Transcription 50: Working with young people who offend: in conversation with Jioji Ravulo
In conversation with Jioji Ravulo
Working with young people who offend and their families can be challenging. Jioji Ravulo talks in this podcast about his research and practice with marginalised youth and their families. He highlights a model that emphasises strengths, inclusion, community and collaboration.
Jioji Ravulo joined the University of Western Sydney after 12 years of professional practice. Working predominately with marginalised communities across South West Sydney, Jioji has been involved in projects funded to work with New South Wales Department of Juvenile Justice and New South Wales Police. He is enthusiastic about developing and implementing community-based service models that effectively engage and provide support for young people and their families, while promoting pro-social behaviour through intensive case management and counselling support.
In 2009, he completed his professional Doctorate in Cultural Research, examining the development of anti social behaviour in Pacific youth. Jioji has also been involved in providing cultural awareness training for the National Rugby League (NRL), developing capacity and awareness on diversity for both players and staff across the organisation.
In 2012, Pasifika Achievement To Higher Education (PATHE) was created, a new initiative to raise and sustain aspirations towards further education and training within Pacific communities. Additionally, Jioji is involved in developing International Field Education opportunities across the Pacific Islands by working collaboratively as a Visiting Academic to the University of the South Pacific (School of Social Sciences) and respective community service projects, agencies and organisations.
Jioji is also from a performing arts background. His acting work includes guest roles in "Pizza" (TV - SBS), as a cast member of "Swift and Shift Couriers" (TV - SBS), "Housos vs Authority" (Movie) and "Housos" (TV - SBS). For videos and more see references below…
Recommended citation – APA6th
Fronek, P. (Host). (2013, April 20). Working with young people who offend: In conversation with Jioji Ravulo [Episode 50]. Podsocs. Podcast retrieved Month Day, Year, from http://www.podsocs.com/podcast/working-with-young-people-who-offend/.
Jioji Ravulo’s homepage http://www.uws.edu.au/staff_profiles/uws_profiles/doctor_jioji_ravulo
Pasifika Achievement To Higher Education (PATHE) https://www.facebook.com/pasifikaachievement
A stolen generation of our young in detention http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/a-stolen-generation-of-our-young-in-detention-20100821-139p9.html
High imprisonment rates spark concern http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2011/s3124589.htm
NRL Pacific Island Players Cultural and Leadership Awareness Conference (video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEQ7ewrQejQ&feature=youtu.be
Pacifika Program aims to keep kids out of jail http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2009/s2619537.htm
Reform urgently needed http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/reform-urgently-needed-experts-say-20100821-139us.html
Young offenders and marginalisation: Characteristics and issues (video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFagumLmctI
Transcription Podsocs 50: Working with young people who offend: In conversation with Jioji Ravulo
Thank you to Lynn Healy for this transcription
[Musical Into to 00.10]
Hello, and welcome to Podsocs, the podcast for social workers on the run. Brought to you by a bunch of social workers from Griffith University in Australia.
I’m Tricia Fronek, one of that bunch, and we’re just basically really glad you found us. So, happy listening.
Today on Podsocs, we have Jioji Ravulo, who’s going to be talking to us about young people who offend.
Trish: Hello Jioji, how are you?
Jioji: Hi I’m good thanks Patricia, how are you?
Trish: Welcome to Podsocs we are thrilled to have you here.
Jioji: Thank you so much for inviting me to be involved.
Trish: Now Jioji, how did you get into this sort of work? And research?
Jioji: Hmm. I finished my social work degree, back in the early 2000’s and was greatly, I think, inspired by the need to work in a region of Sydney called south west Sydney. Ahh south west Sydney is well known to be an area where there is certain social and welfare need and I went and I ahh applied for various jobs and got a job with an organisation called Mission Australia and this particular job contracted to juvenile justice, and this particular model was employers and means of being able to help young offenders reintegrate back into the community after they spent time in custody. So it was a post release model, and it was a model that worked with people aged from, so in state of NSW you can be arrested from the age of 10 so working with 10 years old to 17 years old and their families, and helping them to get back into the swing of community life after being inside so when working in this initial role I came to again getting a better understanding of the true needs that exist across the community but more so also the need when it comes to looking at working effectively with young offenders, this then moved and motivated me to continuing on my education, where I did a master in education, looking at the importance of how do we engage diversity in in learning and promoting learning environments that promote that sense of engagement which then lead to do my doctorate where I looked at the development of antisocial behaviour in young offenders.
Trish: So Jioji what’s, what’s different about your model?
Joiji: I believe the model that needs to be implemented or various aspects of the model that is effective when working with young offenders, is a collaborative one. One that is really acknowledging various aspects of the anti-oppressive approach, where acknowledging strengths that individual but family systems have in being part of the solution and under that anti oppressive framework we really of course look at the importance of creating that you know and seeing people for their narratives, and also acknowledging that there is a solution focussed approach underpinning those narratives, which of course is offset by peoples strengths, and I think sometimes it’s very easy, especially when working with marginalised people in general to diminish their strengths because their presenting as people that you know are down and out, who are disengaged, who are not necessarily contributing positively to society so we generally go so what can you offer to the solution. But again, from the anti-oppressive approach, it really is empowering clients to realize that they do have strengths, that the do have experiences, they have resilience, that can be utilized as part of the solution.
Trish: Because if we don’t recognise it, it’s going to be very difficult. So what sort of kids do you work with? Or who are they? Who are these kids?
Jioji: So, one of the key things that I believe doesn’t necessarily get understood a lot of the time is that young people may have some form of offending behaviour from the research that we did come from backgrounds with significant social and welfare concerns and needs. And again, it’s very, very easy to diminish those particular factors that actually lead to the antisocial behaviour in the first place, so what I’m saying is that it’s not an excuse to look at those factors that contribute to the needs but more so a rationale, and hopefully a reason as to why these offending behaviours have occurred in the first place rather than going your just offending because you’re a no hoper or a looser or you’re just a bad person.
So, one of the key things that really needs to be highlighted when working with young offenders again is those social and welfare needs, and that includes things like significant issues with alcohol and other drugs, and this might be based on their own individual use which might also role onto usage with other peers. It could also include a lack of engagement and retention in education, whether they’ve actually felt like they’ve been a part of their learning environment, again which promotes retention in learning, but it also looks at you know some of those social needs, might also be to do with their family factors, so there might be long term unemployment within the family, or or a lack of resources within the family that they have based on their accommodation or the location in which they reside.
Now I know that commonly people at times will acknowledge that lot of disadvantage people have these sorts of attributes and have these sorts of characteristics but my enthusiasm is to go one step further, is to say that we now need to create systemic responses so the education system, the legal system, the health system not needs to respond more appropriately to those particular needs rather than saying that you’re a young offender, you’ve done something wrong, now you need to be locked up. Which is so much of a punitive approach, and under that punitive perspective we then lose that holistic perspective and yet again, trying to understand that true needs that led that young person being incarcerated or developing antisocial behaviours in the first place.
Trish: So, it’s moving away from the focus on the individual to those structural issues or include them as well. You know, it was only last week here in Queensland, BIALA a specialist drug and alcohol service, their staffing and their funding were cut, so on one hand we hear about drug and alcohol issues are rising in our community and on the other hand at the moment we seem to be cutting those services and I’m assuming access for these kids or their families would be quite limited to services that can assist with these other issues.
Jioji: I agree, because a lot of the services, look they are funded to undertake a particular core business, for example, if your funded from health you look at particular areas of health, and the needs associated with health, if your funded for accommodation purposes then you’ll generally provide some form of bedding, but if your issue is and still remains that as various funding bodies develop access to those funds, they don’t then place importance in working holistically with the individual, the family and the community, and as a result we then find that services again are not meeting the true needs of the individual, instead they are just meeting the needs that are presenting. So, for example, accommodation service might provide or a youth refuge might provide a bed for the night and maybe a warm bed and hot meal as well, but that doesn’t necessarily solve the issues that lead to why the young person became homeless in the first place. So, then we lack vision to actually unpack some of those secondary and multiple needs and issues that again perpetuate the cycle of disadvantage. So, I believe that again funders and systems need to be more innovative but even more meaningful in their understanding in how to engage.
Trish: And that’s also the collaboration your talking about, isn’t it? That agencies need to collaborate and not just be restricted by their own criteria.
Jioji: Completely agree, I think one of the key things that the model that we implemented when working with young offenders really highlighted was that working collaboratively. So, it is about knowing That you have of course this individual that comes from a family system, and it’s not just you as one service or one stakeholder doing everything, it’s about working together to promote the best outcome. So, for example, when working with a young offender you would of course assess the need and then if they needed some form of support, with their help, you would refer them to you know a youth health service, you work together with the health service, and overcome those health needs. If they then have some form of issues with their education, then you might look at an alternative education provider or some form of service that might provide that support so then you work collaboratively with the education service provider. If they then had issues or concerns with their finances, you would then go and work collaboratively with Centrelink and try to get them on some form of benefit and if they have some problem accessing training or developing their skills then you might work with a recruitment service or employment agency, so again this approach is not a new approach per say, but it is highlighting the importance working collaboratively with other stakeholders.
Trish: Jioji you talked about how important it is about not to view these kids by their behaviours and having a holistic view, I wonder how easy it is to actually extend those understandings to other systems like the legal system, where the behaviour is viewed and judged.
Jioji: I think as social workers, one of our other biggest challenges is not just in providing models of services that we all creating good models of practice, I think it’s also about creating good research that informs good policy and also good legislative frameworks that underpin these particular practices so I think that that’s actually one of the key areas as to why I went into doing a doctorate, it was actually to become an academic it was actually to create research on the needs associated with young people not getting their needs met through the legal system, and that the legal system was actually creating further areas of marginalisation, as a result of the young person in their family as being involved in the legal system and as a result of having good research and you know especially empirical data that promotes the ability to understand these particular issues, it can move to good social policy and good recommendations for shifts in how understanding legislative frameworks in which we implement and create certain perspectives, because it’s through that particular approach of social workers that we can challenge and change the dominant rhetoric that continues to also be to be discussed and continued to be upheld when it comes to understanding young offenders again, the dominant rhetoric is that we have to be hard and we have to be tough on antisocial behaviours but the thing is again there are issues and there are concerns that are not being catered for that stops us again from really trying to deal with the true matters in the community and the concerns that led to the anti-social behaviour in the first place.
Trish: So, it’s really shifting from the negative or the sole focus on those negative aspects, to the strengths based focus you were talking about.
Jioji: I couldn’t say it better, yes I agree, I think by us focusing on the strengths based approach we again highlight the importance of empowering, mediating and advocating for our clients to be aware of again the solutions and how they can be a part of that solution. And it’s not being positive for the sake of being delusional, its being positive around again the ability to see that people can contribute to again their understanding of the change that can occur as a result of some those behaviours that may not be so helpful for themselves and for others, but also then creating more of a community sort of response, knowing that the community also plays a big part on how we can create those processes of change.
Trish: And the community is often left out with that individual focus isn’t it?
Jioji: I, I agree, when we generally place just the individual focus on saying that it’s your fault, you need to do something about it, we fail to think from a systems perspective, in knowing that individuals of course make up a community, which makes up a society, so failure to then understand how society impacts on the community and how the community impacts on the individual, is suppose, is being very ignorant, it is very, very important we are aware of, again those role on effects within the systems perspective.
Trish: And I know it’s difficult to generalize, but how easy is it for these kids to find their own strengths, because in many ways they are survivors and they are resilient, it might just not generate the behaviours that society wants, but it’s actually helped them survive, so I’m wondering do they identify their strengths easily?
Jioji: Your correct in saying that more and more research is showing that people who may come from a disadvantage background. In the past we used to think they didn’t have resilience, that we needed to promote resilience as a means of being able to realize that they can survive and cope, but more and more research and I make reference to this in my own research suggesting opposites, that a lot of people that may struggle, you know in society actually has or have more resilience than mainstream society in the sense of a lot of young people who are in these situations have had to overcome so many more challenges which then leads to that resilience, ah like for example, some of the mainstream young people may experience acquiesces because you know mum took my mobile phone away, and now I can’t access Facebook vs mum is sitting in the corner with a needle stuck in her arm and I no longer have access to food and possibly accommodation because now we can’t afford to survive, and by virtue alone those young people are developing resilience because they are still surviving, through those particular circumstances. So in answer to your question we definitely acknowledge the resilience in those young offenders that we can actually utilize as a strength and its then helping young people to realize that they are being able to overcome various challenges, that then start to realise that they do have strengths, that their ability to go and access support or go and come and be involved with activities is a sign of their strength, their ability to maybe look after their siblings or be able to create a particular meal plan for the family, because they’ve had to develop those skills in looking after other people, that again is a strength that can be utilized and again it is offset and used as an example in developing other strengths
Trish: Can you give us a case example?
Jioji: Mmm… um I remember working with a young person who was residing in public housing, who his whole family had issues with substances, especially the mother who he was residing with, and he was quite motivated to try and make a change. His own circumstances promoted the need for him to see that he could do something different in his life, as opposed to doing what his family sort of did so that was a strength in itself, that he could see that he could create more of a positive life experience or create a positive pathway through life. So that helped him to work with us creating goals around education, of looking at areas of training, which then offset his motivation to look at what he might like to do vocationally, which led to further areas of being able to look at employment options. This then led to motivations to decrease his usage of substances. He was of course using substances previously, but again through he’s ability to able to again focus on the positives, and some of those goals that helped him to deter excessive usage and were able to get him connected to all these different types of resources, including his own eftpos card. I always remember this because as a 17 year old we take for granted those sorts of things, having access to Medicare cards or even eftpos cards and I remember sitting with him, he received a letter and it was his first eftpos card, and he started to cry. He was moved by the whole idea, that he now had access to an eftpos card, let alone he was now was someone because he felt he was included. So really this case study further, highlights and illustrates the importance of working holistically, on understanding the various life things we need to promote and as a means of understanding those particular needs and the model that we have implemented continues to look at the importance of those various life domains. We generally map goals or looks and outcomes, based on 13 life domains, ranging from things like accommodation and employment, education and recreation, health including physical and sexual through to mental, we look at areas of ethnic culture, we look at personal and social skills, and we look at areas of daily living. By looking at these various areas of people’s lives, we are able to the unlock various options and possible solutions that again create more positive pathways away from offending behaviour.
Trish: And it is that social inclusion isn’t it, not that exclusion, that marginalisation that you were talking about the way society does tend to handle these issues
Jioji: Mmm, very very much so, I think when we come from more of a punitive perspective, we are limiting peoples understanding of what they can achieve. You know being more negative in, in I suppose, even labelling peoples’ understanding in what they can achieve. Cause a lot of the time young people who are offending will have negative contact with people like police, and even the court system, even juvenile justice officers, even educators. And it’s very easy over that early period of time, especially that early stage of adolescent development, for young people to start internalising those lengths.. so and so says I’m a loser, so and so says tells me I’m not going to make it, so and so tells me that there’s no point in trying cause I’m not going to get there and so what generally what will happen because lot of young people will start to create that as part of their self-talk, which becomes quite negative which of course, leads onto a roll on effect when it comes to then trying to disengage from society. So it’s very easy at times for young people who may be offenders to socially exclude themselves based on them already feeling socially excluded, so the model again that we employ really does promote and highlight key areas of social inclusivity, really again trying to connect people to are feeling again apart of their community so they can contribute to society
Trish: Because after a while that’s all you hear, isn’t it? All the negatives, actually even if there are positives that come your way, you stop hearing them.
Jioji: Completely agree, and it comes from, coming from a counselling perspective, it becomes a maladaptive cognition, where people start to self-relate those cognitions as being reality and they actually start to think that that’s who they are which then of course diminishes their strengths and areas of resilience. So again, utilizing an anti-oppressive approach in our model really highlights the ability for people to create narrative in their case management and counselling work within the service but it also promotes that solution focus approach and trying to look at the solutions that creates the change in the individual and in the family.
Trish: Jioji it occurs to me that relationships would be very important in this work and often this work would be long-term and I just wonder in terms of funding and outcomes, how easy it is to convince funders I suppose of the benefit of these longer-term outcomes.
Jioji: Your right in saying that some funding bodies can find it difficult to understand the importance of working holistically, as I mentioned before it’s very easy for government departments to work in silos where they believe they fund initiatives related to that particular specific area of need for example in health we just generally find health initiative, in education we just see education initiatives and even community services will just work on developing community. That’s where the issue I believe also starts where a lot of the departments are not working collaboratively, in trying to look at solutions, that will require a more of whole of government, whole of communities approach and my research really, really emphasizes the importance again of working collaboratively not just as community stakeholders but with community agencies that needed to develop more of a community and whole of government understanding of those particular needs that exist with their client group but again how they can also work collaboratively on funding strategies and models of service delivery then again actually meet the need of the clients.
Trish: Jioji what do social workers need to know most do you think when working in this area?
Jioji: I think social workers I think the great thing about the social work profession, we are very eclectic in our approach, in the sense that we can draw from so many disciplines in trying to understand society and what that means for us as practitioners, especially when we are working with vulnerable groups in the community. I think that it’s very, very important that we as social workers are committed to areas of justice, and equality but I believe this can be achieve by thinking and acting holistically. I think it’s very easy and I see this being a social work academic myself, it’s very easy to develop programs and education strategies that really help the up and coming social workers to understand the importance of becoming a social worker and practicing in the community but sometimes that can get lost when people go into certain roles in various agencies across the community because as social workers we might lose out fervor by thinking again just on the presenting needs that our agencies want us to think about. I think as social workers it’s important to continue to think holistically and critically about what we are doing in our roles within the agencies we are employed by, I’m not trying to say we should look for the equation of evolution in our solutions in our agencies but I think as social workers we are committed again to notions of justice and equality and sometimes we do find ourselves upholding areas of oppression that systems may create, so it is important that we remember that we remind ourselves of the underlying core values that led to us becoming social workers in the first place.
Trish: Jioji are we contributing enough to policy because talking to you there’s a very strong practice/theory/research nexis in this issue and you know one can’t really operate without the other in many ways.
Jioji: I think we are doing a good job generally as a profession in trying to develop some of those particular areas of need but I do think we still need to develop particular perspectives from more of a community based understanding, but I think as social workers we continue to highlight the importance of good practice which might also include areas of critical practice, but I think there may be an ongoing challenge as practitioners to also look at the importance of developing community based initiatives that may also complement certain strategies employed by non-government agencies. I think a lot of us as professional social workers can be found in other government departments and I think we also need to continue to also look at the importance of creating good policy and practice through research directly from the community itself.
Trish: We are out of time Jioji any final words,
Jioji: I think social workers as a great profession, as I mentioned before and I think it is important that again we understand how we work collaboratively from an anti-oppressive point of view and how we continue to contribute to social work as a profession, committed to those areas of equity and justice.
Trish: And Jioji we’d love to have you back to talk about cultural issues at some point.
Jioji: Sounds great.
Trish: Thank you for being on Podsocs.
[Music outro 28.01 to END]
Interview ENDS: 28.38