Adolescent socialisation processes: behaviour patterns, attitudes and beliefs amongst young urban Aboriginals

Criminology Research Council grant ; (3/94-5)

As part of The Sibling Study - a major Australian longitudinal research project on personal, familial, school and community factors involved in delinquency - data were collected for a sub-sample of 119 urban Aboriginal youth.

Preliminary analysis provides confirmatory data on comparative disadvantage, on the extent of extended family networks and relatively high levels of self-report offending in certain predicted categories. More importantly, the data suggest that there are strong family and peer support structures, that there is evidence for an "oppositional culture" operating and that elements of restorative justice are of significance to young urban Aboriginal people. Specific findings suggest that Aboriginal youth are present rather than future oriented but are realistic in their views. They value parental and peer beliefs, are concerned with how others view them and yet have a strong sense of self. These beliefs are counterbalanced by a lack of trust in others, a sizeable minority believing that the law is unfair, and an unwillingness to seek help. This young urban Aboriginal cohort felt that punishment was necessary but that it was important to find out why an act was committed and that restitution should form part of the punishment. Self-reported delinquency of the respondents show that more than between 30 and 50 per cent report status offences (like driving unlicensed or skipping school); around 40 per cent report being involved in drug-related behaviours (using marijuana or purchasing alcohol); over one-third have been involved in a violent offence (such as a group fight); and over one-third concede stealing or property offences. These preliminary descriptive findings indicate that policy options within a restorative justice framework are most appropriate for young Aboriginal Australians.