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									Accepting Integration
By Xian-Zhi Soon
Social Equality Team Introduction
The concept behind my project was derived from my personal experience in the community as well as the experiences of others. Being involved quite extensively in community activities I was able to observe deficiencies in the participation rate of several groups, whether cultural, religious or socio-economic, in various social and action committees in my local community. My concern was reinforced by my preliminary research with various groups, questioning them about recent history. Originating from a different country, this particular subject was of great importance to me, and I wished to discover why migrants like me have not chosen to involve themselves in the local community. It was in this context that my project was founded. My aim is to discover the source of the deficiency, whether it is the product of specified marketing on the part of service providers, or whether those who are absent are choosing not to engage themselves in the community.

Background
My project centres on the local community governed by the Bankstown City Council Municipality, located in the heart of South-West Sydney (however, research has been conducted beyond this region). The population of the area is 164,841 (ABS 2001) of which approximately one third (58,252 ABS 2001) are born overseas, with over 15% between the ages of 15 and 25 years (10,358 ABS 2001). This is an area that has thrived and developed under the foundations of a high immigrant population, particular those descending from Lebanese and Vietnamese origins. As can be observed in Fig 1.0, this region has a profoundly prominent ethnic population. Fig 1.0 (ABS 2001)

Such development has not been achieved without significant community unrest, as various cultural groups have come into conflict, incidents that have achieved significant media scrutiny. A majority of these occurrences have involved youths, “gangs” of particular ethic backgrounds that have chosen to engage in untoward activities as a result of disagreement. Through my research, I found evidence of a correlation between these incidences and an apparent deficiency in the representation of any variety of ethnic denominations within local community youth groups. One can discern that perhaps a lack of formal interaction between the youths of various cultural backgrounds is a reason for such disagreements. According to research conducted during the compilation of the “Bankstown City Council’s Multicultural Strategy and Policy 2002-2005” these migrant youth groups are well and truly “over represented in the community’s criminal and delinquent element”. As the child of migrant parents, this correlation is particularly alarming to me. It affects those around me, from peers to colleagues. It is my belief that by ensuring that the various ethnic groups are engaged in some form of community activity together that multicultural harmony may be achieved. That is why I have sought to address the deficiencies in participation levels of certain ethnic groups. Additionally, in South-Western Sydney, socio-economic differentials can be quite large. A considerable range of household income levels is present within my local council region, as can be observed in the following table:

This component of my investigation is derived from my observations that groups of individuals from particular socio-economic backgrounds tend only to participate in specific youth clubs/organisations/groups. It is in my belief that integration of various socio-economic groups in recreational organisations, as with ethnic integration, could address the tension prevalent among youth within the community.

Community Consultation
The community consultation or action research that I have conducted can be classified into two categories: Community Organisations Investigation: This side of my research involved consulting Community Organisations about the levels of ethnic participation in there youth based denominations. Also enquiring about their means of promotion and publicity. This involved:  Discussion with prominent Australia wide community youth organisations at the biannual Australian Forum Of Youth Organisations (AFOYO)() meeting. These organisations include Lifesaving Australia, Scouts Australia, Lions Club, The Foundation For Young Australians and YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association). It was from this that I was able to develop a better understanding of the issue. Follow up research with each individual organisation, in order to gain specific details (to be discussed further in findings).

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Consultation with local youth organisations including school based Interact Clubs (Rotary Jnr), District SRC (Student Representative Councils) and Bankstown City Council Youth Council groups, to gain a grasp of the issue at a local community level and investigate details as well as gauge attitudes. Investigating research of a similar nature that had been completed in the past.

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Youth Consultation: This component of my research was aimed at determining why ethnic youths (12-25 years) are or are not participating in community organisations, and if so, which ones specifically and why. I collected this information by consulting with numerous individuals from the following categories:   School Students from across the Bankstown City Council Region (aged between 12-18 years) Members of various youth based community groups (aged between 12-25)

Key Findings
Information gathered from Community/School Youth Organisations:  Numerous Youth Organisations are aware of a lack cultural variety in their organisations and have begun to research on how to improve this. For example, Lifesaving Australia commissioned the research paper “Sound the Siren” (2000) from Big Picture Consulting Group. In section 10.1, Marketing Strategies, a concerted strategy has been employed to increase the overall variety of membership. Some organisations have conducted no or at best trivial research into the composition of their membership. However, they seemed more than willing to commence a membership. Certain clubs, including Scouts Australia have achieved great success in ensuring that cultural variety is promoted within their club, through the National Scout Program Review, conducted every year for 8 years. In its “Multicultural Strategy and Policy 2002-2005” (section 5.42), The Bankstown City Council has recognised the need to construct an “appropriate mix of recreational and open space facilities for its diverse community, including NESB”. In section 5.43 of this paper, consultation with all groups within the community can be seen. Little had been done by any youth organisations in regards to investigating the participation levels of youths originating from various socio-economic

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backgrounds. This is an area that could be further researched in order to ensure socio-economic factors do not affect youth participation.  The Queensland government in the “Performance: Children and Young People” paper has initiated a strategy to involve young people from low socioeconomic groups in community activities. “Ongoing implementation of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Access and Inclusion project targeting young people in juvenile detention centres, alternative education programs and residential facilities for homeless young people”. The development of such a program could be useful in New South Wales. The South Australia government in its “Youth Participation Handbook” describes the benefits of attracting a varied membership into any youth organisation. It reads “…capture a wide range of skill and experience. Age, nationality, gender, business experience, educational background, specialist industry experience. These are some criteria which may be considered”. If such a comprehensive manual could be introduced nationally, it may invaluable for youth organisations trying to develop their membership base. Participation in TAFE by young people from ethnic and low socio-economic backgrounds is outlined in “Equity and local Participation in VET: Some Preliminary Findings in Sydney Postcodes”. This identifies deficiencies in the participation of these groups in Vocational Education and training, revealing that the problem crosses into education.

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Information gathered from Individual Youths: Non-participants:  A majority were “plain” not interested in attending youth community organisations, feeling that they were a “waste of time”. “Too Lazy” (Year 12 student [Vietnamese Heritage] NSW)  Some ethnic individuals mentioned the fact that they did not believe any available organisation to there knowledge interested them. The promotion of certain of youth organisations seemed “questionable” to some ethnic youths. Those of lower socio-economic status commented that they were required at home too complete domestic duties or were employed part-time or full time an as a result could not engage in recreational activities.

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Some claimed that there parents would not allow them, in the belief that such activities were a waste of effort. Certain individuals with strong cultural heritage were prevented from participating due to constraints of their culture (Idea that needs to be explored further).

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Participants: A great majority felt that they gained a lot from committing their time to engaging in activities run by youth organisations.

“I play hockey for a club because I enjoy playing the sport and it is good exercise.” (Year 11 student [Indian Heritage] NSW) Though commenting that promotion was good, greater improvements could still be made. Similarly, though believing that the clubs/organisations they were involved with were approachable could become more so through a review of certain areas of promotion, particularly in regards to attracting a “wider level of interest”.

“They seem approachable, and there is evidence of promoting them, however I feel that information about them is not as readily available as it should be.” (Year 12 student [Indian Heritage] NSW) Most believed they have had ample access to youth organisations, through their schools or local libraries. Those from lower socio-economic background commented that though participation was “fun”, it put “a strain on things back home”.

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- A majority of ethnic youths enjoyed their experiences within youth based
organisations, commenting that they had received the “opportunity to meet people that I might not have met otherwise”

Recommendations
All youth based groups/clubs/organisations should undertake yearly review of the ethnic variety present in their membership. Youth based groups/clubs/organisations should undertake constant revision of promotional methods, incorporating greater consultancy with ethnic youths, to accommodate for the changing demographics of Australian society, as some services have already completed.

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Research into the participation levels of varying socio-economic groups in youth organisations should be undertaken to investigate links between membership and socio-economic status. Council should undertake research into the particular needs of ethnic youths within a community in order to develop programs of greater relevance and appropriateness. Further and more comprehensive study into the attitudes of nonparticipating migrant and socio-economically disadvantaged youth. The production of a source that describes a great majority of youth services and organisation, utilising a medium that is both accessible and relevant to the greater population (currently a Roundtable 2003 project).

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Conclusion
It is in my belief that ethnic and socio-economic diversity within community based youth organisations will have a synergistic effect, quelling social tension through experience and lead to community development as groups congregate under a positive initiative. I believe my research forced numerous youth based community organisations or youth department’s to consider the variety present in their membership, and to question the strength of their membership in the future as the demographic pattern of Australia changes. The aim of my project was to catalyse a rethinking process among youth organisations and youth within the community, a goal that I believe I have achieved. It is my hope that I have assisted a process that is necessary for the development of youth relations within my community and others.

Bibliography
Big Picture Consulting Group. “Sound The Siren”. Lifesaving Australia, 2000. Bankstown City Council. “Multicultural Strategy and Policy 2002-2005”. Bankstown City Municipality, 2002. Anne, Lucy. “Performance: Children and Young People”. Queensland Government, 2000. Minister For Youth . “Youth Participation Handbook 2ND Edition”, South Australian government, 2003. McIntyre, John. “Equity and local participation in VET: Some Preliminary Findings in Sydney Postcodes””. UTS Research Centre for Vocational Education and Training, 1998. http://www.id.com.au/bankstown/commprofile/

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http://www.scouts.asn.au/

Acknowledgements
I would like to say thank you to all those that have assisted me in development and completion of my project. The help that I received from the various community organisations was provided without any duress, they were all most informative and uncompromising in their efforts, assistance that was invaluable. To the youth that participated, I am immensely grateful for their input and their willingness to speak their mind an express their views. For further information contact: Xian-Zhi Soon Phone: 0400 678 085 Email: mambo_xz@hotmail.com


								
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