In recent times, there has been a lot of talk about migrant communities and their over-representation in crimes being committed in Victoria.
This has created a backlash against some of our communities from diverse backgrounds living in Victoria, such as the Sudanese and Somalian communities. Sources such as the media have been shaping people’s opinion on crimes, often driven by emotion rather than facts, and pointing to certain communities rather than addressing the larger issue as a whole.
As a result, the general Australian public is forming bias involuntarily, with it almost becoming automatic to our senses that the moment we hear the word crime, we correlate that to a whole community based on ethnicity rather than to those individuals guilty of committing these unwanted offences.
So, what do the statistics say?
- The overall crime rate in Victoria fell to 6.2% in the last year, the biggest drop in 12 years
- Among the crimes committed in 2017, people born in Sudan only make up 6% of recorded offences, compared with 71.5% born in Australia and 5.2% born in New Zealand
- For some offences, proportionally numbers for these groups do indicate a higher offending rate
- Statistics show a Victorian is 25 times more likely to be seriously assaulted by someone born in Australia or New Zealand than someone of African descent
- 2015 report on racial bias by Victoria Police found young people born outside Australia are routinely stopped by police due to racial profiling
Why do these stats matter?
These statistics (taken from Victoria’s Crims Statistic Agency) illustrate that migrant community over-representation in media is exaggerated and misleading. However, calls for harsher punishments and even deportation have materialised a negative narrative that seeks to blame and neglect youth from diverse backgrounds within our community based on their ethnicity, rather than support and guide those committing crimes toward positive pathways to adulthood. Rather than turning to these reactive “solutions” post-offence, it is far more sustainable for the wellbeing of everyone in our Victorian community to highlight preventative solutions that will facilitate meaningful change.
The situation occurring in Victoria today is as an opportunity to recognise the disadvantage and hardship of certain groups within our community and acknowledge that we need a long-term solution of understanding, acceptance and support.
As Ahmed Hassan, Director of Youth Activating Youth perfectly sums up “We seemingly don’t have an African gang problem – what we do have is young people who are disadvantaged, who are disengaged, a young cohort who are coming together that are causing this mischievous activity”.
Therefore, for young groups, community or educational engagement is vital. Conversely, for the wider community, education and awareness are crucial to combat misunderstanding and unfair bias against certain groups within our community. Discussions about any group should always include an open dialogue about the countries and circumstances that many of our migrant groups have faced and the hardships that exist post-settlement, such as PTSD and isolation.
Let’s change the conversation. No cultural background condones crime and it is misleading tying a whole demographic with the words crime or gang.
Such efforts toward engagement and awareness will assist us in identifying circumstances that may affect certain youth in Victoria. As a community, let’s move past the emotive reactions of frustration, misunderstanding and resentment and start to dig deeper together to create proactive and sustainable change.
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