Giving young people in vulnerable ethno-cultural groups more opportunities to have their voices heard is essential to creating and maintaining social cohesion, a new study shows.
Monash University Professor of Sociology Zlatko Skrbis and Professor Fethi Mansouri from Deakin University’s Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation gathered information from a study involving more than 500 participants from African, Pacific Islander and Arabic-speaking communities in Melbourne and Brisbane.
Professor Skrbis, who is also Pro Vice-Chancellor Research & Research Training at Monash, said young people from such communities felt particularly marginalised when they were labelled as “migrants”, “refugees” or “CALD” (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) youth.
“Such labels often impede them from publicly voicing their experiences for mainstream audiences,” Professor Skrbis said.
“It is essential that we increase the number, variety and quality of opportunities for young people, allowing them to express their views and be heard by the general population.”
Multicultural programs and events, youth forums and festivals showcasing successes and achievements were all beneficial, but it was particularly crucial that young migrant people were encouraged and supported to participate more in mainstream media.
“This remains an area of trenchant discontent and critique for this study’s participants, as well as a common theme found in other similar studies. Governments should focus on creating and promoting media opportunities for young people. Training programs for migrant youth and especially emerging youth leaders should include improving skills in media engagement so they are able to function as creative contributors to media outputs and not merely as passive recipients of media attention,” Professor Skrbis said.
The communities in the study were chosen as some of the most vulnerable and marginalised ethno-cultural groups in Australia. The study looked at how they used formal and informal social networks, finding that although they often had strong connections within their own communities, factors such as racism, lack of trust and the sheer busyness of their lives worked against those networks extending into the wider community.
“Government and service providers are urged to deliver more programs that encourage trust building and community engagement,” Professor Skrbis said. “These, and a sense of belonging, are the cornerstones of social cohesion.”
The research was supported by an Australia Research Council Linkage grant, the Centre for Multicultural Youth and Australian Red Cross.
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