Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (09:59:07) — This week I met with a number of leaders from the South Sudanese community in Victoria. They shared with me some really intelligent insights, love and respect for this state, mature engagement with the issues that their community faces and, most importantly, solutions.
It has been a most distressing period for Melbourne’s Sudanese community. In circumstances where Victoria is getting safer, truly safer, and where our crime rate has fallen, with the largest drop in 12 years and unequivocally so as reported by the Crime Statistics Agency, this irresponsible, hyper-politicised and inflammatory reporting has caused a perception of African gang violence that simply does not reflect the factual reality. The police have confirmed this and Deakin University research confirms this. A very small percentage of individuals in this community are criminals, just as a small percentage of every community in the world engages in criminal activity. But the kind of racialised rhetoric that surrounds this issue is causing immense harm, as the President mentioned earlier, to a community that are all being labelled in response to the actions of a relative few, and sadly the brunt is being borne by warm, friendly, peaceful and productive members of the Victorian community.
Of the many insights I gained, my favourite was #africangangs, a social media response. Positive images filed under the hashtag #africangangs have become a powerful campaign for members of the Sudanese community, who are effectively taking back the term that has been levelled at them. Dozens of photos shared using the hashtag show young Sudanese-Australians graduating from university, working as doctors, serving in the army and enjoying AFL matches. As an example, one I read was accompanied —
(Fiona ran out of time on the floor but the rest of her speech is listed below)
As an example, one I read was accompanied by the message “Thanks mum for instilling #AfricanGangs values in me”… “Been at my current employer for seven years, run my own business and in the final stages of a double degree.”
The hashtag campaign aims to dispel myth and fear…
And I congratulate the South Sudanese Community Association of Victoria on this campaign, and their work more broadly.