational program, but particularly the RMIT degree from other degrees is that it's understanding the young person you work with belongs to a collective group of young people who have often a marginalized place in sort of a social hierarchy. And considering what that means. And it's a really pertinent time. To be in a role like this for two reasons, so one is, you know, in Victoria, in Australia, we've had several relevant Royal commissions into various human service related sort of topics, but all of them have had implications for workforce. So some of those who've been on family violence or child protection. There was one interstate on young people in corrections facilities, but into all of these Royal commissions, there's obviously you know, recommendations and these recommendations have always had relevance for our workforce has been calling for specialist workers. So people that are specialized in youth or specialized in family violence. So, you know, to be leading a degree that is creating sort of that workforce, it's a really timely thing to be in to be making sure that, you know, our students are. Able to fulfill those roles. And then the other part of the role is kind of my research And that my area of interest is looking at young people who you know, very broadly sort of in quotation marks on the margins for whatever reasons. And that's normally through multiple reasons which is where I refer to it as sort of chronic disadvantage, where there's been a bunch of things that have happened along the way through no fault of a young person's themselves that limit or curtail their access to opportunity

Danu Poyner:

mm, mm. There's a lot there. And we'll come back to as some of the research work that you're doing a little later on, but I guess it'd be good moment to dig into that idea of chronic disadvantage a little more. And I always ask people on the podcast, how would you explain in this case, chronic disadvantage to a ten-year-old or someone who has not had to know about it,

Kat Daley:

So, I mean, if you've got a friend that goes to school and they came into the school at a different year level, like they didn't start in prep. Got moved from another school, maybe in grade two grade three, and sometimes they get dropped off late. And maybe the parents are split up and often they're hungry and they're the teacher always calls them naughty, and sometimes maybe they're naughty because they're hungry and maybe they were hungry because they were dropped off late and missed breakfast. And maybe the reason they were dropped off late was because it's just mom and dad's not around. So, for the kid, Tommy, Tommy has had a bit of a patchy, patchy ride and he doesn't have friends the same way the other people have. And that's because everyone was doing their best, but it's hard. It's kind of struggling to catch up because he's changed schools a few times and each time he's changed, they've been learning about different things. Cause he's, you know, come to the school later and maybe he's not on the local sports team because of those, you know, shifting suburbs as well. So he doesn't have a broader network of friends outside of the school. And these things make school a bit harder for Tommy because, you know, he feels a bit behind and he doesn't have friends and just doesn't really feel like he belongs and maybe there's some stuff happening at home. And then maybe, you know, mom's really struggling to make ends meet and you know, she's under, pressure. Maybe dad's in the picture or in and out of the picture or completely out of the picture and these are all things that have happened to Tommy that Tommy had no control over, but that are impacting how well Tommy can make friends and engage with school and participate in sport. And that makes, you know, getting to grade five and grade six and year seven harder for Tommy than it is for, the ten-year-old I'm explaining it to who presumably. Hasn't had all of these, you know, disadvantages. So I guess, you know, I'd explain it in that sort of way. And obviously in the bigger picture, we're looking at housing instability or child protection issues, or, economic stress where, you know you know, single parents are, you know, often having to move houses a lot and children moving school and the flow and effects.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah, Well, I think that's a really powerful image and I wonder how many Tommys are there out there in this kind of situation of chronic disadvantage?

Kat Daley:

a lot. I mean, it hasn't been enumerated and I guess it would be difficult, you know, as to what counts is like, are we just looking at sort of. The single parents who are under various kinds of stresses, or are we looking at instances where there's that and a bit more, maybe some child protection contact or other red flags, you know, we know that there's some, some red flags for it. So, you know, intergenerational patterns are really common that obviously not through biology, but through inherited poverty to put simply you know, and in some suburbs it's a lot more prevalent than in other suburbs. Cause a lot of it comes, you know, essentially it's a poverty issue to, and there's different scales and and there's other sort of, you know, non material things that can make a difference. So, you know, if Tommy's mom. You know, is educated herself. Given that protects, tell me a little bit more than if Tommy's mom had had to leave school at year seven, you know, so there's not the fact is that coming to play in the longer term pattern, but the numbers are very significant for our department, our first world nation.

Danu Poyner:

I'm, I'm really struck by the way that you bring in all the different complexity of social and economic factors to what goes into that and how we understand it. And I guess that's part of the, the lens that you bring to, understanding the field. I noticed this in your work an idea of something called situated choice that comes up a fair bit, which is maybe familiar to people who know a bit of sociology, but probably not familiar to everyone. So my kind of understanding of situated choice is that we make individual choices, but the circumstances in which we make those choices are not always of our choosing, is that a fair

Kat Daley:

That's a perfect description. So essentially all of us are making choices all at the time, but the choices that we have available to us at different, you know and I guess it gets used a lot in sociology because we, you know, when we look at, I guess a common one is like the, just say no approach to drugs and then drug users should just say no, Maybe they should, maybe they shouldn't. But the real question to me is in what circumstances are people in where drugs might be more appealing than to other people? So, you know, like what, what's the environment that is driving people's choices.

Danu Poyner:

And Tommy you, you mentioned, you know, a lot of these things are happening through no fault of his own. And so what are some examples of where and why situated choice is important to understanding chronic disadvantage in the areas that you're working in?

Kat Daley:

Yeah. So I guess where it's really impactful to consider is in situations where a person is having to take liability for something that's occurred. The immediate thing that springs to mind is like the justice system somebody committed a crime or alleged to have committed a crime and is everybody equally responsible would be the overarching premise here. So in Australia, the age of criminal responsibility is 10 so you can be legally tried for murder at age 10, and obviously 10 is very young and 10 is, it's not consistent with the responsibilities. We give young people because if we are accepting that they are of sufficient mind to be held fully criminally responsible. Something at 10 then why don't we give them a driver's license at 10 and why can't they vote at 10? And why can't they access their own health records at 10? And that's because other government departments have deemed them, not yet sufficiently developed to make these decisions and parents to make decisions for them. And so when does accountability begin? I mean, I would presume that most people would say that 10 is too young. I can't imagine it would take much persuading for me to sort of say to people, well, if 10 year olds committing serious offending, we probably should be looking at what's going on at home.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah.

Kat Daley:

So then it's like, that begins this continuum of when is somebody responsible and when was it their choice, to break the law. And, particularly in the level level courts in Australia, the magistrate's court someone once described it to me is if you spend a day in court, you just watched the haves tell the have-nots how to live their life. And it's to entirely accurate assessment because, largely the people that find themselves in the magistrates' court are poor people. And to people that are making judgments on their lives are very rich people. And there's a lot of complexity into how that situation has come to unfold. And I've also sat in court with someone who's been a victim of sex offenses and the perpetrator was an academic. So you know, PhD educated, employed at a university and came from a family of, I think the brother was one brother was a lawyer. The other brother was a doctor, you know, that very sort of archetypal rich well-to-do upper-class and family and the perpetrator was found guilty. But what was really interesting in sentencing was that in the period between being found guilty and sentencing, a judge has to make a decision as to what happens to the person who's being found. And what you would usually see particularly for serious crimes like sex offenses. And it was child's expenses would be that the person is held in remand, because they're definitely going to get a custodial sentence, you know, that you can't you don't get to skip jail when you're found guilty of child's expenses. So, but the, the question is likely know how long is the person going to be in detention for? And you know, between the time of the child had reported it to the time that the person had been found guilty, several years have passed because it's a lengthy process. And in all of these years, this person, the perpetrator had been free in the community and they lived across the road from a primary school and potentially continued offending. And they've still got their six figure salary and their high profile life. So they've had a lot of freedoms that the victim hasn't had, but. I guess the point that I'm coming to is that the judge determined that because of this person's life experience, jail is going to be incredibly difficult for them. Therefore, they can be released into the community until sentencing. And I was in the Corps at the time, I found that very jarring to hear because the assumption was that if the person's life experiences hadn't been so privileged, then jail would be a walk in the park and they'd be held on remand you know? And, you know, there was actually a line made by the judge that, you know, it's not like he's dealing drugs. As though the offending would, I don't know, it was just bizarre because obviously we know that childhood sexual offending is not, you know, a one-off crime and that by the time he found guilty, there's probably being previous victims and there's likely to be more but I found it really interesting because. I think most of us hold the view that the more privileged your life has been, the more access to education, the more access to money, the more access to friends in high places is the more you should understand your responsibilities as to what's right, and what's wrong. And the more you should be held accountable for these actions. And this person was actually getting more leniency because of their privileged life. And I guess I bring that in because we often hear the opposite. We often hear, oh, they're getting out of things because they had a bad childhood, but it actually also works the other way people get out of things because they had an incredibly privileged childhood that the incredibly privileged judge or magistrate can connect with rather than be disconnected from sort of the poor person which they are making a judgment on so. This is a very long convoluted answer, but how do we get to, you know, situated choices? How do we consider how much influence somebody environments have over the decisions they make? You know? So if a young girl has been moved around, the child protection system is sexually exploited while she's under the care of the state. The older boyfriend who sexually exploiting her you know, it's that sort of pimping her out, offering her drugs, then she's sort of drug dependent. She's 13, 14. Was this her choice? Like, should she have just said no. And then what if she gets charged for sex work. Did she choose, like, did she choose that? Did she grow up choosing. To be drug dependent, pimped out by an older boyfriend who might've been the only person that she's ever felt cared for. Obviously, care it's not the way that you or I might conceptualize it, but she might have felt cared for. And now she's before a magistrate for sex work or trying to obtain drugs or petty theft, did she really choose that in the sense that you or I would actively have to go and make the choice to be in such an environment where this would even be in our possibilities? You know? So, so that's what situated choice looking at in what environments are people making choices and how much does that environment influence what choice they can make?

Danu Poyner:

Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that. That's a great, answer It takes something to hold the individual and the social pattern together and be able to see both that's definitely important kind of ethical imagination that I think I hear coming into that as well. So that's, that's a really important, are the people doing the program kind of from privileged backgrounds or non privileged backgrounds or is it a mix?

Kat Daley:

They come from diverse backgrounds, but not from the large majority, wouldn't come from privileged backgrounds in that tradition. You know, most of my students are not coming from, you know, the top grammar schools. And I think part of that reflects vocational degrees. There's, there's very significant sort of social class based distinctions on who studies what at universities and working class students. And I'm certain I'm speaking very broadly here. I tend to be much more present in degrees that are attached to a distinct job at the. And distinct path of employment compared to say like an arts degree where it's not saying you'd be unemployed with an arts degree, but it's not immediately obvious as to what that what's the job at end is and particularly if you're a first in family student, like what's an arts degree painting, you know, like you don't, it's, it's a different world. my students They might've had a mixed sort of educational experience. They're much more likely to bring with it some some lived experience of, of the sector. They might've been a young person in the sector or been close to it that, that, that group of students in my degree tend to be able to really offer significant amount of wisdom in the classroom. street street wisdom, I guess, is probably the lay term for it. And then you get, you know, people that have come direct from year 12 that are probably a bit green around sort of some of the rougher sides of life that maybe imagining themselves working in a school or YMCA So it'd be more upstream type setting. So there's still quite a lot of diversity within the cohort.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah, thank you. Yeah, that's a really, really useful illuminating explanation, I think maybe if we zoom out for a moment, then I'd like to ask you, how did you come into be in this line of work

Kat Daley:

I mean, always raised in like a very socioeconomically deprived area. And I went to school in an environment that I've since learned is far from normal, but you know, at the time I had no idea it was far from normal and. teachers sleeping with students or assaulting students was not like, it was kind of like, ah, a bit of sort of lunchtime gossip and it wasn't like never occurred to anybody to report any of these things. And there's also, you know, poverty, issues when you grow up in poverty issues, you understand things differently. Like you understand why people who experience extreme poverty, forgive each other for stealing each other's things. And that's because they both understand desperation and they don't see it as, you know, you chose to steal from me and that's disrespectful and I'm going to cut you off for life. It's like, I know what it's like to have been that desperate, you know? And so there's a to the external world, it can be like, how can you forgive the unforgivable? But it's not unforgivable when you've been in the situation yourself. not disrespect that drives these things. You know, I was raised by a single mom who struggled. I didn't have, like, you know, I went to a school where a lot of people whose parents were first generation migrants and like they started school and couldn't speak English, you know, which is a different set of barriers. And so in a lot of ways I had, you know, what's sort of called the protective factors that enabled, I guess me to have a different pathway to most but like lots of, particularly the boys, lots of the boys I went to school with are either dead or in jail. And you know, when you know these people from kindie, you know, that they weren't all evil. And so that really drove me as to liking it and they never made the papers. I just, as a teenager, I used to go to a dance school on the other side of town. And a girl that I had been to my dance school she'd been murdered and So this was like front page story. It became a movie. It was big news and it should've been, but I'd also witnessed boys from my school who had died at the hands of, you know, injustice and their name wouldn't come up in a Google search because you know, poor young men were not somebody that the broader community could connect with or empathize with. And it was kind of, you know, they must've deserved that fate. And that really I guess from very young, I had read that that sense of injustice really bothered me. At school I was suspended a lot for, you know, one time I was suspended because there's two disabled girls in my class and we were in class and there was two other. There's one on the guilt, particularly who was just, she was just very, she was just a very cruel girl, but she would throw things at this girl who's like physically disabled. She's in a wheelchair. Couldn't speak properly. Like literally couldn't speak up for herself. And the teacher wasn't back turned or something. And so I intervened like this really bothered me like this sense of somebody who had more, you know, physical capability and power exerting that over somebody simply because they were powerless. You know, I intervened and it sort of got a bit loud and vocal but anyway I ended up getting suspended for this y'know disrupting the class. I think I swore at the teacher for not doing a job, but you know, in the school were like, you know, I can't remember the details, but they were to sort of, you know, shame me into, how's your mother gonna. I feel about this being suspended, but I had this deep sense that my mum was gonna have my back and I was like, my mommy's going to be like, you did the right thing. Do it again tomorrow, you know? And I, and that's exactly what happened. I went home and told her what happened and it didn't like she didn't for a second think that I was lying. And, you know, she was like, you did the right thing. You've got to stand up for other people. Don't worry about getting suspended from school. So a lot of it, I must have learned from her, you know, like that was the person that she was. And I think if you're raised by a person that stops to give food to the homeless or to, you know, and she didn't have much to give, but she always did good. So I think part of that is that that sense of, you know, that there's, you have a duty as a, as a citizen, you have a duty to help people particularly people who, you know, have less, you know, materially or capacity. So I think that, you know, you're raised in that environment. And then I really think that I learned a lot from living in poverty, you know, like not just in an environment where you're exposed to kind of, you know, violence or kids being in and out of child protection or friends with family violence issues at home. And I'm not suggesting that this is like way that everybody should go and learn. And, but you know, it definitely had a hugely significant impact on who I became.

Danu Poyner:

Was, was being an academic, always plan A for you? What, what can you tell me about

Kat Daley:

No. I mean, no, I wasn't planning on being an academic, not, I can't tell you the by accident in short is how all of this came to be. when I finished school, I was going to be a dancer and then I wasn't gonna be a dancer. But anyway, I did essentially, I didn't know what I wanted to do. In terms of long-term and I started a science degree which I didn't really have any interested in I didn't stick around for long and then I just went and worked for a while. And then I, you know, it was sort of got to a point in time where I knew I needed a career and sort of had this belief, that if I wanted to have a career as a woman, then I needed to go to university because any job that I got without a degree probably wasn't going to have a significant amount of career progression and economic security was having that in my life was very important to me. So so just kind of had this, well, I have to go to uni, what am I going to do? So I didn't know what I was going to do and you get to put down eight preferences and my eight were very disparate like that. You know, there wasn't a pattern. But long story short is I thought my first preference was a science degree with a major in psychology. So I was quite surprised when I got an offer for a social science degree, with a major in psychology. And it turns out there was one digit difference in the course code number. And I mistyped it which was very unfortunate because actually hated humanities and the social sciences. And so was not particularly thrilled about the situation that I found myself to be in. However, there was one logistical convenience, and that was that the social science degree was based in the CBD. Whereas the science degree was based out in a suburb, nowhere near me. and the psychology major was exactly the same in both. So I kind of thought I'll just, you know, start this and then move over. And anyway, for reasons which kind of work, I didn't revive her, I didn't particularly enjoy the social science part of the degree. Until my second till about halfway through, but then particularly in the third year I really started to engage with it a lot more. And by this point I'd sort of, I hadn't lost interest in psychology like I did as a study. And I certainly don't critique it as a discipline, the way many social science scientists partial to, but I knew that I didn't want to be a psychologist anymore. And looking back, I think that my, my concern with it was the individualist approach, and what I did want to do and what I always had a passion for was working with disadvantaged young people. And so after school, I used to do some, like, you don't have high school and they're doing some tutoring of some young disengaged people. So it, it always been something that interests me. So I always thought, okay, well, I'll go on. Teaching. And like in Australia we call them community schools. And essentially they're a school for young people who are disengaging or disengaged from mainstream schools. And it's a way to kind of keep them connected in an alternative education setting. But I was really committed to wanting to be a good teacher because there was lots of average teachers. I think the, the plan was to do an honors year and then do a master's of teaching and then go and do teaching. And the reason I was doing it honestly was that the time I was working as a youth worker in a drug and alcohol service, and this was while I was finishing my degree. And what I always found really problematic was that all of the research on best practice for working with young people, with drug issues, Was not applicable to the young people I was working with because most of it was undertaken in psych settings because it was the big sort of psychologists, centers that had research centers attached to them. So it just wasn't, their research was wrong, but just the overwhelming majority of evidence was based on young people who are accessing psych services. Usually it was like a 12 week CBT kind of intervention. And I'm sure all the evidence they collected was great and applicable to that group. But I was working with like homeless, young people who had been in and out of child protection were in contact with the justice system who were not doing 12 week appointment based setting. And, but the problem is like services get funded on adopting evidence-based practice. And so we were meant to be like, you know, using this evidence to inform our practice, but it didn't work with our clients and it wouldn't have worked with our clients, but there wasn't evidence for it because, you know, lots of youth work centers you know, just getting by financially. And I certainly don't have a research team. So I was kind of in this place where I was like, oh, well, you know, I could do the research. And so that's part of why I did an honours was enjoying my work, I was, you know, think interested about the research and I thought it would have a value to when I went on to be a high school teacher. And I clearly didn't end up being a high school teacher. So at the end of my honors year I was very firmly encouraged to apply for a PhD. Which wasn't something that I had when I was applying, when this conversation was happening, I didn't have much interest in, and I really enjoyed my work as a youth worker. I wasn't sort of looking for changes quite early in my career and still had a lot to learn. And then I got accepted into the PhD, but also got a scholarship and he can't defer a scholarship. And they'd been sort of a bit of a crisis in my personal life, which meant that the emotional work that I was doing as a youth worker during the PhD was a bit of a break from that. So I could still research this topic that I was interested in, but without the emotional toll of, you know being a caseworker and, you know, then I did the PhD and I enjoyed the PhD and I always still planned on, you know, either doing, teaching or going back to being a youth worker. And the day after I handed in my PhD, I started a job as an academic and I haven't left. So. Did I plan this? No, it's kind of just unfolded.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah, it's interesting. You know, it sounds to me just listening to the story, like there was never a chance you weren't going to be doing something with with disadvantaged young people. You would do that from whatever area you ended up in and the typo means that you're doing, doing it from, from this angle I suppose I'm just really struck by the way you talked about the evidence gap there and how the people, the real people in front of you who you're helping are kind of invisible to the people who are more removed from, from that experience. And yet their experience and perspective is what's informing the policy that's impacting the people you're working with. So was there a moment when that kind of became really conscious for you, that you were sort of stepping into that space?

Kat Daley:

Yeah. So about the time. I was working in the youth subs, the drug and alcohol service, and I think by this point, my role is split between being an outreach worker and working in kind of a research and advocacy of the organization, there was a few things happening politically, so there was a major reform happening to the drug and alcohol sector in Victoria. So the way that services are delivered most services are delivered by. Non-government organizations. So they're outsourced, but the government funds the organizations. So they sort of compete with each other, for the same pot of funding, but there was to be a major reform. And any, one of the things that was sort of talked about in the potential for this reform was whether or not there even needed to be a youth specific drug and alcohol service, like why couldn't young people just go to the same services as adults. So that was one of the questions. And we didn't have an evidence, like there's not a strong literature is very sparse in Australia and even internationally on, on youth work practice. And a lot of it's, you know, like you talked to youth workers and youth practitioners, and it's just kind of common sense that working with young people is different to working with adults and there's different considerations and they need a specialist to stream and that's how it came to be in the first place. But a lot of that's not documented. It's kind of like a taken for granted and the other thing that was really concerning was that there was talk of getting rid of residential withdrawal services, which is like commonly referred to as a detox. And the premise for this was that data showed that lots of people needed to go to detox more than once. And so there was this kind of like a, well, you know, the data says this person's been more than once. Clearly it doesn't work. And that really bothered the sector. It really bothered me because it just gave, it was my first real insight into the disconnect between. The people who make the decisions that impact whether services are funded or not. And the people who need those services, because as a worker, I was like, sometimes I take a client there and their anxiety is so severe. They can't even stay one night, you know? And then the next time I take them, then I can stay one night. And then the next time I take them, they might stay three nights. And maybe by the seventh time, I've taken them. They stayed 12 nights. And as a worker, that's a really significant achievement, not just that they get access to the detox, but it's also showing a significant improvement in the anxiety management and their ability to function in day-to-day life. And so as a worker, it's like, you know, this young person's kicking goals and the department's like, well, the clearly they're a failure. They had to go more than once. You know, so I was like, how could you possibly sort of reconcile this? And then the other issue with that same topic was it also really failed to understand who were the young people that needed residential withdrawal services, like to be kind of, you know, 18 and needing to go to detox. You're not just taking, you know, some pills that a couple of raves a few times a year, like to get to the point when you're still a teenager to actually need to have detox is, is quite a significant problem for you. And the other thing is you also don't have an environment where you can detox safely at home. So young people who are accessing, you know, these detox services, huge proportions of them were homeless and no more than like more than two thirds of them. So not only was it giving them access to withdrawal, but it was giving them access to doctors, you know, cause they're, they're housed and being fed. You know, for two weeks and there's doctors on site and the workers can set them up with, you know, Centerlink or government services to get them an income or reconnect them with him. So it's a really opportune time to do a whole bunch of other wraparound services that you simply couldn't give to somebody who's sleeping rough or couch surfing. And so that I think was my first really strong realization that without evidence, a lot of things are very, very vulnerable and could really shift sort of the landscape of the services that young people have access to very, very quickly. So that was probably what sparked, you know, my drive to go into this space.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah. Yeah. Again, thank you for sharing that. There's a lot in there, I guess in talking about these things we're hearing about economic security and accident and you know, have to get a degree and these kinds of things, but the word that's not coming up is curiosity at any point and you know, not to shoe horn that in here, but I guess part of what makes this interesting. Yeah. You know, we talk on this podcast, different kinds of curiosity, what it means to be curious in different situations, the link between curiosity and learning, following your curiosity all of this stuff. And all of these conversations are usually taking place between people who probably wouldn't have street wisdom as you might as you might put it. One of the themes that comes up though, is the importance of having nurturing relationships and environments to really foster that curiosity. And that's usually coming in those stories from a teacher or a parent or a boss. And so I'm interested in this disconnect and, and maybe some of these conversations that we're having on this podcast are even self-indulgent when that kind of nurturing environment is not available to everyone for reasons of circumstance. So do you, what's your perspective on that?

Kat Daley:

Yeah, so firstly I don't think it's, self-indulgent like, I think that we should work to a space where everybody has access to be able to do that. But obviously I work in a space where that's not, that's not opportunity. And I think that curiosity is a luxury that comes with time and, you know, cause to be curious, you need time to be curious. You need space. Mental space to be able to explore whatever it is that you're curious about. So, you know, artists often talk about that their curiosity gets hampered by the paperwork of running an artistic practice, you know, like authors get so caught up in, you know, book promotions or contracts that they actually don't have space to conceptualize the next book. So, you know, when you talk to creatives about their practice, I think that they could speak really quickly about needing space to be creative. And I think that being curious and being creative, you know, sort of almost synonymous because it's about opening your mind up to what might be, you know, what, what might become in that space that you're, you're creating for it. And I guess it's a bit like the arts degree example I gave then when people sign up to an arts degree, they're signing up to. What they might potentially learn over the next three years or four years that? they study for and what they might major in and minor in. And they might do an exchange, but they're just open to the idea of learning. And that's a privilege that comes with time and economic capacity. And this is where I've sort of think that, you know, that point that I made earlier that working class people tend to do vocational things, but they don't often have that same luxury of time. Like, you know, they actually need to know that they're going to be employed at the end to be able to pay back the university debt perhaps to support siblings or parents. So I think that to be curious is something that comes with time and to get time you need economic security and. People who don't have economic security don't have any time because they generally have to work more because their hourly rate is lower, so they do more hours. And then there they've got pressures, like, you know, stress consumes their head space, you know, like how are they going to pay the bills? Can they afford the kids next school camp? Do they have enough petrol to get to work? Is there enough food to get through to payday? And so all of those things are taking up the mental space, which inhibits the ability to be curious. I guess that's my take on curiosity and disadvantage.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah, that that's great. I mean, you mentioned security as kind of a a concept that brings together that, that idea of space that you need So the security seems really crucial to curiosity and learning because you've got, you know, I've got the sense that there's different kinds of security. There there's the, like the negative sense of being secure from certain things and being safe from, from certain things happening to you, but also that more positive security that's about having freedom and confidence. And the space that you mentioned to pursue interests and, and follow that. So you talked a bit about you know, even just the, the work stress of having to do hours and take care of of family and siblings and you actually written about the impact that the pandemic and insecure work is having on a whole generation of young people. Is there anything you'd like to say about that in this context?

Kat Daley:

I guess the way I would connect the two, the two sort of topics in terms of the curiosity. The time and you know how it's affecting the next generation of young people is this I guess the word that's coming to mind for me is the grind. Like, you know, Yeah. My students are so busy, like they do so many things and it's not like, well, it doesn't seem to me to be fun things. Like as you know, they're not out like with doing arts and crafts with all their time, they don't have any time. Sometimes they didn't even have time to come to class. And that's not because they're making excuses. It's because many, probably most of my students are working almost full-time hours. You know, they're working more than 20 hours a week. Often they're working 30, but they're in really precarious jobs. So they don't actually have much leveraging to be like, actually, can I do less hours? Because I've got uni, well, my uni timetable changes every semester. So my, the days that I'm available is going to change every. Not all of them have employers where they can dictate their terms. And so often they then just skip class because they have to work on Tuesdays. So they'll go a whole semester without attending class. And the simplistic view would be, and it comes back to this idea of situated choice. Well, they choose to do that, but the reality is they don't because if they don't do that job, they can't afford to go to university because university is expensive. You know, there's not, most students aren't eligible for any sort of government support, but most students do have to support themselves to at least some extent, like some live at home some don't but even for those that live at home, usually they, they might be paying some sort of board they're going to pay their own bills. They were buying their own textbooks. They've got to pay public transport. Like, you know, they actually there's living this cost of just being alive. That they have to cover. And you know, so it's not as simple as to be like, well, quit your job because I quit the job they're quitting. uni too, because when you quit your job, the train doesn't become free. Like, so it's complicated. Like my students are busy because they have to be in there. I don't think they realize how busy they are. Like they all work seven days. If they're not at uni, they're at work. Like there's no weekends, there's no days off. There's no downtime. Like for them, there's no space to be curious, but that's normal to them. So I do wonder if they will actually ever get the space to be curious if there, so if it's so sort of ingrained in them to be at the grind 24 7.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah.

Kat Daley:

And, in Australia, like young people are really set up to kind of be entrepreneurs, not like entrepreneurs in the like multimillion dollar, like entrepreneurs, but like, you know, support yourself. Like, you know, the government might frame it as be entrepreneurial, but what that actually means is it support yourself, find a way to not ever need government assistance.

Danu Poyner:

Yeah.

Kat Daley:

and so students will work through the night. Like they often make in hospitality jobs where they work through the night and they come to class tired obviously. And then that impacts their learning or they work weekends when every public holiday, but then when they finish uni, they're so used to that, that I wonder if that will just continue as a pattern, you know, like, is it just sort of part of their life, because if you don't get the space to just stop and be curious while you're an undergraduate, when are you ever going to get it?

Danu Poyner:

Well, that's a difficult thought. We are setting people up to be entrepreneurial and we kind of the glamorized version of that is the hustle and the, the Le less glamorous version is the grind. As I think you'd said, it's a very interesting, well, I wonder what kind of outlook do the students and the young people themselves have on, on their situation? I don't know if it makes sense to generalize, or if you have a perspective on that.

Kat Daley:

I probably wouldn't generalize to them cause it's certainly not conversations I've had with them as an observation from my point of view is I don't think, well, I know that they don't know any differently. Most of my students are still young, like in a youth work degree, we don't get many mature age students and this kind of I guess neoliberal idea of, you know, support yourself and work towards, you know, being able to fund your own retirement and find your own everything, fund your own healthcare and fund your own education, and has been the status quo for their entire lives. So for most of my students, their entire sort of developmental period in Australia, we had one prime minister and he was in power for like 10 years eleven years is so that was just the norm. And, and, and that, you know, it was a conservative government and he sort of actively not sort of, he, he did, he actively sought to disengage young people from being in political. So we've got the effects of that. And now we're, I'm seeing a real turn, like I'm seeing young people be more politically engaged than, you know, in any sort of recent generation, you know, the, Greta Thunberg know, movements and the young people, school strike activists and all of the other sort of, kind of great activism that young people doing. So it's definitely been a turn and it might be because we had one prime minister for 12 years and we've had about 12 prime ministers in the interim since. And so I think that there's an increasing awareness about injustice. I just don't know that they know how much it's targeted at them. You know, that having extraordinary debts, you know, like in the humanities degrees in Australia, as of this year, almost full fee paying the government, doesn't subsidize it. And young people were nowhere near as outraged about that as everybody else was because they don't know any differently, you know? So I think that there's. That's definitely an issue that comes into it. And maybe it's good because given this a little they could do about it. Maybe it's best to not be so aware of aware of it. And obviously being flippant as I say that, but,

Danu Poyner:

well, sometimes knowledge doesn't help. But I guess you know, is it, is there curiosity involved in in going from that situation where you you're in your own grind and you're in your own individual experience, and then as you start to learn about the social forces and the political and economic forces, you know, some of that great activism you're talking about seems to come from something like that. I don't know whether it makes sense to call it curiosity or not. And that's part of what our. What I'm curious about from my place of space to wonder about these things, is, is this just is curiosity just for middle-class people.

Kat Daley:

No lacking, not big. And it'd be lots of examples to counter that, you know, lots of great, great art comes from great pain and great suffering. And as too does lots of great activism, I guess I'm not, I guess I know I said that I've recently been doing some work with a colleague on. one of the lockdowns in Melbourne. There was a immediate, forced hard lockdown of nine public housing towers in Melbourne were given no notice and it was highly policed. And they public housing towers, obviously, you know, everybody in there was living in public housing, so there's economic issues, but they were largely comprised of migrants, you know, that come from parts of the world where there's massive distrust of government and the police and rightfully so. And you know, lots of questions raised as to whether or not this would happen, if that would the government exercise this obscene amount of power or any other group in the community. But what was really interesting and what we become curious about ourselves was that a lot of young people who were locked in these towers through this period of lockdown Where they started to use largely Twitter and other social media to advocate for themselves and for their community. And so, whereas public housing, particularly these public housing sites had traditionally been a space that was socially stigmatized in the community. And that we're trying to reclaim that space, but digitally, because that were locked inside the space, but it was incredibly effective because I mean, the rest of Melbourne was locked down, but not to this extent. So everyone was following this story, but you can actually follow these lives of tweets and tweets and imagery and videos. And and most of it was young people, you know doing this, but it was incredible. Effective and powerful, quite a few of them. Lots of the tweets were ran in the mainstream papers and several of them wrote op-eds in the guardian and there's a real shift. There's a real shift in the public understanding of public housing and public housing tenants. You know, through this, this was driven by firsthand experience of injustice. This wasn't, this didn't come from, you know, time and space to think about things. This was that tipping point of rage that oppressed community. Inevitably reach when it just becomes too much of, being oppressed. And it's those that then it becomes a ground swell. And I guess the me too movement and black lives matter. And now that you know, like, you know, racism, isn't new. So how did the black lives matter movement culminate and sexism isn't new and how did the Me Too and it was this tipping point where enough people just got so sick of the status quo. So I don't think that you know, great activism needs to come from deep curiosity. I think curiosity is part of it, but I think that there's a lot, the great activists do that comes from lived experience.

Danu Poyner:

yeah, it's much more immediate. Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. I guess that sense of duty that you mentioned is really palpable. When listening to the stories you tell in the way that you talk about the issues that you're engaged in from the courtroom story about the haves telling the, have nots, how to live their lives and this kind of disconnect you mentioned between, how decisions are being made and who's making them, and the kind of people who don't show up in that and who are silences are invisible. And you mentioned some of your friends as well. So I'm really feel that sense of responsibility that you take forward in into your work. I wonder if you can tell me two things, I guess one is a personal question. And one is a practice question. So the practice question is, you know, you, you taking this three-pronged approach now that takes in education policy and research, and, you know, you kind of in the space where you can make a difference to these things, you're the largest program in Australia. How, what does that look like? What, what kinds of examples of this work, can you share that that's having an impact that you may be proud of?. And the other personal question is. This stuff's really heavy. It's really intense. How do you fill your cup? How do you process all of this? How do you get through the week?

Kat Daley:

I'll go with the first question first. I don't, I mean, I'm not sort of primed with any examples, but my, my students, former students and I, I haven't been in this role. I've been at the university a long time, but not in the youth work department. Really do great things. And it's interesting now that they. And it come back to me from their professional lives. You know, that they, you know, somebody contacted me last year because they're working in government and they're doing this research project in a related space and having some trouble so just but I mean, it's sort of unrelated towards that content before they'll contemplate professional capacity, but they've moved into professional role with are really making a difference and you know, really cared about what they were doing and how it impacted people. And that's, you know, like these sort of things happen quite a lot, especially the longer you're in the role and the graduates get older and they move up the career food chain and you know, you start to interact with them as colleagues that's I guess the universities are like, they're not in great shape in Australia at the moment. And. There's a lot to be negative about. And a lot of, you know, academics jobs is moving into things that maybe academics don't want to, or shouldn't be doing. But that part of the job is really powerful. Because you can get caught up in sort of the administration of teaching and there's lots of administration that goes with the actual teaching. But then, you know, to have someone come back 10 years into their career and still remember you as their teacher, you know, I can have lots of teachers that you meet and, you know, they'll be like, oh, you know, I did that course. And you know, I didn't like it at the time, but it was really useful. Well, that course really changed where I was going. I, you know, got really interested in this or whatever It is that you actually had an impact on, on their pathway and that they are now on a pathway that he's continuing, that, you know, that sense of. Trying to create a better world, you know? So obviously it's just, you know, a small part, we have a small part in lots of students' lives and, you know, it's a really nice feature of the job, you know, it's very like in a self-indulgent kind of thing, but you know, that you, as an individual made an impact in somebody else's life is incredibly rewarding.

Danu Poyner:

It doesn't sound, self-indulgent we talking about research impact and all of that kind of nonsense that you have to do, but there's no bigger impact than being a good teacher in exactly the way that you wanted to be and having an impact on people's lives. And then the second order impact of what they go on and do. That's amazing.

Kat Daley:

So that part, Yeah. it's that part, you know, it's just, it's just wonderful as an educator, the, the heaviness in my job I, you know, I can ask that a lot and. I mean, there's certainly times where it feels heavy. Like often if I'm in like the middle of a research project, and I'm just doing the data collection, particularly, I find like, you know, if I'm transcribing interviews, we're just focused on like, one part of people's life stories and they've had, very traumatic experiences. It can be quite heavy, but on the whole, I actually am. I feel like it, I don't know if it feels that like sense of purpose that I've always sought. And it's interesting because like, when I was doing my honors and PhD, I remember my mother was like, couldn't even hear, like, I couldn't tell her about like somebody I interviewed a participant I interviewed because she's like, if you're not going to let, she essentially just wanted to adopt every young person that I interview and look after them and yeah. She was kind of like, if you're not going to let me do that, please don't tell me about them. Cause she couldn't sleep at night knowing that, you know, young people experienced what you experiencing this sort of stuff. And I felt quite able to feel like I was doing what I could, that I couldn't, I couldn't change the world, but at least I wasn't ignoring it. And I also felt like my research, the aim of it was never sort of about me becoming a famous researcher in becoming a professor. But it was about getting these stories out for people. That was what drove me. It wasn't about me wanting to become an academic. It was about me feeling like I had a space and an opportunity to be able to kind of do something albeit small. And I kind of felt okay that like I was doing what I could, but that shifted a little bit after I became a mother. Yeah. I find it much harder to sit with um like in a part of my work is know to stay on top of the literature and of that literature know reports from the commission, from children and young people who investigate child deaths and failures in state care. And I find that really, really tough, you know, like to know that this is what's happening and this is what kids live through. And I think the longer that you work in the sector, the more you understand, the lifelong impacts that something in someone's childhood, you know, what that meant in terms of that it might be a barrier to university. It might affect every intimate relationship they ever have. It might prevent them from housing and might give them and drug problem, you know, but the more and more you work with this, the more you see that pattern in the more, I guess, sort of tragic it, it can be. So I guess in some ways it affects me more now, but by the, by I'm still really driven by I'm doing what I can. And in terms of filling my cup and I'm not com I have got a toddler, you know, like I can't, it's not the same as like I can't work 24 7, you know, when I was doing my PhD and stuff, it's very easy to just, you know, work all the time. And it consumes you when you, I can imagine, like, it can be a very dark place if that's all you're doing, but you know, my day stops once childcare's over and. You know, I'm drawn into the, you know, creative, imaginative world of a small person, and that's both refreshing and inspiring. Cause you know, like the opportunities that my daughter has, obviously lots of other children don't have, and that bothers me. Guess it's not a, I'm not sort of drawn into the, the heavy cloud of it for the most part. I really love what I do. And I think it just naturally just having other things in your life prevents you from being consumed by it.

Danu Poyner:

that sounds very fair and nice to have some normal things. Thank you for sharing that. I guess we've been talking for awhile. I have only one more big question, I guess, to ask you, which is if you could gift a life changing, learning experience to someone, what would it be?

Kat Daley:

gosh, that is a big question. I think the, the biggest thing I wish anybody could have in learning anything is just the ability to empathize, like, to truly understand that there's things you don't understand about who people are and what makes their decisions and what drives them. And that sometimes you, you know, you can imagine being in their shoes, but sometimes you can't. And just to acknowledge that you can't understand it and respect that whatever decisions they make or are forced to make. Might not be an indictment on them being mad or bad or sad or whatever. You know, there's just, people are fundamentally good, not everybody obviously, but and if you kind of go about your life in, you know, the hope and trust that most people are good and maybe sometimes it's harder to see that, but it might just be? that you coming home from different paths. I think it opens you up as a learner, but also just as a human in terms of your interactions with others and then learning from them.

Danu Poyner:

For sure. Hey, thanks for that. Kat is this something you're working on at the moment that you'd like to give a shout out to? And then how can people get in touch with you if they would like to.

Kat Daley:

I'm doing some work at the moment. I'm doing a few different projects that'll come out in due course. That will all be Google-able. If people are interested in that, I've got nothing that to drive, you know, and if people want to contact me, I will come up in a Google search very easily and my email will be there and they're welcome to contact me.

Danu Poyner:

There you go, I'll make it slightly easier and put some contact details in the show notes so that people don't have to Google, but yeah, that's great. All right. Well, thank you so much for your time today, Kevin, and sharing your experiences and insights. It's something a little different for us from what we've had on the podcast before. I think it's very thought provoking and, and just really grateful for your, for your time. And so thank you so much. And I'll let you get on with your

Kat Daley:

Thank you. It's great to chat.