The below letter was submitted to the Herald-Sun on July 18, 2018 with regard to recent comments made by the Prime Minister about young African people in Victoria.

Dear Editor,

Comments by the Prime Minister regarding young African people in Victoria this week have been inflammatory, misleading and unhelpful.

Rita Panahi’s article responding to comments by South Sudanese community leader Ring Mayar (‘Denial will not solve the problem of gang crime,’ 18/7) further fans the flames of fear.

Jesuit Social Services understands there is community concern about criminal activity generally, however, we believe firmly that the issue of crime – and of race – is being unjustly exaggerated by our political leaders to the detriment of all Australians.

Overall, youth offending in Victoria has decreased over the past eight years however there is a small group of young people committing offences with frequency.

It is also true that the vast majority of youth offending is by people born in Australia. Statistics show that young people from migrant backgrounds comprise a small percentage of young people involved with Victoria’s youth justice system, however it is this small number of young people that dominates media coverage serving to create fear among the community.

The best way to reduce anti-social behaviour is to develop relationships with young people and strengthen social cohesion.

This means working with communities and community leaders to implement purposeful activities as well as education, training and employment programs, which promote safety and help young people address the underlying drivers behind challenging behaviour.

This approach applies to every young person displaying anti-social behaviour, not just those from migrant backgrounds.

Our political leaders and media are failing in their responsibilities to the nation by further stigmatizing cultural groups and feeding community fear – ignoring the evidence about what creates safer communities.

Yours sincerely,

Julie Edwards
CEO, Jesuit Social Services