Father Chris Riley on Melbourne’s Sudanese Youth

Turnbull and Dutton are only adding to the issue not trying to fix it.

When our Prime Minister says “We are very concerned at the growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria, in particular in Melbourne,” we all know what he is referring to. He is talking about the violent acts committed by a certain group of young people in the suburbs of Melbourne.

Mr Turnbull only seeks to shift blame and does nothing to try and solve the issue.

I refuse to use the word “gang” to describe what is happening in the Melbourne Sudanese community. When I see or read about these issues, I don’t think of violent gangs, I think of troubled young people who are struggling to thrive due to a lack of care and support systems.

What message are you, Malcolm Turnbull, sending our youth? Sending our community? You say we need to “tackle this gang problem” but the only thing you offer is to label Sudanese young people as a gang, further isolating them from the community. I recall you saying to me early last year that you did not have much money to give us, and now you claim this is state level issue – another instance of you dodging important social issues.

Minister Dutton’s comment claiming that the people of Melbourne are scared to go out to restaurants at night time is another unwarranted scare tactic that does nothing but harm the already vulnerable Sudanese community.

I refuse to let our politicians play politics with the issue of youth crime. I see blame being shifted and words being spread but no affirmative action.  It is not appropriate to bring down harsher penalties on these young people, when the proper course of action is to help these people who are clearly in need.

Youth Off The Streets is currently in the community consultation process to assess the need for our services.  We are talking with community leaders and councils in areas that need our help because we only move into an area when we are needed. We’ve taken this action because I’m sick of seeing the blame game being played by our politicians. Youth Off The Streets hasn’t been offered funding, but we’re doing this community consultation out of our own pocket. We believe in the work we do and we believe that with the right support and services, the young people of Melbourne can turn their lives around and unlock their full potential.

-Father Chris Riley, CEO and Founder at Youth Off The Streets

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