Families, not Aus, are to blame for African gang violence
We live in a society that, while not perfect, shines as a model of democracy and enjoys a living standard of which most nations can only dream.
Governments spend billions of dollars on programs to help those less able to help themselves and the social security net is spread wide.
Why, then, are 13 young people facing murder charges in Brisbane following the death of Girum Mekonnen, a 19-year-old man born in Ethiopia, who allegedly died from a wound to his stomach?
He was part of a group allegedly ambushed in a park in Brisbane's northside by a group armed with knives, machetes and baseball bats. All of those said to have been involved were of African descent.
Beny Bol, President of the Queensland African Communities Council, has said the Australian "system" was to blame, claiming that the youths of African descent who get into trouble tend to have been born in Australia.
"It is a failure within the Australian system - whether that's family or community or the government service industries, it's a failure within this country," Mr Bol said.
It's easy to blame the government, the same government that provides significant support to sub-Saharan families settling in this country.
If someone goes armed in public with the intention of inflicting harm, then it is difficult to see how it is the government's fault. If a perpetrator of violence is found to be an immigrant from Italy or the United Kingdom, is the government blamed for their actions? I doubt it. Governments provide a framework of assistance for people who want to settle in this country and the queue to do so is a long one.
The expectation is that when they settle here, they play by our rules and respect our laws and institutions. When immigrants fall foul of the law, they can't blame the society which they opted to join and which provides them with a lifestyle and level of security that far exceed those that they left behind.
Nor is it reasonable to blame the community. Australia is a land of immigrants, 26 million of us drawn from every corner of the globe and we all, to a very large degree, get along with each other and are quick to lend a hand to those in need so I don't accept that it's our fault when things go wrong.
How is it our fault if people chose to ignore the rule of our clearly stated laws?
The residents of Melbourne have experienced what happens when these laws are flouted. Gangs of African descent have terrorised whole suburbs with the Victorian police force, after repeatedly denying that there was a problem with gangs, eventually being forced to confront reality.
"There is an issue with over-representation by African youth in serious and violent offending as well as public disorder issues," Acting Commissioner Patton conceded with crime statistics showing an over-representation of Sudanese-born and Kenyan-born offenders in some crime categories when compared to their proportion of the Victorian population.
Anecdotal evidence suggests police have been reticent to act in some instances due to a fear of being accused of racism.
It would be naive in the extreme to maintain that there are no such gangs in Brisbane. They might be groups comprised of loosely connected individuals with the same cultural heritage who live in the same geographic area but they are gangs nevertheless and driven by the mob mentality that can cause things to turn ugly very quickly.
If the government or the community at large cannot be held to account for mob violence where, then, can the blame be laid?
Mr Bol is right in saying that there has been a failure and it lies with families. There are some things that are understood to form the bedrock of civilised nations. Violence, murder, rape and theft are not tolerated and you don't have to be particularly bright to grasp these basic concepts.
You can't claim cultural differences or assimilation issues when it comes to law and order. The rules are there for everyone and if one group is seen to be treated more leniently than another, for any reason, then the seeds of dissent and division will have been sown.
It is up to the families of immigrant youths or those who have children who were born in this country to drive home to them that they now live in a country of law-abiding citizens and that those who would act contrary to the common good will pay a very heavy price.
Pretending there isn't a problem hasn't worked in Victoria and it won't work here. Our ancestors, distant or near, all settled here in the hope of building a better life.
There is no place for those who would treat what we have created with contempt.
Originally published as Families, not Australia, are to blame for African gang violence