Celebrating Youth Week – Spotlight on Barnardos Youth Worker Taylor Gleeson

Barnardos youth worker Taylor Gleeson shares insights about the challenges and issues facing the young people in our community.

I joined Barnardos in April 2021 and currently I am working in the Targeted Early Intervention and Streetwork Programs in the Sydney Youth Services (SYS) team. I grew up in the St George area, coming from a single parent family. Growing up, I struggled with mental health for a long time as well as having other life experiences that shaped who I am today.

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do as a child. When I was 13-15 years old, I spent a lot of time at Belmore Youth Resource Centre for school holiday programs. I met a great youth worker named Jo. I ended up in youth work because I saw the impact she had on young people and that’s what I wanted to do for others who were like me.

When I returned to the Belmore Youth Resource Centre to do a work placement, the team were so supportive. A year later an opportunity was flagged at Barnardos so I applied and here I am!

The most rewarding part of my work is seeing young people overcome challenges and being on that journey with them, and having them trust you enough to come to you for anything.

One of the hardest aspects of my work is seeing young people go through tough times or trauma and the emotional toll it takes on them. The stereotype young people have in society is quite negative so it’s about advocating for them and explaining why young people act the way they do instead of making assumptions.

I think that the main issues facing young people today are mental health, unemployment rates, alcohol and other drugs and discrimination. One thing I wish adults better understood about young people is how important it is to listen and communicate with young people, not just talk at them. Just acknowledging their experiences/emotions and coming from a place of empathy will really help break down barriers.

I feel pretty lucky to work at Barnardos. We put the young person at the very centre of what we do and this connects with my core beliefs. We advocate for our young people and give them the opportunity to use their voice. By listening to young people, we can then address their needs and concerns. It’s very empowering to be able to help younger people go through hard times knowing that I was their age not too long ago. I get to reflect on where I was at their age, and it can be very grounding.

Young people are resilient and our future, so let’s look out for them, they’re going through a lot too so let’s not judge. 😊