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MAY 2010







1.1 Project aims

1.2 Key findings from the survey

1.3 Key findings from focus groups with Sudanese and Pacific Islander young people

1.4 ‘Listen and learn’: a consultative model for youth-police community safety partnerships

1.5 Future strategic directions


2.1 Don’t Go There project overview

2.2 Project deliverables

2.3 Significance and rationale

2.4 Background to the research

2.5 Focus on the Brimbank area

2.5.1 The demographic and cultural context

2.5.2 Crime and perceptions of community safety in Brimbank


3.1 Whole of government approach to crime prevention

3.2 Government policy and community safety

3.3 At-risk and vulnerable youth

3.4 The context for violence

3.4.1 Violence and public places

3.4.2 Youth ‘gangs’ and ‘groups’

3.4.3 Violence in schools

3.4.4 Violence and alcohol

3.5 Community policing

3.6 Ethnicity, youth and police relations

3.7 Youth and police liaison projects in Australia


4.1 Survey design

4.1.1 Procedure

4.2 Focus group design

4.2.1 Procedure


5.1 Participant demographics

5.1.1 Age and gender

5.1.2 Culture and language

5.1.3 Socio-economic background

5.2 Community safety

5.2.1 Definitions of safety

5.2.2 Perceptions of safety in the neighbourhood

5.2.3 Safety perception and gender

5.3 Young people in groups in public places

5.3.1 Perceptions of gangs in Brimbank

5.3.2 Encounters with gangs

5.3.3 Differences between groups and gangs

5.3.4 From ‘groups’ to ‘gangs’

5.3.5 Perceived reasons for young people joining gangs

5.4 Young people and violent crime

5.4.1 Worry about violence in public places

i 5.4.2 Victims of crime in public

5.4.3 Perceptions of the reasons young people commit violent crime

5.4.4 Understanding conflict

5.4.5 Weapons

5.5 Reducing conflict

5.5.1 Staying safe

5.5.2 Strategies that could help reduce conflict

5.5.3 Helping young people with conflict

5.6 Young people and police

5.6.1 Calling the police

5.6.2 Help from police to feel safe

5.6.3 Improving police relations with young people

5.7 Improving community safety

5.8 Summary of the survey findings


6.1 Background information on the Sudanese community

6.2 Background information on the Pacific Island community

6.3 Sudanese and Pacific Islander young people’s perspectives on gathering in groups in public places.... 124 6.3.1 Recreational time in groups

6.4 Community safety for young Sudanese and Pacific Islanders

6.4.1 ‘There’s just this projection about Africans’: community safety issues for young Sudanese................ 126 6.4.2 ‘They might just turn around and chop ya’: feeling unsafe for young Pacific Islanders

6.4.3 Where do these young people feel unsafe?

6.4.4 When do these young people feel less safe?

6.5 Gangs

6.5.1 ‘Gangs’ versus ‘groups’

6.5.2 Are gangs perceived as a problem in Brimbank?

6.5.3 Neither groups nor gangs?

6.6 What makes conflict worse?

6.6.1 Responding to racism, threats and insults

6.6.2 ‘Just those ones that are different from the rest’: why young people become victims of violent crime 138

6.7 Perceptions of and relationship with the police

6.7.1 Young Sudanese: ‘They don’t start off nice, they just give you attitude’

6.7.2 Young Pacific Islanders: ‘They come and ask me for my name when I haven’t done anything’.......... 140 6.7.3 Who ya gonna call? Why young people do and don’t ring the police

6.7.4 Improving relationships between Sudanese and Pacific Islander young people and police................. 142

6.8 Making the community a safer place

6.8.1 Community capacity-building suggestions

6.8.2 Policing and security suggestions

6.9 Summary and discussion of the focus group findings


7.1 Evaluation of survey design

7.2 Evaluation of the focus group design

7.3 Other benefits and outcomes of the method


8.1 Young people’s perceptions of safety in Brimbank

8.2 Hanging out in groups

8.3 Gangs in Brimbank

8.4 Understanding conflict

8.5 Weapons carriage and violent crime

8.6 Reducing conflict

8.7 Young people’s relationships with the police

8.8 Gender-specific issues for young women around community safety

8.9 Improving community safety


9.1 Relevant survey findings

9.2 Relevant Sudanese and Pacific Islander focus group findings

9.3 Relevant general community focus group findings

9.4 Key research themes informing the consultation model

9.5 The Listen and Learn youth consultation model


10.1 Media citations


11.1 Ethical principles

11.2 Survey and focus group questions

11.2.1 Survey questions

11.2.2 Focus group questions

11.2.3 Pilot focus group: evaluation of question efficacy

11.3 West Midlands Police Authority Youth Consultation Model

11.4 Additional Tables




From the very beginning the Don’t Go There research project has been a collaborative undertaking between Victoria Police and Victoria University. The researchers would like to acknowledge in particular the many people and organisations who have contributed their time, expertise, insight and resources to the development and success of the research.

From Victoria Police, we want especially to acknowledge and thank Inspector Scott Mahony, who headed the Brimbank Police Service Area in Melbourne’s inner West throughout most of this project and who has been the key collaborative partner for the study throughout the research process. Don’t Go There originated with Scott’s commitment and enthusiasm for understanding more about the experience of young people in the Brimbank region, especially in the context of the locality’s rich multicultural character and the challenges faced by many of its new and recent arrivals, as well as young people from more established local communities. Throughout the project, Scott has brought his generous capacity for knowledge, support, a willingness both to teach and to learn, and a desire to improve the region’s capacity to promote community safety and healthy relationships for both young people and the police to bear on all aspects of this study. We are grateful in every respect for the integrity and dedication he has shown throughout the entirety of the project.

Our very warm thanks also to Inspector Steve Soden (Youth Affairs Office), Ms Leanne Sargent (Manager, Policy and Research) and Senior Sergeant Tim Hardiman (Youth Affairs Office) for their continuous involvement, support and engagement as Don’t Go There was designed, implemented and its analysis and findings developed. Like Scott Mahony, their insight, knowledge and capacity to engage in robust discussion and energetic consideration of key elements within the research design and outcomes was crucial to the project’s wellbeing and success.

We also wish to thank Leading Senior Constable Gerard ‘Dicko’ Dickinson and Senior Constable Jo Byrne, both of Sunshine Police, for their generous assistance and support. As Youth Resource Officers, they gave unstintingly of their local knowledge and perspectives and helped strengthen the study in many ways, not least through their willingness to share what they knew with us and to help us connect with the region and its young people. Their presence on the Don’t Go There Advisory Reference group with a range of other community members represented an important contribution to the overall design and conduct of the study.

A project like this can only be successful if it has broad support from the local community in which it is intervening.

Our deep gratitude goes to members of our community-based Project Reference Group: Katie Fraser, Footscray Community Legal Centre; Louise Oliff, formerly of CMY (Centre for Multicultural Youth) and now with Refugee Council of Australia; Poly Kiyaga, AMES (Australian Multicultural Education Services) Footscray; Margaret Choul, Sudanese Women of the West; Marlise Harris, Brimbank City Council; Dayane Stanovic, WYPIN (Western Young Person’s Independent Network); Gerard Dickinson, Jodie Ying and Jo Byrne, Victoria Police; Temukisa Vaeluaga, Youth Justice Northern and Western Units, Department of Human Services, and Matthew Albert, founder and coordinator of SAIL (Sudanese-Australian Integrated Learning Program), all of whom attended meetings, contributed their feedback and expertise in relation to research design and interim findings, and provided endless community networking resources, ideas and suggestions to help the project meet its goals in a meaningful and lasting way for the benefit of all.

We are very grateful to participating secondary schools in Brimbank who provided access to students and technical support for running the on-line survey. Beyond schools, the Edmund Rice Centre in St Albans and the Visy Cares Hub in Sunshine also played a major role in helping us secure the recruitment and participation of young people from many different backgrounds in Brimbank who had important contributions to make to this project, and we thank staff iv in these organisations for the time, help and care they took in assisting us to make strong connections with young people in the region on the issues canvassed in the research.

We were fortunate to have had an incredibly able and supportive team of research assistants and project managers who have made it possible to bring to fruition a large and complex study such as this. First, our gratitude to our multilingual community-based research facilitators – Lia Paa’paa and Matt Rua from the Pacific Islander community, and Margaret Choul and John Konybai from the Sudanese community. Without their dedication, commitment and belief in the project and its aims, we would not have been able to achieve the outcomes that we have. We learned a great deal from Lia, Matt, Margaret and John and we are grateful to them for sharing their time, knowledge and understanding with us, and for being flexible and adaptable as the project and its needs took shape. We are especially grateful for the rich and robust relationships with young people from the Sudanese and Pacific Islander communities that were fostered by the presence and hard work of all our community-based research facilitators.

Amelia Johns and Carolina Aguirre are two of the most talented research assistants we could have hoped to work with. For their patience, support, understanding, good humour, unflappable demeanour, expert skills in literature reviewing, data and document management, high-level talent for academic, organisational and community liaison, and general capacity to troubleshoot at exactly the right time and in exactly the right direction while meeting a flurry of demands, duties and deadlines: our endless thanks, warmth and respect.

We thank Carlin Lee, Carolina Aguirre, Victoria Totikidis and Felicity Wright for their assistance with aspects of the survey data and analysis, and Helen (Lenka) Schirmer for her early contributions to the literature review and the scoping of the project. Warm thanks to Emma Curtin of Inkontext for her facility in assisting us to pull the draft research report together under challenging circumstances, and to Amanda Rea, Niky Poposki and Renata Sponton for ensuring the formatting integrity of the final document.

We are grateful to students, staff and leaders within both the Higher Education and TAFE divisions at Victoria University who contributed both direct funding and significant in-kind support to Don’t Go There for their belief in and support of a project designed to make a real and lasting difference for young people, the police and other stakeholders in the Western region of Melbourne. We also wish to thank Steve Rando, Michael Wszelaki and Matt Ward at VU’s Design Studio, who helped us produce an innovative, dynamic and engaging interactive on-line survey instrument, and the two VU Performance Studies students, Michelle Owen and Luke Fraser, who did such a fantastic job of reading the survey questions onto audio for the voice option within the survey design.

To our families and colleagues – you know who you are and we know what you had to put up with – so thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Our final thanks go to the 558 young people in the Brimbank region who participated in this study through either the survey or the focus groups. Their energy, interest, honesty and desire to contribute to genuine positive change within their local environment and everyday lives has reinforced our belief in the value of soliciting broad input and perspectives at all levels of the community. The perceptions, opinions, beliefs and ideas that young people in Brimbank have shared with us throughout the course of Don’t Go There are the heart and soul of this study.

We hope we have done justice to the voices, views and values of both young people and members of Victoria Police heard throughout the course of our research around community safety, policing and the building blocks for a safe and healthy future.

Michele Grossman and Jenny Sharples Faculty of Arts, Education and Human Development, Victoria University May 2010 v


Figure 1: The percentage of offenders and victims in Brimbank in the 15-19 year age group compared to the 20-40 year age group and total Brimbank population.

Figure 2: Survey Characters

Figure 3: Survey Question

Figure 4: The percentage of male and female survey participants within each age group

Figure 5: Percentage breakdown of participants by Brimbank suburb

Figure 6: How safe or unsafe young people feel in areas of the neighbourhood during the day1

Figure 7: Type of transport taken and perception of safety on public transport

Figure 8: Gathering in public places and cultural background

Figure 9: Main reasons for wanting to hang out in groups in public places and cultural background

Figure 10: Percentage of participants who think there are gangs in their local area and their cultural backgrounds...78 Figure 11: Reports of encounters with gangs and participants’ cultural background

Figure 12: Perception of presence of gangs and report of encounters with gangs

Figure 13: Perceptions of why young people join gangs

Figure 14: Do you worry about getting attacked or beaten up when you're out in public?

Figure 15: Perceptions of the reasons that young people commit violent crime

Figure 16: Respondents’ suggestions for reducing conflict between young people

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