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Developing successful diversionary schemes for youth from remote Aboriginal communities.

Senior, Kate
June 4, 2015

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.


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