Date of Submission



Since early nineteenth century much homeless literature has conceptualised groups of homeless people as a homeless ‘subculture’ with distinct characteristics and norms. Theories of youth homelessness suggest that young people who participate in the subculture are at a high risk of experiencing chronic homelessness into their adulthood yet, until recently very little has been known about the youth homeless culture, particularly in the Australian context. In order to widen our understanding of the homelessness experienced by young people we must first understand the context in which they conduct their lives. This thesis is the result of an ethnographic study that examines the extent to which a youth homeless subculture exists, then, what its key features are. Findings from this study foremost revealed that in the broadest sense of the term, participants represented a subcultural unit with behaviours, rules and cultural practices counter to dominant values. In addition to this subculture was a number of smaller ‘subgroups’ that were found existing, but not independently alongside it. Association with particular subgroups was dependable on a number of factors, including: geography, substance use, shared interests and tastes in music, and fashion. This research found that subcultural participation empowered participants and reinforced distinct collective and individual identities. The process that underpinned interactions across subculture groups further shaped social identities, relationships and norms. Consequently, this negotiation process both practically and symbolically benefited the young people involved.


School of Arts and Sciences

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


167 pages

Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (MPhil)


Faculty of Arts and Sciences