CEO Message: ‘There is an issue to address but don’t demonise a whole community for the actions of a few'

January 8, 2018

The current media reporting and political commentary on the issues of youth crime in Victoria is deeply concerning to me as the CEO of the Centre for Multicultural Youth. We work with young people of African background on a daily basis. Many young people we work with experience the consequences of the demonising a whole community for the actions of a few.

Numerous comments have been made by a range of politicians in the hope of scoring political points. It is a sad reflection of the state of politics in Australia. There has been a tendency to define the issue in black and white terms. Simple answers won't provide genuine solutions to complex problems.

Young people yearn for political leaders who can provide a vision and hope for the future. They don’t want politicians to reduce complex issues to ill informed statements.

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This is not an African problem but a youth justice problem. CMY holds the belief that any young person who has broken the law or committed a crime, should be dealt with by the youth justice system – rather than having their citizenship status questioned or removed.

It is time to address this serious issue in a bi-partisan and rational manner. The Federal Government must demonstrate a greater commitment to our migrant and refugee young people, and invest in prevention and social support programs – beyond the initial settlement period – as identified in the recent Parliamentary Inquiry into Migrant Settlement Outcomes.

We commend the African community leaders who are tackling this issue head-on, and looking at what more we, as a society, can do. They need to be supported and not derided.

CMY believes the following approach is needed - where the small group of young people who are offending are rehabilitated and their siblings and others in the community are engaged with mentors, education and employment opportunities.

Research clearly demonstrates that developing a long-term strategy is the only way forward. It must involve the young people, families and communities in determining solutions.

We urge Victoria Police and the State Government to continue an evidence-based approach to tackling the issue of youth crime.

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