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Mentoring as a tool against African youth crime

Monday, 08 October 2018

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Peer mentoring programs may prevent crime and violence among African youth, according to the early findings of new research.

Edith Cowan University (ECU) researcher Dr Kwadwo Adusei from the School of Arts and Humanities assessed the impact of a pilot youth mentoring program, Stop the Violence, aimed at creating awareness about crime prevention among African youth in Western Australia.

“In the past three years there has been extensive media reporting on African gang violence, particularly in Melbourne, which is creating a sense of panic within the African community. The Organisation of African Community in Perth wanted to do something pre-emptively to prevent what is happening in Melbourne occurring here,” Dr Adusei said.

The first phase of the project was to train 18 young Africans about how to champion non-violence in their own communities in Perth.

“Mentors learned about what constitutes a crime in Australia and how to organise large-scale culturally relevant events for the African community with the aim of advocating for non-violent ways to resolve conflict,” Dr Adusei said.

The next phase will see young African mentors going into WA senior schools in areas such as Girrawheen, Balga, Mirrabooka and Ballajura.

“Students will have the opportunity to talk to mentors about positive ways to resolve conflict, and also about what matters to them in their lives, including how they’re doing at school and whether they need support with their education,” Dr Adusei said.

“And a new African community centre is also opening in Malaga as part of the project. African kids will be able to drop in at any time of the day and find someone to talk to, or perhaps seek help with their maths or English homework.”

Understanding what constitutes a crime

Dr Adusei said mentors participated in a six-month training course at ECU, which included input from WA Police to expand their knowledge of what constitutes a crime in an Australian setting.

“Many of the mentors were unaware of the specifics of the criminal laws in Australia and that what might be culturally normal in Africa actually constitutes a crime in Australia,” Dr Adusei said.

Other skills the mentors acquired included event management, project management, financial management and people skills.

“Their knowledge helped them to be ambassadors who could go into the community and educate their peers on non-violence,” Dr Adusei said.

“It’s early days of this project, but the research is already showing that peer-mentoring is an effective way of dealing with youth violence. African kids are better able to communicate to their own community how to positively resolve conflict, in a way that politicians and policy makers can’t.”.

The Stop the Violence program is a collaboration between Edith Cowan University (ECU), Organisation of African Community of Western Australia and the Office of Multicultural Interests. The research paper Peer-Mentoring Processes: Commentary on the Stop the Violence Train the Trainers Program is published in Advances in Social Sciences Research Journal.

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