Government Youth Policy in Australia, 1788-2000

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This book examines both the history and intent of youth policy in Australia. It investigates government intervention with youth from colonization through to the post-Federation era, challenging claims that youth policy is of relatively recent origin. A key concern of the book is with the logic of intervention. It utilizes an historical policy analysis to argue that governments in Australia typically seek to manage young people on behalf of the state. The book reveals that youth policy in Australia is not, as popularly imagined, invariably called into existence on behalf of youth. It shows instead that youth policy is often designed for the purpose of making use of youth. The book also maintains that generational interests have influenced the direction of youth policy in Australia. In examining various interventions over the years, it argues that youth policy is often mounted on a perception of youth as both a potential resource of the state that should be harnessed in its service and a problem population that needs to be contained, controlled and disciplined.


“It is now over sixteen years since the esteemed British educationalist, Harold Silver, alerted us to the fact that history and policy analysis rarely come together. The situation, as he saw it at the time, was that policy analysts normally disregard history, while historians tangle with policy issues only in a limited sense, and with serious reservations ... This work by Dr. Pyvis on the history of youth policy in Australia is refreshing, along with being novel in approach and a very scholarly contribution to historical policy analysis ... What is inspirational about this book is that there has been a willingness to tackle the longer time span. This is a work which examines youth policy and associated rationales in Australia from colonization to what the author calls the ‘discovery’ of the youth client population in the 1980s. Thus, the contemporary policy maker (as opposed to the ‘analyser of policy’) is provided with a framework within which the current situation can be contextualised. In serving this function it also constitutes a tool for reflection ...” – (from the Preface) Professor Tom O’Donoghue, The University of Western Australia

“ ... This book offers a fascinating and provocative alternative history of youth policy in Australia, its examination commencing with colonization in 1788. A great strength of the book, and an unusual achievement, is that it combines history with policy analysis. It therefore offers to contemporary policy-makers a new and valuable framework for interpreting current situations. This book will be read with profit by historians, actors on the political stage, policy analysts and those with an interest in youth and generational issues.” – Dr. Wayne McGowan, The University of Western Australia

“ ... One of the great achievements of this book is that it takes interventions, which have previously been regarded as unrelated, and fits them into a coherent and long-standing pattern, consequentially allowing them to be seen in a new and critical light. The argument is engrossing and lucid, and the studies of interventions are well-organized and well presented ... There is also much here for educators on an international level, because some very important questions are posted about the purposes of government intervention in schooling ...” – Dr. Cindy Cheung, Hong Kong Baptist University

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
Preface by Tom O'Donoghue
1. Youth Policy in Australia: A Brief History
2. A Review of the Relevant Literature
3. Youth-Specific Policies in Colonial Australia 1788-1850
4. From Paragon to Larrikin: Youth Policies 1850-1901
5. Bound to Serve the State: National Military Education for Male Youth
6. The Management of Australian Youth: Policy from the Depression to World War II
7. Marching to Victory with Child Endowment: Commonwealth Plans for Youth During WWII
8. Defence, Discipline and Deviancy 1945-1959: National Service for the ‘Bodgies’
9. Conscription and Control: Policy Agendas of 1964-1972
10. Unemployed and Therefore Ill-Equipped for Work? Commonwealth Policies on Youth Employment in the 1970s and 1980s
11. Conclusion: An Enduring Logic to Australian Youth Policy?

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