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New research on gang culture in remote communities

Media release

01 July 2013

The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) today released Youth gangs in a remote Indigenous community: Importance of cultural authority and family support which containsnew research on gang culture in the Aboriginal community of Wadeye in the Northern Territory.

Over the past decade, Wadeye has attracted some negative media because of community violence, often portrayed as the result of gang activity.

Researchers from the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin conducted a mixed-method survey of 133 young people from the Wadeye community, including those that were incarcerated.

The research formed a picture of the gang concept, highlighting its complex structure, with various cultural origins both indigenous and external to country. It also examined perceived protective factors for gang involvement such as cultural affiliation and family support.

The authors state that: “The Wadeye study provides further perspective to the generally held perceptions of gang-type activity, such as illegal drug use and violent behaviour, because it examines what support gangs may provide in terms of social networks for young people as they grapple with progression to adulthood in a turbulent multicultural environment.”

“We found differences between the values of the older established gangs who based their structure on traditional culture and values, and those of the emergent gangs which more focused on western attitudes and values. Older gangs also saw their membership as part of a ‘tribe’ rather than a ‘gang’.”

Research into these areas help identify possible protective factors, such as cultural affiliation and family support, and may in the longer term enable some individuals to lead relatively positive lives.

Research was made possible through the Criminology Research Grants program.

The paper can be found at series/tandi/441-460/tandi457.html  

For comment: Colin Campbell 0418 159 525