Robyn Broadbent, a Professor of Youth Work at Victoria University in Melbourne’s west, has hit out at the Herald Sun for its misrepresentation of young African people in the Wyndham area using language set to inflame the issue.
The Herald Sun campaign, Professor Broadbent said, "is akin to building a moral panic about the activities of these young people and is making the situation far worse."
"Talk of gangs of young people roaming our streets grabs community attention far quicker than identifying a group of bored, disenfranchised young people for which the broader community has taken very little responsibility," she said.
"Discussion about poor educational outcomes, family violence, mental health issues, unemployment, and little connection to their future clearly does not sell newspapers the same way."
Federal Government's plan inadequate
Professor Broadbent strongly criticised the Federal Government’s suggestion to intervene with tough law-and-order measures.
"Australia is one of only a few Western countries without a national Youth Policy, a Minister for Youth Affairs, or even a department of Youth Affairs. The Prime Minister’s offer of law and order interventions masks a motive that sees young people as a political football and a chance to steal a free kick," she said.
Community support needed
Dr Broadbent called instead for sustained community intervention that included giving a voice to the young people themselves.
She cited long-term sustainable programs such as crime diversion, post-detention release support, education and housing programs, and most importantly, improved employment prospects as some of the many credible and evidence-based solutions to the issue.
"All of these programs are currently absent from this debate and certainly absent for these young people. The broader community must stop allowing itself to seek answers through victim-blaming and instead seek long-term sustainable solutions to the problems we have contributed to.
"Without a long-term focus and attempts to close the wealth divide, we are separating our communities and locking many young people into a very bleak future."