Minority youth, crime, conflict and belonging in Australia

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Journal Article
Journal of International Migration and Integration, 2009, 10 (4), pp. 377 - 391
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In recent decades, the size and diversity of the minority population of contemporary western societies has increased significantly. To the critics of immigration, minority youth have been increasingly linked to crime, criminal gangs, anti-social behaviour, and riots. In this article, we draw on fieldwork conducted in Sydney, Australias largest and most ethnically diverse city, to probe aspects of the criminality, anti-social behaviour, national identity, and belonging of ethnic minority youth in Australia. We conclude that the evidence on minority youth criminality is weak and that the panic about immigrant youth crime and immigrant youth gangs is disproportionate to the reality, drawing on and in turn creating racist stereotypes, particularly with youth of `Middle Eastern appearance. A review of the events leading up to the Sydney Cronulla Beach riots of December 2005 suggests that the underlying cause of the riots were many years of international, national, and local anti-Arab, anti-Muslim media discourse, and political opportunism, embedded in changing but persistent racist attitudes and practises. Our argument is that such inter-ethnic conflict between minority and majority youth in Sydney is the exception, not the rule. Finally, we draw on a hitherto unpublished survey of youth in Sydney to explore issues of national identity and belonging among young people of diverse ethnic and religious background. We conclude that minority youth in Sydney do not live `parallel lives but contradictory, inter-connected cosmopolitan lives. They are connected to family and local place, have inter-ethnic friendships but are often disconnected to the nation and the flag.
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