The public perception of young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds is often associated with crime or offending behaviour. Unbalanced media stories sometimes reinforce these stereotypes.
This paper aims to gain a more accurate picture of migrant and refugee youth offending, by comparing media portrayals with available police, census and Youth Justice (Department of Human Services) data. To set the context, it briefly explores risk and protective factors, with specific regard to the migrant and refugee experience. It also examines the negative impact that misinformed public perception can have upon the lives of young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds.
While the picture is still incomplete, as the data collected is currently inconsistent, CMY believes that the available data points to migrant and refugee young people being under-represented in the Victoria Police and Youth Justice systems. However, there are particular ethnic groups who appear to be over-represented in relation to their population in Victoria.
There is an urgent need for increased and more accurate data which is essential to develop effective and culturally relevant programs for migrant and refugee youth; decrease the number of migrant and refugee youth entering the Youth Justice system; and to challenge inaccurate stereotypes. This is particularly important in regards to specific groups who seem to be over-represented in crime statistics.
In addition, it is evident that a better response is needed to not only challenges the negative media portrayal of many migrant and refugee young people but also allows these youth to better represent themselves in the media.