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About Diversity 2001

National Conference on Reconciliation,
and Human Rights
Difficult Dialogues, Sensible Solutions

University of Technology, Sydney
University Hall
Harris Street, Sydney
Friday 1 - Saturday 2 December 2000


10.30am Saturday 2 December 2000

Kebabs, Kids, Cops & Crime: Youth Ethnicity & Crime

by Jock Collins, Greg Noble, Scott Poynting, Paul Tabar

  Australia prides itself on the diversity of its population yet the myth of multicultural harmony quickly collapses under pressure. Crime and violence are a common source of moral panic which shatters this myth.

In Sydney ­ one of the world's most multicultural cities ­ the media's coverage of 'ethnic crime' brings this into sharp focus.

Kebabs, Kids, Cops and Crime looks at the aftermath of two events which occurred in Sydney's south-western suburbs in 1998 ­ the murder of a 14 year old schoolboy, Edward Lee, in Punchbowl and two weeks later, the drive-by shoot-up of the Lakemba police station.

The NSW Premier and the NSW Police Commissioner blamed "Lebanese gangs" for both crimes and media coverage emphasised the "Middle-Eastern appearance" of the alleged perpetrators.

A high-profile "zero tolerance" crackdown by police in the Bankstown area was then directed against young people of Arabic-speaking background in public spaces. Suddenly Australian citizens were stripped of their nationality in the rhetoric of our leaders.

Jock Collins, Greg Noble, Scott Poynting and Paul Tabar assess the complexities of ethnicity, racialisation, youth and crime. They present evidence on crime and ethnicity to interrogate the issue of "ethnic youth gangs" in Sydney.

Examining interviews with police, parents, community workers, community leaders and Lebanese-background youths, as well as reviewing national and international research, here is a critical analysis of the media, political and police responses to these two instances of violence on the streets ­ drawing on economics, sociology, anthropology and cultural studies.

Kebabs, Kids, Cops and Crime reveals that understanding socio-economic factors is critical to developing more effective policy responses to youth crime. Popular assumptions about ethnic criminality are more part of the problem than the solution.

Jock Collins is an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Greg Noble is a Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of Western Sydney.

Scott Poynting is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology of Education at UWS.

Paul Tabar is a sociologist and a Research Associate at UTS and UWS.



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