Introduction: The last few decades have seen a meteoric rise in concern with which media and masses perceive the ethnic youth groups and gang in Australia. The criminal activity chosen here is the gang rape of a 5 year old boy by a group of young men all aged under 15 at a remote beach in Australia. This essay is going to talk about the ways in which the media has reported this crime and it will provide a statistical and sociological context and critique for the nature of youth gang related crimes in Australia and the way justice system handles them.
Summary: An article from The Daily Mail Australia, July 2017, states how this sex crime happened in an aboriginal community in far north Queensland, Napranum on July 1. The alleged assault was reported to be so horrific that the little boy had to be airlifted to the Cairns hospital. The four accused boys have been taken into custody and banished by the community completely as this gruesome crime has reopened the wounds of past where in 2006 a ten year old girl had been brutally gang raped by men between the age 13 and 25. Back then the community of Aurukun had come into the centre of world wide outrage due to atrocities of youth gang crimes.
This youth related crime that is often associated with indigenous communities highlights a much greater problem one that is related to extreme physical, sexual, mental abuse of youngsters in various impoverished communities at the hand of the community members and the justice system. The justice system and media have also been quick to categorise and polarise all such offences sometimes without context. Gangs perpetuate instances of brotherhood, sense of community, appetite for violence and assertion of masculinity through crimes that exceed the need for nay good in the community through the very nature of their crimes.
Primary statistics: According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, during 2016 to 2017 there were 54,064 youth offenders recorded by police. It can be seen that youth offenders (aged 10–17 years) accounted for 13% of the total offender population. people aged 10–17 years represent 11% of the total Australian Population aged 10 years and over as of 2016.
The ABS also stated that While the national offender rate was higher for youth than for the general population, it was not the same case in every state and territory. In South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, people in the age category of 10–17 years were somehow less likely to be offenders of crime than the general population.
Statistics of 2016-2017 in Australia, show that the number of male youth offenders is almost two and a half times more than female youth offenders (38,191 and 15,788 respectively). The total offender population comprises of three times more male than female offenders (314,997 and 97,913 respectively).
The statistics show the gendered nature of sex related youth gang crimes. It is extremely alarming to think of the factors that lead children as young as 10 years old into a world of crime that they little to no knowledge about simply due to the circumstantial situation.
The Sociology behind it all: The media is often quick in jumping to conclusions about the perpetrators of crime when it comes to crimes happening in indigenous communities. But quite rightly so, the amount of increasing crimes by indigenous societies signal towards standard functionalist theories that explain the deviance and initiation of crimes by indigenous youth gangs as need to feel like they belong somewhere socially. The sense of fraternity a youth gang provides can be surprisingly affirming for a youngster coming from extremely depraved conditions. The extreme failure in getting incorporated by other social institutions leads to the affinity for criminal activity as member of gang (Spergel 1995).
The police and the media fail to understand this, as they end up judging the crime on an individual level. This needs a complete systematic overhaul of perceptions and introduction of preventive action in order to bring about any improvement. The youth, especially the one sin poverty stricken indigenous groups are not just marginalised they also feel social isolated and detached from society. Dysfunctional families with rampant rates of physical and emotional abuse unemployment and degrading health provide disadvantaged backgrounds which does not give them the dexterity to differentiate between what is morally good and what is bad. The power that is lost in their everyday life can only be reclaimed with violent gang behaviour and racial groups express their lost sense of control or assert their masculinity through such acts of perversion that harm the community (Luyt et al 2001).
Extreme social polarisation and stigmas associated with indigenous groups also play a big role in subconsciously influencing youth gangs. These youngsters already lack the guidance and sense of stability, but being treated equally by the system of law leads to deviance amplification. Labelist theory explains this really well where in individual male youth groups view themselves as victims of an unjust system that never took their disadvantaged position into consideration and the complete ack of empathy throws them into the pits of lawlessness. This further leads to more deviation and further social isolation (Adams 1996).
Conclusion: The lawlessness of youth gangs in indigenous communities’ points towards the need for a complete system overhaul that not just comprises of preventive measure but also more stringent laws accompanied with a awareness around sensitivity when reporting the crimes around the indigenous communities without any stigma. It is the beginning a very complicated, long and comprehensive process towards understanding the nature of crime and its reason in Australia.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2017, Recorded Crime-Offenders, 2016-2017, ABS. Canberra
Adams, M.S., 1996. Labeling and differential association: Towards a general social learning theory of crime and deviance. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 20(2), pp.147-164.
Baird, B., 2009. Morality and patriarchal white sovereignty: Three stories of gang rape in Australia. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 11(3), pp.372-391.
Parsons, L. (2020). Five-year-old boy “brutally gang raped by four children under 13.” [online] Mail Online. Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8530171/Five-year-old-boy-brutally-gang-raped-remote-Australian-beach-four-children-13.html [Accessed 20 Jul. 2020].
Spergel, I.A., 1995. The youth gang problem: A community approach. Oxford University Press.
Luyt, R. and Foster, D., 2001. Hegemonic masculine conceptualisation in gang culture. South African Journal of Psychology, 31(3), pp.1-11.
Cunningham, T., Ivory, B. and Chenhall, R., 2013. Youth gangs in a remote Indigenous community: Importance of cultural authority and family support. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, (457), p.1.
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