I heard the debate around South Sudanese young people, crime and gangs on the news and didn’t really tune in, thinking it was old news, and a fairly obvious political tactic, writes Troy Pittaway at Eureka Street.
It was when I realised that fear was winning the hearts and minds of otherwise rational people, that I knew this was an issue that shouldn’t be ignored
I have been working and living with and studying Sudanese youth for over eight years and in this time, I have never encountered anything like the gangs of youths that are being talked about. What I have seen is Sudanese young people be successful in academics and become lawyers and doctors; be hard workers and become tradies; be talented athletes and become professional basketballers, footy and soccer players. I have seen some young people have trouble with the law and need advocacy with the police and in the courts.
African youth crime and Sudanese youth acculturation in general is a tricky area to venture into due to the complexities around the issue. Unlike some of my good friends who advocate for Sudanese young people, I don’t believe the issue should be merged with generalised young people and crime, or deny the reality that there is a correlation between Sudanese young people and their disproportionate participation in crime.
One young Sudanese man once told me of a time he was at school in a refugee camp when it was raided by militia. His best friend was standing next to him near the toilets and as he went to speak to him, his friend was shot in the head. This young person had to keep living with the trauma of this experience. This doesn’t go away just because you are given a chance to live in a country like Australia.
What is needed is resources to fund groups that work with cultures that have been forcibly displaced — groups that advocate for not only Sudanese youth, but all young people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds — because it is these front-line organisations that have the expertise and experience to make a real impact on the lives of these young people.
African gangs myth shows fear is winning (Eureka Street)
Troy Pittaway with basketball team consisting of young Sudanese men