Source: (2012) Criminaology Research Grants.

This report explores the experiences and aspirations of youth in Wadeye, a remote Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory which has become synonymous with the deviant behaviours of its young people. The research was undertaken over a three year period, and builds upon a previous ten year period of community based research. As such it forms a unique longitudinal study of young people during a period of extreme change in their lives. The research applied a mixed methods approach, utilising ethnography, interviews and the application of a community wide survey. Although young community based people were the primary focus of the study, the research also included the wider community perspectives, service providers and a sample of imprisoned community members. The proliferation of gangs in the Wadeye community has become a primary focus for outsiders’ interpretation of social issues in the community. These gangs have been defined by their violent and oppositional cultures. This period of research and the research which preceded it, emphasise the complexity of gang cultures and gang dynamics in this community. The report also emphasises that a primary focus on gangs serves to obscure other factors influencing young people’s lives and behaviours. This includes those youth who do not engage in deviant behaviour, who attend school and progress to employment. It also includes youth who engage in non-gang related violent and anti-social behaviour. The report argues that effective service delivery and the development of appropriate diversion activities for young people must recognise the diversity and complexity of the youth experience in the community and recognise and develop their current strengths. Feedback from elders, young people and long-term community workers, advocates that more partnership approaches to further research and program evaluation must become an integral part of the process. Involving young people themselves as part of this research process will provide opportunities to create new roles for them and to establish a positive foundation for the future of the community. (excerpt)


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