Turkish Youth

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					  Turkish Youth
Moving from school to work and further study

           Andrew Chodkiewicz
                September 1999
                      Turkish Youth:
        Moving from school to work and further study



     Acknowledgements                            2

1. Introduction                                  3

2. Literature Review                             6

3. Economic and political factors                10

4. Demographics                                  12

5. The Turkish community                         17

6. Turkish teachers and students                 20

7.   Turkish young people                        25

8. Community workers                             35

9. Findings                                      39

10. Recommendations                              42

References                                       44

Appendices – Youth stories                       46
This project has been funded by a Community Development grant from the NSW Ethnic Affairs
Commission and carried out through the Centre for Popular Education at the University of Technology,

A number of people have assisted with their time and effort throughout the project, including members of
the project steering committee - Rick Flowers from the Centre for Popular Education at UTS, Anne Bicer
from Granville TAFE Outreach, Bernice Melville from the Research Centre for Vocational Education and
Training at UTS, Vicktor Jakupec from the Faculty of Education UTS, Debbie Wong and Myriam Bahari
from Youth Action Policy Association.

Sezin Adem assisted with the first stage of the project, establishing links with a range of Turkish and
community organisations and making contact with a number of young people.

Special thanks to Alev Guven from the Australian Turkish Cultural Trust and Australian Turkish Welfare
Workers Interagency, Dursen Guzel from the Australian Alevi Association, Sherban Gunesh from Turkish
Teachers Association, Ezel Jupiter from Centrelink, Yildiz Ozan from,Turkish Welfare Association, Kudret
Yilmaz and Irfan Yigit from Granville Boys High School, Askin Baran editor of Yorum, Ilker Saglamer, a
teacher at the Turkish Saturday school at Dulwich Hill and the Turkish teachers at the Liverpool Saturday

Also Rosemary Chick and Angela Lancuba from Job Futures at Burwood, Patrick Callaghan and Jeff Egan
from Mission Employment Granville, Stan Hurley from Mission Employment Auburn, Joanne McMillan
from the Prairiewood Youth Centre, the NESB Youth Issues Network, Raefat Soryal at the Granville
Multicultural Centre and Victor Boulos from TAFE NSW.

Audrey Brown from the Centre for Popular Education for the layout and desktop publishing of this report.

A very special thanks to the Turkish young people who gave up their time and contributed their experiences
as part of this project.




The research project grew out of a concern that there was a significant proportion of Turkish speaking
young people in Sydney, who were finding it difficult to make an effective transition from school into work
or further study.

Figures from the 1996 Census showed that Turkish speaking young people aged 15-24 in Sydney were
experiencing higher rates of unemployment than their Australian born peers. Among 15-19 year old
Turkish youth the unemployment rate was 36.1% and 20-24 year olds 21.7% (ABS 1999 unpublished data).

Turkish speaking youth, along with Arabic and Vietnamese speaking youth were among the groups of
young people from non-English speaking backgrounds in Sydney’s west and south-west, who were
suffering significant disadvantages in their attempts to move into work or further study

With most of the Turkish young people in Sydney living in areas where overall rates of unemployment for
their age group are relatively high, there was also a concern that Turkish community associations, as well
as other government and community agencies were not addressing the needs of unemployed Turkish youth.

The aims of the research project were to:

•   record and analyse the experiences of some unemployed Turkish speaking youth in Sydney as they
    move from school into work and further study
•   research the views of Turkish teachers, community workers and other relevant agencies in order to
    highlight what they see as the main issues affecting unemployed Turkish youth
•   assist Turkish community organisations to more effectively address the needs of Turkish youth
•   assist youth workers, educational bodies and employment agencies in their work with Turkish youth
•   suggest strategies that could assist Turkish youth to make a more effective transition into work or
    further study.

The project methodology involved:

•   a literature review
•   collecting demographic and other relevant statistical data
•   conducting interviews with unemployed Turkish young people, Turkish community workers and
    workers in various government and community agencies.

This mix of quantitative and qualitative methods was used to provide a number of different perspectives on
the way Turkish young people were making the transition from school to work and further study. The
approach provided a way of highlighting some of the key issues the young people were facing.

Literature review
A review of literature in the field drew on a number of areas including:

•   youth and the labour market
•   transition from school to work
•   studies of Turkish youth.

Demographic data
The demographic data gathered for the project relied on both published and previously unpublished data.
The main sources used were the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Department of Employment Workplace
Relations and Small Business, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Centrelink, the
Department of Corrective Services, the Department of Education and Training, TAFE NSW and the NSW
Board of Studies. In a number of cases it was necessary to purchase the data, as it was not available in any
other form.

Turkish young people
One important aspect of the research approach was to give voice to the experiences of the Turkish young
people. This meant documenting a number of stories of Turkish speaking youth by carrying out individual
interviews. A total of 10 young people, five males and five females, were selected for these interviews, on
the basis that they were:

•   aged 15-24 years old
•   Turkish speaking youth (including those born here of Turkish parents or born in Turkey)
•   living in the Sydney region
•   currently unemployed, working part-time or had been unemployed for a period since leaving school.

Contact was made with the young people with the assistance of a number of workers in Turkish community
organisations, mainly Turkish speaking welfare workers employed in the Auburn area. Contact was also
made with a number of youth services in Sydney’s western and south-western suburbs, including the NESB
Youth Issues Network (NYIN).

With the assistance of these workers a meeting was organised with each young person that was
interviewed. Most participants agreed to have their conversation audio taped, while others requested that
only notes were taken of what they said. The edited transcripts of each interview were sent back to the
participant for their approval and comment.

The interviews were carried out as guided conversations with the young people. This meant there was a
focussed discussion covering a number of topics that included:

•   their experiences of school, work and further education
•   how they went about finding work or moving into further study
•   their experience of unemployment
•   the role of their family in their work and education choices
•   how they saw being Turkish in Australia
•   their plans for the future

In addition there were five focus groups organised with Turkish speaking high school students. They
included Year 11 and 12 classes at two Saturday schools in Dulwich Hill and Liverpool, as well as a group
of Turkish Year 9 students attending an after-school tutoring class (HELP program) at the Granville
Multicultural Centre.

Turkish community workers
Interviews were carried out with a number of welfare workers employed in Turkish community
organisations, and with a number of Turkish high school teachers. There were also a number of Turkish
family counsellors, a general practitioner, and a community health worker who were interviewed.

Government and community agencies
A number of workers in Auburn Centrelink, job network agencies in Auburn, Granville and Burwood, and
a community development officer from Auburn Council were interviewed. There were also community
youth workers, and staff in a number of educational support programs who were interviewed to provide a
further perspective.

Stages of research
The project was carried out over two stages. The first stage during September-November 1998 involved an
initial literature review and work by a Turkish speaking research assistant Sezin Adem, who was employed
to establish contact with Turkish community organisations, other local agencies and arrange interviews
with a number of unemployed Turkish youth. During this stage Sezin was based at the Turkish Welfare
Association office in Auburn for a period of two weeks.

The second stage was carried out by Andrew Chodkiewicz during May-August 1999, when most of the
interviews with young people, community workers and other agencies were arranged and the demographic
data and additional literature gathered for the report.

The main geographic focus of the report was in the Auburn area, because of the sizeable Turkish speaking
population living there or in nearby suburbs. It remains the main centre of Turkish community life, with
many Turkish community organisations, small businesses and shops located there.

However during the second stage of the project considerable effort was made to contact Turkish youth in
other parts of Sydney where Turkish people are also living. This included visits to Marrickville, Dulwich
Hill, Menai, Granville, Toongabbie, Mt Druitt, Prairiewood, Liverpool, and Green Valley. This reflects the
increasing dispersed settlement pattern of Turkish speaking families throughout Sydney.

The literature review drew on work carried out in the areas of youth and the labour market, the transition
from school to work and studies of Turkish youth. The literature highlighted a number of useful concepts
and perspectives that helped inform the research.

Youth and the labour market

Some of the key features of the current landscape facing young Australians as they leave school and seek to
move into the workforce include high levels of youth unemployment, the prevalence of part-time work, the
lack of full- time jobs and the removal or limitation of government funded income support. (Bessant 1999,
Sweet 1995).

Structural change

Young people are facing the impact of structural changes that have been affecting the youth labour market
for more than two decades. Two major studies by the Dusseldorp Skills Forum have helped collect relevant
statistical data and focus attention on the entrenched difficulties now facing both 15-19 year old (DSF
1998) and 20-24 year old young people across Australia (DSF 1999).

The Productivity Commission (1998:43) also recently acknowledged the impact of structural change in the
labour market and its effect on young people. They found that there had been a major decline in youth
employment and that the number of full-time jobs available for young people had fallen while the number
of part-time jobs had increased.

The effect of these structural changes in the youth labour market, according to Lauritsen (1995:34) is for
young people to face a labour market that offers work in mainly insecure, low paid, personally demanding
and highly competitive work.

In response to these structural changes, the actions by government, both state and federal, have been limited
and fragmented. Overall Australia does not do well in preparing many of its young people for leaving
school and moving into work. As a result Sweet (1995:i) argues that a proportion of youth are being
increasingly marginalised from the mainstream of employment, education and training.

The marginalised are not just among those young people leave school early and are unemployed. There are
increasing numbers of young people who are being disconnected from any further education and training
after they leave school. Sweet suggests ‘it is important to see all marginal young people – not only the
unemployed, but also those who are outside the labour force but not studying, and those in precarious part-
time work’ (1998:4).


In addition a useful distinction has been developed that draws attention to the types of activities young
people undertake and the kind of economic sphere where the activity takes place (McDonnell, Harris &
White 1998:38). The suggestion is that we need to look at both legal and illegal activities and the formal
and informal sectors of the economy. This leads onto further consideration of the economic and political
disadvantage among youth, as they seek to move among various activities in different parts of the

Waged work exploitation

One of the aspects that does impact on young people in low income areas, is that they can face widespread
exploitation when they do move into the workforce. White (1997) found in a study among under 18 year

olds and 18 –25 year olds from low income areas in Melbourne that young people were generally subject to
two kinds of exploitation. There was systematic exploitation, which was a universal feature of class based
production and situational exploitation, due to the age of the young people and the nature of the youth
labour market in their area.

This meant that for many of these young people, the only work they were able to access, especially among
the small business sector, was informal work, which was paid cash in hand and treated off the books by the
employer. This provided the young people with little protection if they had an accident or were involved in
a dispute with their employer. (YSA 1998:59)

Transition from school to work
There is a growing body of research that is looking at the way young people make the transition from
school to work. The importance of this research is that it helps provide insights into the way youth are
confronting the collapse of the youth labour market. Some of the main themes in the literature involve a
focus on the notion of pathways, collecting data on early school leavers, and identifying the key factors
associated with youth unemployment.


The notion of pathways was developed to help focus on the choices young people make when they leave
school and establish themselves in the work force. Initially the concept was mechanistic and involved
simple linear and lock step models where the main options identified were getting a job, taking on an
apprenticeship, or doing further study. Young people were expected to move in a linear way through these

Recently the concept has been refined with the recognition that young people have been making a range of
choices and have opted to go in many different ways, following a variety of pathways. In the early 1990’s
this notion was expanded by Holden (1992) who highlighted that possible pathways included employment,
education, financial dependence on the family, income support and illegal activities.

By the mid 1990’s the idea of a lock step or steady movement along a pathway by young people was
overturned by Dwyer (1997: 20) whose research with young people who did not complete high school
showed clearly that they were moving in a zig-zag pattern after they left school.

The important point was that young people were making a variety of choices, in response to the economic,
social and educational conditions they faced. Over time they were often forced to move back and forth
among a number of different options – employment, education, training courses, unemployment, reliance
on the family, income support and illegal activities.

Early school leavers

A number of studies have highlighted the impact of leaving high school early. In particular the recently
released RCVET report (1999) on early school leavers analyses the experiences of young people on the
Central Coast of NSW and documents a number of cases studies. The report highlighted the different
patterns of transition that early school leavers were following and found there were broadly two groups of
early school leavers- positive and discouraged leavers. It was among the discouraged early school leavers
that the risk of falling into longer term unemployment was the highest (McIntyre et al 1999:56).

Deficit approach

Many studies have taken a deficit approach to youth unemployment, focussing on what was lacking from
young people who experienced long periods of unemployment. A recent study by Lamb (1997) suggested
that if young people left school early without completing year 12, had low levels of literacy and numeracy

and came from a disadvantaged socio-economic background, they were likely to face significant periods of

This focus on attributes has also been used in a study of employer attitudes towards employing young
people. This study involved a survey of personnel responsible for hiring employees in 500 companies in
NSW. They found the most important attributes for selecting young people under 21 for entry level
positions was enthusiasm and willingness to work, basic literacy and numeracy skills and communication
and interpersonal skills (DTEC 1996:4).

Studies of Turkish youth
There have been two major recent studies that have focussed on the educational experiences of Turkish
young people. The largest and most comprehensive study of the educational and work experiences of
Turkish youth was carried out by Inglis, Elley & Manderson (1992). They interviewed Turkish young
people aged 15 to 24 from Turkish families in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, as well as surveying
Turkish high school students in Sydney. Another study by Baylis and Brown (1998) included Turkish
young people as part of their report on the participation of NESB young people in traineeships and

Commitment to education

Both studies have highlighted the commitment of Turkish youth and their parents to higher education.
Inglis et al (1992) looked at young people’s educational experiences and educational attainment in high
school, their participation in TAFE, other post secondary education and the world of work. Their findings
were that ‘despite the complex web of commitments to education shared by young people, their parents and
the community ..(their) educational attainment is likely to be limited’ (Inglis et al1992:ix). However they
were not able to identify the factors that led to this conclusion.

But they did find that there was evidence of ‘an increasingly high level of tertiary participation among
Turkish Australians both men and women…. with the TAFE sector playing a less important role for the
young second-generation’ (Inglis et al 1992 :ix).

They also found that at a time of high unemployment in the recession of 1991/92, Turkish youth had
difficulty entering the job market and this was especially acute for those with limited post-secondary

Another study by Baylis & Brown (1998) surveyed Turkish students, parents and community workers in
Sydney as part of a study of attitudes and knowledge about apprenticeships and traineeships. They found
that Turkish parents continued to place a high value on university education for their children, while
acknowledging that their goals were probably unrealistic (Baylis & Brown 1998:2).

While Turkish parents still preferred university as a way of avoiding unemployment, obtaining respect in
their community and getting a ‘good job’ (high pay and high status), the main objective they had for their
children was to ensure they did not end up labouring like they had. Turkish students said their parents
wanted them to go to university. At the same time their parents accepted their children should go as far as
they could with their studies and do what they were happy doing.

Study options

A further finding was that Turkish students were now more aware of other options than just university
(Baylis & Brown 1998: 4). But most parents felt ill prepared to advise their children regarding work and
study options after they left school. Although both parents and young people did know about
apprenticeships, they knew very little about traineeships (Baylis & Brown 1998:3).

Turkish community workers also confirmed that Turkish people generally value education highly, wanted
their children to go to university, rather than to study in the vocational education sector. Although some
workers reported expectations were changing as parents recognised that there were other ways to be
successful in life other than going through university (Baylis &Brown 1998:11).

Gendered worlds

Elaborating further on their 1992 findings, Inglis & Elley (1995) suggest that Turkish young people aged
15 to 24 live in two different gendered worlds of experience in their social and family life. This social
experience impacted on both their educational and work choices, although the commitment to further
education was as strong for girls as it was for boys.

They saw that the social life of girls was invariably based in the home and in home based activities, where
girls are expected to help with domestic work. While boys were more likely to live a much freer life, often
outside the home, with friends, socialising and taking part in organised sporting activities (Inglis & Elley

Significantly both girls and boys attended weekend Turkish language classes and were actively involved in
family visits, going to wedding parties, cultural, religious and other community celebrations

Despite these two very different worlds of social experiences of Turkish young people as they grow up,
parents placed great emphasis on both male and female children to continue their education as much as
possible. Both males and females were expected to complete high school and go onto tertiary education.
This is despite many of the parents having not gone beyond primary school in Turkey and working in
manual jobs in Australia (Inglis & Elley 1995: 195).

The greater freedom provided to males highlighted by this study points to the difficulties some Turkish
parents face trying to have their teenage boys stay on complete high school, to go onto further study and
move into the work force. It suggests boys may become harder to influence and more likely to rebel against
their parent’s attitudes while they are still at school, than are girls.


An important dimension of the study is placing Turkish young people within an overall economic and
political context. The literature review has already highlighted a number of aspects of the current youth
labour market that impact on young people. This section helps to identify other factors that are affecting
young people as they move from school to work, and try to make their way in the world.

As mentioned above major structural changes have significantly affected the amount and nature of work
available for young people aged 15-24 years. These changes continue to have a major effect on all youth in
this age group, despite the recent fall in the overall level of unemployment.

Other major economic factors include rapid technological change, the reduction in tariff barriers, the
opening up of local markets to foreign competition, greater concentration of ownership, and the increase in
overseas ownership by major global corporations. Together these changes are bringing increased rates of
economic growth, along with greater economic inequality across Australia. This means there are growing
disparities in the opportunities for work and further study, especially for young people in parts of Sydney,
as well as in other regions across NSW.

Income and unemployment figures provide some indication of how the impact is being shared unevenly
across Sydney. Recent ABS labour force data from February 1999 indicates the overall unemployment rate
was down to 2.7% in the Northern beaches, 3% in Inner Sydney, 3.7% in St. George-Sutherland and 4.0%
in the Eastern Suburbs. Whereas it was 7.7% in Central Western Sydney, 8.0% in Canterbury-Bankstown,
10.7% in Outer South- West and 13.3% in Fairfield-Liverpool (ABS 1999:31-34).

Income figures from the 1996 Census show the median personal weekly income in Sydney was $343, but
ranged up to $469 in Manly, $457 in Leichhardt, and $420 in Drummoyne. This compared with a weekly
income of $266 in Bankstown, $234 in Auburn, and $224 in Fairfield. (Dhungel 1997:5-7)

An additional feature of this new economic landscape for many Turkish families is the high unemployment
rates now being experienced by Turkish parents as a result of industry restructuring. O’Loughlin &
Watson’s (1997) study shows how the burden of restructuring in the 1990’s has fallen on older aged NESB
migrants, who previously found work in unskilled or low skilled manufacturing jobs that have now

Turkish migrants are among those who took up manufacturing jobs in large numbers in the 1970’s and now
find themselves pushed into unemployment in middle age, with little prospect of ever re-entering the
workforce. As these parents become alienated from the workforce, it becomes difficult for them to help link
their children into work, especially at an entry level. Also they are unable to access those crucial informal,
work networks for their children, nor assist them effectively in making their career choices.

As a result of these factors some Turkish youth, living in parts of Sydney, face major economic and social
disadvantage that is structural in nature and impacts severely on their ability to move into work and further

The political environment over recent years has also become much harsher for young people, as the policies
adopted by both federal and state governments, take a more punitive approach. These policies especially
effect young people living in disadvantaged areas, who rely on assistance from government programs to
move into work or further study.

The changes include the 1998 federal government’s abolition of labour market programs, the restructure
and tendering out of employment services, the cutbacks in a range of income support programs, and cuts in
funding for higher education especially access programs. At a state level the policies include cutbacks in
funding for services in government schools, especially career advice and counselling, cuts to staffing and
course offerings available at TAFE colleges, and cuts to services by local community and ethnic specific
welfare services.

Some young people now face:

•   reduced time and access to career advice and counselling in government schools

•   greater difficulties in accessing university courses and the loss of scholarship programs for
    disadvantaged students

•   cutbacks in the numbers of available places in entry level and Outreach courses at local TAFE colleges

•   the removal of any government income support for 16-18 year olds, who are not studying or in some
    form of paid work

•   increasing numbers of Newstart recipients having their benefits removed for committing breaches of

•   major changes to Centrelink services, with fragmentation of job support services among Job Network
    providers and a reluctance by some to take on ‘difficult’ young clients looking for work

•   greater competition for placements in Work for the Dole schemes

•   compulsory attendance at language and literacy courses as part of the Mutual Obligation programs
    introduced in 1998 for 18-24 year olds.

The impact of these policies is to make it much more difficult for disadvantaged young people, especially
those from non- English speaking backgrounds, to obtain access to a sound basic education, to move into
further education or to access the labour market. Together this combines to make it much harder for some
Turkish young people to make an effective transition from school to work or further study.


A range of demographic information has been collected as part of this report. The data below shows the
number of Turkish born and Turkish speaking people in Australia and NSW, a breakdown of the numbers
by age, enrolments in high school, TAFE and the five universities in Sydney; unemployment data from
1996 and 1999, income support and youth crime figures.

The data available is often partial and does not always include specific information on Turkish speaking
young people in Sydney. It cannot always be disaggregated to the local government or Sydney level, and it
has not been possible to do any effective comparisons over time. But the various data sets included below
do help to provide a number of useful indicators about Turkish young people in Sydney.

Turkish community in Australia

The Turkish community in Australia is estimated by community workers to number between 45,000 to
50,000 people. This figure includes both Turkish born migrants and their children who were born here.
While Census data suggests the number of Turkish born people in Australia in June 1996 was 31,904
people (ABS 1998:88).

Most Turkish migrants arrived here between 1968 and 1974, following a formal agreement between the
Australian and Turkish governments (Basarin & Basarin 1993:6). For many people they came for a
temporary stay only, as they were expecting to work here for a period and then return to Turkey. Instead
most have settled in Australia and built a new life, while still maintaining their Turkish language and

The Turkish community is now well established in both Sydney and Melbourne, where a majority of
Turkish born and Turkish speaking Australians live. As a community they have matured and over the last
decade the number of new arrivals from Turkey has been falling steadily each year from 1,227 people in
1988-89 to 635 in 1997-98 (DIMA 1998:6).

Being Turkish
The question of who qualifies as a Turkish person for statistical purposes remains an issue. State and
federal government agencies use different definitions when they collect their data on migrants or ethnic
communities. In some cases they consider country of birth only, while others collect data for both country
of birth and language spoken at home.

For this study the data collected on language spoken at home has been used where possible. This means the
data includes not only those young people born overseas, but those whose parents are Turkish and who
speak Turkish at home. This helps provide a richer and more diverse picture of the Australian Turkish
community. In this report every effort has been made to clearly distinguish the data available on country of
birth and language spoken at home.

However a number of key current ABS data series, especially those relating to employment and
unemployment, do not provide current data on either the country of birth or language spoken at home.
Whereas the ABS Census data does provide figures on both the country of birth and the language spoken at
home. This means that the only meaningful data on key demographic characteristic is available from the
1996 Census.

Turkish born and Turkish speaking
NSW – Turkish born

According to the 1996 Census figures the number of Turkish born people in NSW was 11,763 (ABS
1998:36) making Turkish the 19th biggest non-English background group in the state. A breakdown of this
number by age shows most of the Turkish born in NSW, 9,660 people or 82% of the total, were aged over
25. While the number of Turkish born in NSW aged 15-24 was 1,207 or 10.2% of the total Turkish born
(ABS 1998:36).

NSW – Turkish speaking

When considering the number of Turkish speaking people in NSW, the 1996 Census shows there was a
significantly higher number than Turkish born. They totalled 17,541 people, with 9,046 males and 8,495
females. This reflects the number of children born in Australia to Turkish born migrants, who live in a
house where Turkish is the main language spoken at home (ABS 1999a:1).

A breakdown by age shows there were 1,398 Turkish speaking young people aged 0-4 years, 2,257 aged 5-
12 years, and 1,244 aged 12-15 years. Among the 12-15 year olds there were 660 males and 584 females
(ABS 1999a:1). If you adjust the 1996 figures and adjust the data set forward three years, there is an
estimated 3,000 Turkish speaking young people aged 5-15 in 1999. This is the main school age cohort.

NSW - Turkish speaking youth

Looking specifically at young people, the number of Turkish speaking youth living in NSW in 1996 aged
16-24 years was 2,715 or 15.5% of the total of 17,541 Turkish speakers (ABS 1999a :1). This figure is now
three years out of date and represents the figure for all of NSW. If you take the 1996 figures and adjust
them forward three years, there is an estimated 2,500 Turkish speaking young people aged 15-24 in 1999.

NSW – 15-24 years old

By way of comparison the number of 15-24 year olds in NSW in 1996 was 848, 425 or 14.1% of the total
population of 5,995,645 (ABS 1998:25). In the Sydney, there were 548, 816 or 14.8% 15-24 year olds out
of a population of 3,705,533 (ABS 1998: 24). This means there was a slightly higher proportion of Turkish
speaking youth aged 15-24 within their community than 15-24 year olds in the total population in NSW or
Sydney. And Turkish speaking young people represent approximately 0.45% of Sydney’s 15-24 year olds.

High school students
Studying Turkish

An indication of the number of students studying Turkish at high school can be found from enrolment data
compiled by the NSW Board of Studies. They collect the numbers enrolled in all subjects across
Government, Independent and Catholic school systems in NSW for Years 10, 11 and 12.

The total number of students studying the Turkish language in 1998 in Years 10 to 12 was 329 students,
with 184 females and 145 males (NSW Board of Studies 1999).

Saturday school numbers

Another indicator is the number of students studying the Turkish language at Saturday community
language classes. These classes are open to students attending high school in Years 7 to 12. Figures made
available from the Saturday School of Community Languages in the Department of Education and Training
show there is a significant proportion of Turkish speaking high school aged students who attend Turkish
classes at Saturday language schools.

Four centres in Sydney offer Turkish – Arthur Phillip, Dulwich, Grantham and Liverpool High Schools,
with a total of 414 students taking classes from Years 7 to 12 in 1998. The other centre at Smiths Hill in
Wollongong had a total of 32 students. This meant there was a total of 446 students attending Turkish
classes at the five centres across NSW in 1998 (Campbell 1999).

TAFE students
Overall there were 832 Turkish speaking students aged 15-24 enrolled in TAFE colleges in NSW in 1998.
The enrolments increased by 7% between 1995 and 1998 from 775 to 832 students. This represented
approximately 0.4% of all TAFE NSW enrolments in 1998 and is close to the proportion of Turkish
speaking young people in the population.

Most of these students, 486, were aged 15-19 years, with 346 students aged 20-24 years. Between 1995 and
1998, while the number of enrolled Turkish speaking students aged 15-19 years increased from 402 to 486,
the number aged 20-24 years fell slightly from 373 to 346 students. (TAFE NSW 1999)

The types of courses the 832 students were enrolling in 1998 included 240 (28.8%) taking Business &
public administration, 211 (25.4%) in Access courses, 123 (14.8%) in Construction & transport, 120
(14.4%) in Community services, tourism & hospitality, 69 (8.3%) in Information Technology, arts &
media, and 58 (7%) in Manufacturing & engineering.

The types of awards most Turkish speaking students were enrolled in 1998 were AQF Certificate 3, TAFE
Statement, AQF Certificate 2, AQF Diploma, and Certificate courses. (TAFE NSW 1999)

University students
The enrolment data on Turkish speaking students attending university in the Sydney region indicates there
were 285 students aged 17-24 years. This is out of a total of 416 Turkish speaking students enrolled in the
five universities in the Sydney region. Among the 17-24 year olds there were slightly more females, 150
(52.6%) than males, 135 (47.3%) enrolled in university.

The breakdown by area of study showed that most students were enrolled in Business, Administration and
Economics courses followed by Arts; Science; and Engineering. A smaller number were enrolled in
Education; Health; Architecture/ Building; and Law.

While the largest proportion, almost half, were attending the University of Western Sydney, there was a
fairly even spread among the remaining four universities in Sydney. There were 128 (45%) students
enrolled at the University of Western Sydney, followed by 58 (20%) at the University of Sydney, 36 (13%)
at UNSW, 32 (11%) at Macquarie and 31 (11%) at UTS. (DETYA 1999 ).

Traineeships and Apprenticeships
While the project carried out by Baylis and Brown (1998) set about increasing the number of Turkish,
Arabic and Vietnamese speaking youth taking up traineeships and apprenticeships, no figures of existing
numbers for each ethnic group were provided. Their report quoted the findings of a 1997 ANTA report that
used ABS data (the year wasn’t specified) to conclude that people of NESB were underrepresented among
both trainees and apprentices, when compared to the NESB percentage in the work force. The figures
indicated people of NESB were 15.8% of the working age population, but overall made up only 2.3% of
both trainees and apprentices in Group Training Schemes (Baylis & Brown 1998:12).

Unemployment NSW 1996

The labour force data for 1996 shows the unemployment rate for all young people in NSW aged 15-19
years was 24.6% (19,054) for males and 22.3% (15,848) for females. While for 20-24 years it was 16.9 %
(26,054) for males and 12.6% (17,786) for females (ABS 1998: 69).

The rate for Turkish speaking young people in Sydney aged 15-24 was much higher across all age groups.
For 15-19 year old males it was 34.2% (71) and 38.6% (59) for females. While for 20-24 year olds it was
22.3% (107) for males and 21.1% (93) for females (ABS 1999a: Table E17).

This meant that in 1996 there was a total of 330 Turkish speaking young people aged 15-24 who were
unemployed, made up of 178 males and 152 females.

Unemployment NSW 1999

While the overall unemployment rate has fallen in the last few years, young people have continued to face
ongoing high overall rates of unemployment. In February 1999 the unemployment rate in NSW for 15-19
years olds was 17.8%, while it was 11.8% for 20 –24 year olds, as compared to the overall unemployment
rate in NSW of 7.6% (ABS 1999:24).

While there is no updated labour force data available on Turkish speaking young people aged 15-24 in the
Sydney region, the indications are that their unemployment rate remains high. While the rate will have
fallen since 1996, it will have remained higher than the rate for most other young people in the same age
group in the regions of Sydney where they live.

DEWRSB figures are indicative because they show unemployment rates by local government area. Their
March quarter 1999 report (DEWRSB 1999:10) shows that in areas where significant numbers of Turkish
speaking people are living, overall rates of unemployment were generally well above the Sydney average.
While the rate for Sydney was 6.1% in Fairfield it was 14.4%, Auburn 11.4%, Liverpool 9.8%, Canterbury
9.6%, Bankstown 9.4% and Blacktown 7.2%.

This suggests that if the figures were available to show the breakdown among ethnic communities, the
unemployment rate for Turkish speaking young people would be even higher than the overall rate in the
area. This indicates that there are still significant numbers of Turkish young people, who are unemployed.

Income support
There is also concern about the likely increase in the number of Turkish young people, who are no longer
counted as part of the official statistics. There is likely to be a growing number of who are outside the
system, neither studying, working nor receiving any government benefits.

An indication of this trend is evident in the figures available on income support recipients through
Centrelink. Despite having higher rates of unemployment than Australian born youth in Sydney, only a
small number of Turkish born youth are receiving any kind of income support payment, with a very small
number, only 90 in the Sydney area receiving a Newstart Allowance.

While Centrelink statistics are only available on the basis of country of birth (not by language spoken at
home), in the first quarter of 1999, there were 385 Turkish born residents aged 15-24 in the three area
offices in the Sydney, receiving any form of income support payments.

The largest number, 143 were receiving a rent allowance, 94 a Youth Allowance, 90 a Newstart Allowance,
42 a Partner allowance and 16 a Special benefit. Significantly none were receiving the independent
homeless allowance or the sole parent pension (Centrelink 1999).

Youth Crime statistics
There were few reported cases of Turkish young people appearing in Sydney courts to face criminal
charges over recent years. Crime statistics in NSW are reported on by country of birth. According to the
last two year’s records at one of the main juvenile detention centres near Auburn, only 2 Turkish young
people had been detained on any serious criminal charges and both were there in 1997 (Trevathan 1999).

The Department of Corrective Services reported in 1998 that among the 7,810 prisoners in NSW prisons,
there were 24 Turkish born prisoners. All were male prisoners aged over 24 and they represented 0.3% of
the prison population (DCS 1998: 12). Of these, 17 were in full time custody (DCS 1998: 29) and 7 were in
periodic detention (DCS 1998: 43). The most likely types of offences they had committed would include
break enter and steal, and drug offences.

A recent study by Mukherjee (1999) reported that in Victoria in 1996-97 based on the number of alleged
offences reported to police, there were 674 Turkish born offenders taken into custody during the year.
Unfortunately the report provided no age breakdown of the offenders. However the types of offences
committed by the Turkish born were broken down into 55% property, 16.6% violent and 11.3% drug
offences (Mukherjee 1999:4). Based on this data he concluded that Turkish born were one of the groups,
along with people from NZ, Lebanon, Vietnam and Cambodia, to have a higher per capita involvement in
crime than those born in Australia or other countries.

The data suggests that for a proportion of Turkish speaking youth, being apprehended for criminal activities
may become a bigger issue, once they are older and move into their late 20’s and 30’s.

A summary of the key demographic data indicates:

             • 31,904 Turkish born in Australia in 1996
             • 11,763 Turkish born in NSW in 1996, the 19th largest NESB group in the state
             • 17,541 Turkish speaking in NSW in 1996
             • Estimated 3,000 Turkish speaking young people aged 5-15 in 1999
             • Estimated 2,500 Turkish speaking young people aged 15-24 in 1999

             • 329 students studying Turkish in Years 10,11 and 12 at NSW high schools in 1998
             • 446 students studying Turkish at five Saturday schools in NSW in 1998
             • 832 Turkish speaking students aged 15-24 attending TAFE in NSW in 1998
             • 285 Turkish speaking students aged 17-24 attending Universities in Sydney in 1998

             • 330 Turkish speaking young people aged 15-24 were unemployed in Sydney in 1996
             • the unemployment rate among 15-19 year old males was 34.2%, among females 38.6%
             • the unemployment rate among 20-24 year old males was 16.9%, among females 12.6%

             Income support
             • 90 Turkish born residents aged 15-24 were receiving Newstart benefits in Sydney in the
                 first quarter of 1999.


The Turkish community in Sydney is now well established and has a range of community organisations,
youth associations, media and professional umbrella organisations. While they do combine to raise
concerns on various social, welfare and educational issues, and do provide some assistance to young
unemployed, none of the organisations is currently funded to work specifically on youth issues within the


Most of the Turkish community in NSW have been in Australia for a period of up to 30 years. While they
have settled in various parts of Sydney, most are living in Sydney’s west and south-western suburbs.
Suburbs like Auburn, Granville, Green Valley, Blacktown, Mt Druitt, Marrickville are where a majority of
Turkish born have settled. Generally they are lower income areas, with higher than average rates of
unemployment across most age groups.

Auburn remains a major focus for the community with a significant concentration of Turkish small
businesses located in the main shopping centre. In just a few blocks in the centre of Auburn there are more
than 30 different Turkish small businesses ranging from kebab shops, butchers, small markets, a sweet
shop, travel agents and video stores. There is also a large Turkish mosque built through the efforts of the
local Turkish community, an entertainment centre, as well as the offices of a newspaper, and numerous
welfare, cultural, religious and sporting associations.

Community organisations

An important feature of the local Turkish Australian community in Sydney is the diverse nature of its
community organisations. For such a relatively small community there are a large number of community
based Turkish organisations. Like with any immigrant community these organisations reflect some of the
main political and religious divisions found in Turkey.

While the political divisions within the community have moderated over recent years, an ongoing split
between left wing and right wing organisations is still evident. There is also the deeply divisive issue of
Turkish speaking Kurdish people, who are still struggling for recognition of their language and culture
within Turkey and surrounding countries.

There is also a small but significant proportion of the community who were born in Cyprus or have Turkish
Cypriot parents. Many of the Turkish Cypriot parents arrived in Australia in the late 1940’s and 1950’s as
British subjects and continued a pattern of chain migration, bringing out family members during the 1960’s
and 1970’s. They often distinguish themselves from ‘mainland Turks’ and have a number of their own

There are also important religious differences in the community. The majority of Turkish born residents are
followers of the Sunni branch of Islam, and through the efforts of the community a major mosque has been
built in Auburn, with others in Erskineville and Mt Druitt. Another significant group is the Alievi
community, who operate a community centre and welfare office at Toongabbie in western Sydney. They
are followers of Ali, and their forms of worship are different from other branches of Islam. The community
is currently involved in raising money to build a major community centre at Quaker’s Hill.

The range of community welfare organisations reflect the diversity within the local community. In the
welfare field one of the longest running is the Turkish Welfare Association, with an office in both Auburn
and Marrickville. The Australian Turkish Cultural Trust, Australian Turkish Kurdish Association,

Australian Alievi Cultural Centre and the People’s House are other cultural/welfare organisations that
reflect different social and political positions within the community.

There are a large number of other cultural, women’s, child care, social and sporting organisations including
the Australian Turkish Women’s Helping Hand, the Australian Turkish & Kurdish Community Services
Co-operative, the Turkish Musical Association, and the Auburn Star Soccer Club (Yigit 1995).

One of the consequences of having so many community organisations for such a relatively small
community is the difficulty in addressing the range of needs in the community. Most of the Turkish
community based welfare organisations, like others in the community sector, have faced major cutbacks in
funding, cuts in staff numbers, and restrictions on their services over the last few years.

They also face a greater dispersal of Turkish people settling across Sydney. The community is now more
geographically dispersed throughout the west, south-west and inner western suburbs. Community workers
report that many of their most disadvantaged clients have increased difficulties in being able to travel to
access their services.

Also more importantly for young people, none of the Turkish community organisations is now funded to
assist youth with employment issues, career advice or further study related information.

Turkish Youth Association
There are a number of Turkish youth associations, but like other youth organisations, they undergo regular
personnel changes and their activities ebb and flow accordingly.

Most Turkish youth associations have focussed on fulfilling a social role and have been based in a
particular section of the community. One of the youth bodies is the Turkish Youth Association based at the
Turkish Welfare Association in Auburn which was active throughout 1998 and did see part of its role as
helping to promote Turkish culture and heritage among Turkish youth (Ergun 1998).

The association was headed by the son of the chairman of the Turkish Welfare Association and its
committee organised a number of successful dance nights and picnics. The most recent committee
disbanded in early 1999, after a number of the main office holders found they became too busy with other
things to continue with the association. However like other Turkish youth associations, they were not able
to take up any issues concerned with youth unemployment.

Turkish media
The community is well served by a number of locally produced Turkish newspapers including Dunya,
Cagri, Yeni Vatan, and Yorum. There is also a daily Turkish language radio program on SBS radio,
including the only youth oriented program broadcast once a week on Sunday afternoons. There are a
number of other Turkish language programs on other community radio stations in Sydney and a Turkish
television program on the community television Channel 31.

Recently the Turkish government’s international satellite television service was launched in Australia, with
over 600 people attending the function at the Auburn RSL club. The Turkish President officially welcomed
the viewers to this new satellite based service, live via satellite from Turkey.

Professional associations
While there is an umbrella organisation for Turkish associations, the NSW Council of Turkish
Associations, there are two of the important professional associations that bring Turkish speaking workers
together on welfare and educational issues. They are the Turkish Australian Social Workers Interagency
and the Turkish Teachers Association which have worked over a number of years to regularly bring

together Turkish speaking workers from across Sydney to help focus attention on specific social, welfare
and educational issues affecting the community.

Education campaign
Prior to the Turkish earthquake in September 1999, one recent educational issue did manage to mobilise the
community, bringing together over 40 Turkish community organisations and gaining wide support from the
community. The action was taken against a decision by the NSW Board of Studies to reduce the number
and level of Turkish language subjects students are able to study for the Higher School Certificate (HSC) in
NSW. The Board has decided to remove the higher level 3 unit Turkish language subject from the new
HSC syllabus, with the change scheduled to be implemented in the year 2002.

A campaign against the decision has been organised by a specially created Turkish Teachers Committee.
So far the Committee has arranged meetings with state and federal politicians, the chairman of the Ethnic
Affairs Commission, staff from the Board of Studies, the NSW Ethnic Communities Council, the
Federation of Ethnic Communities Council and the NSW Teacher’s Association (Arslan 1999).


The views of Turkish teachers and students help frame some of the findings gained from interviews with
Turkish young people who have left school. Teachers at two government high schools and one Turkish
language Saturday school were interviewed about the issues they felt were affecting Turkish high school
students as they moved out of school.

To gain the perspective of students still at school, focus groups were organised with Turkish speaking high
school students attending Saturday language classes and an after-school program to discuss a number of
issues related to work and further study.

School teachers

The Turkish teachers interviewed included the co-ordinator of the Turkish Teachers Association, Sherban
Gunesh, who teaches at Auburn Girls High School, Irfan Yigit, a counsellor at Granville Boys High
School, and Dursen Guzel, a teacher at the Liverpool Saturday School and community welfare worker.

The teachers expressed their concern about the difficulties Turkish speaking young people were facing at
high school. They mentioned English literacy, discipline, suspensions and expulsions as the main issues.
They underlined the gender differences they saw, pointing out that girls overall seemed to be doing better
than boys. Girls were completing high school, while a growing number of boys were dropping out early.
They felt that boys were finding it harder to do well at school.

Among teachers there was a major concern about the increasing number of Turkish speaking students
finding it difficult to cope with high school. There was a feeling that in Sydney’s west and south western
suburbs – especially around Auburn, Granville, Greystanes, Mt Druitt – that an increasing number of
Turkish speaking students were doing worse at high school.

The co-ordinator of the Turkish Teachers Association, Sherban Gunesh, said that of those students who
were completing their HSC, a significant proportion were receiving very low UAI marks, which was
limiting their choices for further study and work. In some cases they did not receive a mark at all, some
were as low as in the 20’s, with quite a few in the 30’s and 40’s. However there was a proportion who did
well enough to go onto further study at university and a larger number who were now going on to study at a
TAFE college (Gunesh 1999).

English literacy

Teachers commented that while some students were doing well in their study of Turkish for the HSC, their
performance in English was dragging them down. Literacy in English appears to remain a key factor even
for Turkish speaking young people who were born here or who have spent most of their school years in

Basarin & Basarin (1993:129) make an important point that the Turkish language is not related to any
major European language. A crucial factor is that the sentence structure is the opposite to that used in the
English language. Turkish uses object + verb + subject and makes no distinction in gender and has no
definite article. This may help explain some of the special difficulties Turkish speaking young people face
in gaining a good command of English, during their years at school.

This points to the need for educators to focus on strategies that assist Turkish speaking master the English
language while they are at school.

Gender differences

The teachers also felt there was a marked difference in performance between boys and girls. Generally girls
were staying on and completing high school, and were more motivated to get good results in the HSC. A
few were leaving early to get married, to move on to TAFE or just to get out of school. Last year at Auburn
Girls High School, out of 22 Turkish speaking girls, 20 went on to enroll at University. The main aim of the
girls was to study at university, and only if they missed out on university would they consider TAFE or a
private training college. They were not encouraged to consider traineeships or apprenticeships, except as a
last option (Gunesh 1999).

Whereas the boys were more likely to leave high school before completing their HSC, and many more were
encountering problems with discipline at school. A counsellor at Granville Boys High, Irfan Yigit, said he
was seeing a larger number of Turkish speaking youth experiencing major difficulties at high school. He
said there was only a small group of boys who were ‘achievers’.

He felt this was largely determined by the home environment. It came down to whether the family
supported their children in their schooling, especially in doing their homework, giving them encouragement
to study and supporting their reading. He felt that even if the parents were illiterate or grew up in a village,
if they supported their children in doing homework and reading, the children would succeed. However
where parents were not interested, didn’t care about school, reading and study, the children would not do
well at school (Yigit 1999).

The HELP co-ordinator at Granville Multicultural Centre, Raefat Soryal, organises after-school tutoring
classes in English and maths. The classes include a large group of Turkish speaking students from high
schools in the area. He says his work is becoming more difficult with all the students he sees, and this
includes the Turkish students. He is seeing more students with greater literacy problems, poor study skills
and a ‘poor attitude’ towards school and study (Soryal 1999).

Turkish teachers were concerned that increasing numbers of Turkish boys were leaving school before
completing Year 12, and more were being expelled or suspended at high school. This was echoed by the
NSW NESB Issues Network who saw this as a major issue for NESB youth generally. The Network felt
this issue required further research and monitoring in NSW (AYPAC 1998: 21).

Career advice

The counsellor at Granville Boys High School also said that boys did not demonstrate the skills or interest
to find and explore the opportunities available to them after they left school. He found there was a strong
dependency on school advisers, with students requiring a lot of help with filling out forms and gathering
career or job information (Yigit 1999).

Youth at school

A focus group discussion was arranged with a total of five groups of Turkish speaking high school
students. The groups involved students attending the Turkish Saturday Community Language classes from
one Year 11 and one Year 12 class, at both Dulwich High School and Liverpool High School. There was
also one group of Year 9 students attending an after-school tutoring class in Granville.

The discussion was focussed on their experiences of part-time work, finding a job, plans for future study,
career plans, and what it meant being Turkish. The groups were mixed, including similar numbers of males
and females.

Among these groups, students expressed a strong commitment to their family and their community and
showed little evidence of contesting or struggling hard against their parent’s authority. They generally
appeared confident about themselves and their future and had plans for further study and a career.


Among the Year 11 and Year 12 boys at Liverpool and Dulwich Hill a significant number were working or
had worked part-time. While only a small proportion of girls were working or had worked during their time
at school. Only a few of the Year 9 students were doing any part-time work. The type of jobs they had
obtained was mainly limited to food outlets – either in Turkish kebab stores or large food chain stores. Only
a few mentioned working in other types of retail stores.

Those who were working gave a number of different reasons for taking on a job while they were still as
school. The reasons included earning money, gaining some experience and training, getting out of the
house, being able to fit in with their school work, and in some cases it was a fun thing to do. A few said
they needed to work to help their mother or their family. Generally the jobs they had seemed to suit their
needs, while they were at school.

Most of the students who were working felt confident they would continue to find work, especially part-
time work. A few also felt they would be able to find a job if they needed to work and study at the same

Finding a job

There was a heavy reliance on finding work through people they knew – especially through their family,
close relatives and friends. Most of the students who were working mentioned they found their job through
their immediate family or friends of their family. In some cases the family or friend owned a kebab shop, so
they were able to get the job quite easily. A few mentioned they saw a sign in a shop, and just went in and
asked for the job. While a few said they approached the types of shops they wanted to work in and asked if
there was a vacancy.

Among the Year 11 girls at Liverpool, most of those who were working showed an awareness of other
strategies they could use to find work. These included looking in the local newspaper, asking in local
shops, going to a job centre or approaching an employment agency.

Future study

The Turkish young people attending Saturday schools generally expressed a strong commitment to
continuing their education. Most had a positive view about their future and saw that it was linked to further
study. However their focus seemed quite narrow. Generally they saw their main further study option as
getting into university, and most of those who expressed an opinion said their preferred choice after leaving
school was going onto study at university.

Inglis, Elley & Manderson (1992) found in their study there was little interest in going to TAFE. While
among these Turkish speaking high school students, there was a high degree of awareness of TAFE, but
little interest in going there unless they had to.

When asked about TAFE, most of the students said they would only go to TAFE or a private college, if
they did not get into university. They saw TAFE as a realistic fallback option. Although for some TAFE
was seen as a stepping stone, a way of moving into further study and then going onto university to do the
course they wanted.

The current university enrolment figures for Turkish speaking young people in Sydney suggest that while a
proportion of the students currently in Years 11 and 12 will enroll in a University course, a much higher
proportion are unlikely to obtain a high enough UAI mark to attend university. Of those who move onto
further study, a much larger number will enroll in a TAFE course. The 1998 TAFE NSW enrolment figures
mentioned earlier, suggest that for a large proportion of Turkish young people, going to TAFE was now the
major option for further study.

Field of study or career

Both the Year 11 and 12 students talked about the type of field they wanted to study in or the career they
had in mind. The field of study mentioned most included business studies, tourism and hospitality and
computing/ computer science. Among the careers mentioned they included joining the defence force,
teaching, information technology, psychology, childcare, fashion design, photography and becoming a
lawyer. Very few mentioned taking up a trade or an apprenticeship. There was a proportion of the boys in
all the groups who said they had no idea what they would do when they left school. Generally the girls
seemed more clear about their options and showed a greater range of career choices than the boys of the
same age.

Being Turkish

Given that most of the students were attending Turkish language classes, when asked about what it meant
to them to be of Turkish background, most were very certain. They felt it meant close links with their
family and their culture. They expressed a genuine pride in being Turkish, and a desire to retain their
Turkish language and the parts of their culture they saw as relevant to their life today.

A few students mentioned that their religion was an important part of their culture, but this dimension was
not elaborated on further as part of the discussions.

There was general agreement that Turkish families and parents were different to most other Australian
parents. They were seen as being stricter, but also more supportive and more concerned about what
happened to their children. They mentioned that being part of a Turkish family in Australia meant ‘showing
respect for your parents’, ‘having a strict upbringing’, ‘getting support from your family’, and ‘your parents
care more about you’. Most students said they were proud of these aspects and they did not see them as
negatives or something they needed to rebel against or change.

They stressed the importance of the wider family unit. For them the family included relatives, uncles,
cousins and friends. Also they felt really connected to the wider Turkish speaking community. This meant
that other Turkish people in the community ‘look after each other’, ‘help each other’, ‘find work for you’,
and ‘its such a small community everyone knows what you are doing’. Because family and friends were
generally closely knit, young people said that it was ‘important to keep out of trouble’ and ‘you cannot
doing anything to bring shame on your family’.

Gender differences

Most of the students in the Year 11 and 12 classes accepted that different standards applied to the
behaviour of boys and girls. Boys said they had a great deal more freedom to live and control their life
outside the home. They said they were allowed to come and go, without major restrictions.

While girls faced a lot more controls and their social life was much more restricted. They were not allowed
as much freedom as their brothers or cousins to come and go as they pleased. They were expected to let
their parents know where they were when they went out, and their parents had to approve who they went
out with. They were also expected to do a lot more around the house to help their parents.

For most of the Year 11 and 12 students this did not seem unreasonable, although a number of girls
commented on how they were resisting their parent’s control and living their lives with more freedom than
their older sisters had been able to. While some girls felt under pressure from their parents, they still felt it
was important to behave properly and keep up a good family name.

Some girls mentioned having a very strict father, while others said they had a lot of support from their
father and it was their mother who was more strict on them.

While parents varied in how strict they were towards their daughters, there was general agreement that a
girl needed to be good. As one girl said, ‘If you are bad, other people in the community will find out and
this would be bad for you and your family.’

Only one Year 12 male student said he felt the Turkish culture that parents were following was ‘old
fashioned and out of date’ and he thought you had to ‘fight against it, because it’s important to live your
own life.’

One way of analysing the experiences of Turkish speaking young people in Sydney was to carry out
extended face to face interviews with a number of Turkish young people drawn from across Sydney. This
enabled the study to give voice to different experiences and highlight some common themes.

The interviews included 10 young people, 5 males and 5 females, aged 15-24. Of these 6 were aged 15-19
years and 4 were aged 20-24 years. The discussions were focussed on their experiences of school, work,
finding work, unemployment, further study, their family, being Turkish and their view of the future.

Young Turkish Males
Among the males two, Sabri and Beshir were aged 17, and two, Vural and Ahmet were aged 18. Three of
these four had left school before completing their HSC and were or had been unemployed. One older male
Kemal, was aged 24 and while he had finished high school, he had not gone onto further study and had
been unemployed for almost a year.


The experiences of the males while they were at school, highlights how some Turkish speaking males are
contesting what and how they are being taught in high school. In some cases they were having to learn to
deal with gangs and violence as they started their first years in high school.

One young male Beshir who left school in Year 10 said he disliked his teachers at both the high schools he
went to and felt that he was being picked on because of his ethnic background.

         ‘I hated school because of the teachers. I didn’t want to go. Basically when I first went to Lucas
         Heights, the ethnics at the school were a minority and the teachers gave us a hard time. You could
         call it racism, but they wouldn’t call it that’.

He also learned early that it was useful to group together with other Turkish speaking youth, as a way of
surviving the assaults and gang violence he encountered at his first school in the inner city.

         ‘There were lots of gangs there and the majority were ethnics. The first day I went there, I got
         bashed by three guys for wearing a school uniform. And then I didn’t go to school for about a
         week. When I turned up the Turks took me in an introduced me to everyone.’

Ahmet and Sabri, who were also early school leavers, leaving in Year 11, said they left because they were
not learning anything at school. They felt there was no point in staying at school if they were not learning,
and that it was better to move out into the world and try something else. Sabri tried to stay on but found it
too difficult once he started missing classes.

         ‘It wasn’t too hard, but I was just screwing up so I had to leave school. I was missing too much
         school, so when I got back to school, I didn’t know what they were going on about’ (Sabri).

For Ahmet, who was expelled from a local high school because he was a ‘troublemaker’ and a slow learner
even enrolled at a special school. He found both schools difficult to endure.

         ‘I didn’t like school at all, that’s why I left. I didn’t like maths and spelling . I didn’t like it.’

Whereas for Vural and Kenan while they completed high school and gained a mark in the HSC, they found
that they did not obtain the results they needed to move onto further study at university. Kenan even
repeated the HSC to improve his marks and still wasn’t able to do the university course that he wanted.


Among the younger males finding on-going employment was difficult. Beshir and Ahmet have moved in
and out of work, taking on jobs for short periods only, while still looking for a better long term job. Of the
two Beshir had tried more jobs including labouring work, stock running at a supermarket and working for
his step-dad doing some carpentry work. While Ahmet had worked only for a few short periods, as a car
detailer and a house painter before giving them up and becoming unemployed. He found it difficult to
concentrate both at school and work because of a disability.

Sabri was doing a number of short courses, while he kept looking for work and Vural had taken on a TAFE
course and picked up some part–time work. While Kenan has taken up a number of different jobs since
leaving school, before being unemployed for almost a year. He had worked in the family catering business,
as a courier, and as a builder’s labourer. His best job so far was being a courier for Weight Watchers.

         ‘I went to work for a courier company working for Weight Watchers. I worked there for 2 and a
         half years doing house deliveries all over Sydney. I was paid $25 an hour and I owned the van.’

Finding jobs

A feature of the way that the males found their jobs was their reliance on friends and family to get them a
job. There was little mention of other methods or strategies.

Ahmet and Vural found their work through Turkish friends, while Beshir approached his father’s friend and
looked to his uncle for help. Kenan found his jobs through his family contacts, initially through his brother,
his parents and then his in-laws. Sabri was also looking to his family for advice and help in getting a job.

          ‘For help and advice I have got my aunty’s older daughter. She was working at the customer
         service in the Commonwealth bank.’

The limitations of working with the family were seen clearly by Beshir, who experienced a lot of pressure
while working with his step-father and realised this wasn’t always a good thing to do.

         ‘I don’t want to work with the family no more cause you have so much pressure, you’ve got to
         prove yourself, its hard. When I worked with my (step) dad, I used to work like a dog, he used to
         push me, so people couldn’t say he’s having it easy.’

A few did mention visiting job agencies and going for lots of interviews. Significantly most did not
mention being helped by Centrelink or a Job Network agency to find a job. None had been assessed by
Cebtrelink as needing intensive assistance, or assisted to develop their job seeking skills.

Only Sabri had approached a Turkish welfare agency in Auburn. Taken there by his mother, this led him to
make contact with a job agency, Job Futures in Burwood, and move back into taking a number of short
courses through the JPET program.

Beshir did find a sales job based on commissions only, as a result of ringing a few companies he found in
the newspaper. But he learnt quickly that this type of job would cost him money before he earnt anything,
and that he basically did not know enough about the product to be able to do the job.

         ‘My (step) dad advised me not to do it, he said you’ll end up spending money out of your own
         pocket, you’re not going to be able to sell the items.’


Younger males seemed to accept that unemployment was going to be a part of this stage of their lives. They
saw it happening to them and many of their friends around them, especially to their Turkish friends. Their

experience so far suggested they would have to keep on moving in and out of the work force, trying to find

Apart from talking with their family, they seemed reluctant to talk about their experiences of
unemployment with others. Generally they were not interested in talking about why they were unemployed.

         ‘With my friends we don’t talk about work, we just talk and hang out and we want to get away
         from work and all that’ (Beshir).

Most felt that dealing with unemployment was up to the individual. They said they needed to keep a
positive attitude and try to motivate themselves to find work. But they said it was hard because among their
friends there were quite a few Turkish speaking youth who were no longer interested in either work or
further study. Even though they were unemployed or had experienced unemployment themselves, they
generally expressed negative views about their friends who were not working.

         ‘I’ve got four friends, they have all been working. One is working at a supermarket, Clancy’s at
         Auburn, another at a Regent’s Park printing place, but he left. The rest that I know are just
         bludgers, just bludging around. They are on benefits’ (Sabri).

         ‘My cousin used to be a mechanic, he’s 19 and he would help me find a job. But he doesn’t work
         anymore as well. He was lazy, wouldn’t do it and now he’s looking for a job’ (Ahmet).

Few were expecting the Turkish community or government organisations to help them find work, although
one of the younger males did feel it was important for people within the community to get involved and
help young people.

         ‘We need more people like yourself to get involved, to show that they care about the Turkish kids
         around here. We need some more positive role models in terms of Turkish people who have made
         it, who are professionals’ (Vural).

Further study

The younger males felt it was important to do some kind of further study, whether or not they actually
managed to do it. Despite leaving school early and having had negative experiences of school, a number of
the younger males recognised that they needed to gain more skills to get a better job. Significantly the only
option they saw for the future involved going to TAFE.

Ahmet realised he needed to finish his HSC to get the job that he wanted, but thought it would be difficult
to do. Sabri accepted that he needed to complete his HSC, even if this meant studying at night by going to
TAFE. He said that he planned to go onto further study.

         ‘If you haven’t got education and training, you won’t be able to get a job. After I get a job I want
         to do my Year 11 and 12 in the evenings in one year.’

Beshir was prepared to go onto study at TAFE, once he had found a job and a place to live.

         ‘I want to have a steady job and move out and rent a place with my uncle and get into a


Family remained a major part of their lives. All of the younger males were living at home, receiving both
financial and emotional support from their parents. The family provided ongoing support, advice, and
assistance with finding work. The males found they were accepted, even if parents did not always agree
with their choices.

Even the older male, Kenan, although married and living in his own home was still receiving financial
support from his in-laws. His mother-in-law still brought food around for them to eat.

For Sabri even though he left school early, both his mother and father helped him a great deal.

         ‘They give me support you know. They just give their opinions. Like they won’t say Ii want you
         to go get an office job. They’ll just say why don’t you go for an office job, are you interested in an
         office job.’

Even though Beshir hadn’t seen his father for 15 years, he had a close relationship with his mother and an
older uncle, and listened to some of the things his step-dad said. He saw a real difference in the level of
support they provided as compared with his non-Turkish friends in the local community.

         ‘A lot of my non-Turkish mates are basically on their own. If something happens or goes wrong I
         can come to my parents and they will give me a hand and point me in the right direction.’

Being Turkish

Among the males there was a real pride in being Turkish. Their Turkish identity was interwoven with their
close links to family, relatives and friends. Most of them had regular contact with the wider Turkish
community through regular visits, attending weddings, and taking part in various religious and national
celebrations throughout the year.

         ‘I like Turkish weddings I go with my parents. I’ve got a few uncles, cousins here. I go to the one
         that lives at Mt Druitt, to my uncle’s house’ (Ahmet).

For Vural both his religion and culture are important.

         ‘What motivates me is our religion and apart from that how we get together sometimes.’

Even for Beshir, who said he generally didn’t mix with Turkish people, he was close to his uncle and his
grand parents when they were in Australia.

Two of the males, Vural and Beshir had travelled to Turkey in recent years and returned somewhat
chastened by the experience. They found Turkey was a much tougher and more competitive society than
Australia. They found that it provided little support to those who weren’t working.

Strictness and discipline were two values they found were important in Turkey. Relatives and family over
there were much stricter in the way they treated their children when they were growing up. They felt there
was a greater discipline in the schools, the standard of teaching at school was better over there, and it was
much harder to get into higher education in Turkey. For Vural life was much easier in Australia.

         ‘You wake up to yourself, you look at the opportunities you have around you here and you realise
         its more than over there’.

Generally there were few comments made about any limitations of the local Turkish community. There was
some awareness about the limited work opportunities and the lack of information about career and work
opportunities available within the community. Vural in particular showed some insight into the plight of the
community. He talked about the limitations and felt the community needed to provide young people with
more guidance.

         ‘What does our community have to give us? I can walk down the street and get a job in a kebab
         shop or I can work in a video store, as a taxi driver or a courier driver……… These are the jobs
         our community know about.’


The young males found that after they left school they had to change their plans significantly. Their school
results and experience so far led them to feel their choices were limited. It was not always clear what they
could do now or how they could find a way into the world of work or further study. Although they did have
specific goals for the future, there was a great deal of uncertainty about how their lives would work out.

Ahmet was hoping to work at State Rail, although he mentioned that he also liked working on cars. Vural
had already moved from wanting to become a forensic scientist to working in computers, and already had a
part-time job. While Sabri wanted to work in electrical engineering and was now looking at getting into
office work, with plans to move into computing in the future. Kenan was looking to return to driving, rather
than doing courier work. This time he was planning to work as a delivery driver with a larger truck, his
brother would help him get started. And Beshir wasn’t sure about he would be doing but was hoping to
move into something in retail. He was hoping to be taken on for a traineeship or apprenticeship

         ‘ I’m good with people and communication in general. I want to become something. I don’t want
         to be a labourer all my life.’

Young Turkish females
Of the five young Turkish speaking females interviewed, two, Hatice and Peker were aged 19, two, Ayshe
and Semma were aged 20, and one, Neriman, was aged 21. Only Neriman had finished high school in
Turkey and was married. All had been unemployed for a period since leaving high school.


All of the Turkish speaking females had finished high school, completing their studies through to the end of
Year 12, either here or in Turkey. Their results did not always enable them to take on the further studies
they had hoped for. In some cases their HSC results came as a shock to them and left them bewildered
about the future.

         ‘I went to Auburn Girls High and I didn’t do that bad, but I didn’t get a TER because I didn’t
         apply for one. I wanted to do different subjects and you don’t get a TER for them subjects….. ..I
         wanted to do Turkish interpreting to get a job in translation and that but I couldn’t’ (Ayshe).

Reflecting on their experience, a few realised too late that they needed to choose different subjects, and not
rely as much on their performance in the Turkish language. They understood that they needed to obtain
better information about the real state of the job market before they left school.

         ‘When I was at uni, I looked back and saw I made the wrong choices in school and science was
         wrong for me’ (Semma).

Some females expressed concerns about the importance of receiving good career advice, and were critical
of the advice they did receive while they were at school.

         ‘The careers teacher didn’t talk to us about what would happen after we left school. She never said
         once you’re out there, if you need help come back. Or if you need help these are the places you
         can go’ (Peker).

         ‘I didn’t get any career advice at school, maybe if I did maybe then I would be working now or
         even studying doing a course’ (Ayshe)

Further study

The females showed a strong interest in taking on further study and a determination to find ways of
continuing their studies and obtaining the skills required in a particular field. This was despite facing
English language difficulties, relatively low marks in their HSC and not having relevant work experience.

Hatice studied intensive English courses before enrolling in TAFE and doing a business management
course. For Peker who was unemployed after leaving school, she found work experience through a friend in
a travel agency and then went onto to do a TAFE course.

         ‘I was unemployed for about 6 months. The CES was trying to look for a job for me. I found some
         work experience through a friend at a travel agency for about three months. Then in July I started
         TAFE, it was good, but before that I was just lost.’

While Ayshe had completed a receptionist course, Neriman who had been in Australia for only two years
had already completed an AMES English language course and a computer course at her local TAFE

The only female to go onto university straight from school Semma, dropped out during her second semester
at the University of Western Sydney. This left her with a significant HECS debt, was followed by a period
of unemployment, before she moved onto further study at TAFE in a new field.

         ‘I left uni and I was unemployed, so I did a receptionists skills course at Granville TAFE. I needed
         to catch up on my computer skills. Then I heard about it (business studies) from a friend who was
         doing business studies and I applied at Granville and Petersham TAFE.’ (Semma)


The range of work the females have been able to find has been limited, with only a few being able to hold
onto part-time jobs after they left school. In some cases because they cannot show any relevant work
experience, they find they were missing out on the available jobs.

         ‘Since I left school I’ve tried to find a job but I couldn’t. I need experience of at least a year, some
         places ask for six months and I have to be able to use a computer’ (Ayshe).

         ‘Wherever I called they asked for work experience, which I did not have’ (Hatice).

The type of work available to them was usually part-time, lowly paid and involved serving in a kebab shop,
fast food outlet, working for Turkish catering companies or in a retail store.

For some females working as well as studying was a necessity.

         ‘I have been on the Youth Allowance since I was 16. I got it all along because both my parents are
         pensioners and I need the money. We are not well off. I have been working part-time since I was
         16. I did Auburn McDonalds and 2 years with a Turkish catering company’ (Semma).

         ‘I am now working as a casual at Kmart and studying part-time. I found the job myself. I enjoy it.
         I like helping people’ (Peker).

Finding a job

The females also showed a strong determination to find work and used a number of different strategies in
their search. However none mentioned receiving any support from Centrelink or a job network agency.

         ‘I’ve tried very hard. I’ve been to lots of employment agencies. I went to Manpower in Parramatta
         this week. I’m trying… I found out through friends where to go and I would go and fill out the
         forms’ (Ayshe).

         ‘I couldn’t wait for the CES to do something for me. Every time I went there for assistance they
         kept directing me to the computer to look up myself. I got sick of that and I know that I had to
         look after myself’ (Peker).

Approaching friends and family, going to the CES, visiting their local job network, trying other recruitment
agencies, and even approaching their local state member of parliament were some of the ways females were
finding work.

         ‘I even went to see our local member, because people told me he could help me find a job. He said
         to me my own son is unemployed, if I can’t help him find a job, how can I help you?’ (Hatice)

A number of the females also mentioned the help they received in gaining work experience and eventually
finding work through the help of a Turkish community organisation in Auburn, the Australian Turkish
Cultural Trust. A number of the females had been placed at the Trust to gain work experience in office
work, either as a placement as part of a TAFE course or through referral from a Work for the Dole scheme.


Given that the females all completed high school, unemployment was something they still encountered as
they tried to move into work or further study. It was generally something they had learned to struggle with,
in order to find a way through.

A number of females also saw that they were not the only ones facing unemployment. They saw there were
many of their friends around them who were unemployed. They lived in families where their older siblings,
relatives and many of their parents were unemployed as well.

         ‘I know of other young (Turkish) women who are unemployed and most of them are living with
         their parents’ (Neriman).

         ‘There are a lot of my friends who are unemployed. Some are studying, but a lot more are
         unemployed’ (Peker).

The lack of work experience in the particular job they were going for, was seen as a major cause of

         ‘Most companies like to employ someone who has worked before and has the skills. I think young
         people should be trained for the work force, they should be able to gain work experience’ (Ayshe).

The problem of drugs also emerged as a major issue in and around Auburn. The females saw that some
young people were choosing to be unemployed and taking up drugs.

         ‘The biggest problem for Turkish young people in Auburn is drugs. So many of our youth are
         being lost to drugs’ (Hatice).

         ‘The young people choose to be unemployed and not studying, their parents need to be educated.
         There is a problem with drugs around Auburn. I am so keen on doing something, because it is
         ridiculous, it has got out of control’ (Peker).

For the females, unemployment and drug addiction were the major social problems that parents, employers
and the wider community needed to address.


The females said they received a lot of support from their families. They did not see their parents as too
strict or limiting their choices to work or study. In fact most felt encouraged by their parents.

         ‘I have a great relationship with my parents. My parents really want me to study and graduate.
         They want us to study and become something because they didn’t do it’ (Peker).

         ‘My parents are very supportive of me and my three sisters.. my family live in Auburn and my
         parents are on the pension, my father was very active in the Turkish community’ (Hatice).

In some cases the female was the first one in their family to make it through into higher education and there
were difficulties when they failed to live up to their parent’s expectations.

         ‘They (parents) really supported me and wanted me to get a good education. It was a big thing for
         them, I was the first in the family to go onto uni… my parents were devastated when I left uni. It
         was very hard at that time’ (Semma).

While one female said she felt pressured by her parents to find work, overall in her social life she was able
to do what she wanted because she was the only girl in the family.

         ‘I don’t feel any pressure from my parents because I’m the only girl in the family. My parents
         aren’t all that strict on me. I go out and see my friends, but not everyone’s like that. A few of my
         friends can’t go out as much’ (Ayshe).

Being Turkish

The young females were positive about their Turkish background. They also felt the role of the family was
a very valuable part of their culture, even if their own family was small or they moved in with their
husband’s family.

         ‘I‘ve got no one here except my own family, the rest are in Turkey. I’ve only got friends that I go
         to, we’re not that related, but we treat each other like cousins, we’re that close. I don’t feel alone
         here, because there’s so many Turkish people…’ (Ayshe).

         ‘I love the culture, the festivals, the feasts (Bayram) and the family values. We stick together and
         everyone looks after everyone’ (Semma).

         ‘I live with my husband’s family. There is one uncle and one daughter and she is married. I go to
         the mosque and pray. I don’t see many young people going to the mosque, its mainly older people
         who go’ (Neriman).

While religion was a factor in their lives, most did not go regularly to the mosque and would not be
considered devout Muslims. One female did mention that some of her young friends faced discrimination
when applying for jobs, because they were more devout and showed their commitment to Islam by wearing
a head scarf.

         ‘Some of my girlfriends wear head scarves and are finding this is a barrier to getting a job. People
         don’t want to employ you when they see you are wearing the head scarf ‘ (Hatice).

The females were aware that young women faced more restrictions than young males because of their
cultural background. But they also felt the community was changing as parents and children adapted to the
much freer social life in Australia.

         ‘I think as a woman its more difficult. Its different standards. Buts its changing slowly. Girls are
         going out more, but boys have the right and privilege to go out. I know some girls who aren’t
         allowed to go out’ (Semma).

Also it was often easier for a female when she had other older siblings. It was usually the eldest children
who received the strictest upbringing.

         ‘For me it was different to my older sisters… it was difficult for my dad. But he slowly adapted.’

There was some concern about girls marrying early, especially while they were still at school. This was a
common custom in villages in Turkey, but was less common now in Australia.

         ‘Some girls get married really young. I’m against young marriage. I know girls who got married in
         Year 11 at school.’ (Semma)


The young females were all keen to work and study further. They had plans for the future that took into
account their experiences of the workforce since leaving school. Often over a short time they had learned to
adjust their plans, and modify the type of work and study they would do in the future.

Ayshe really wanted to work in the hospitality industry, but she felt that at 20 it was too late for her to study
and complete the required course. She was now doing an office job at a Turkish community agency under
the Work for Dole scheme and hoping to find work in an office.

         ‘Hopefully I can find something to do in an office, because that’s all I can do now .’

Neriman wants to work in an office and accepts she still has to improve her English language skills and do
more training.

         ‘I want to work in an office and I need to do an office skills course. My husband works in an
         office… my mother-in-law works in the same factory. They can help me find a job.’

Semma plans to work in administration and work her way up, she hopes to be able to do marketing,
management or human resources. Peker was planning to go to Turkey and use her skills to get a job in an
airline or a job in tourism. She felt she may go on to do further studies in Turkey.

Hatice wants to go onto university after she finishes her TAFE course and study business management. Her
dream is to go and study for an MBA at Harvard.

Interviews were carried out with Turkish community workers, welfare workers, a number of family
counsellors and a local general practitioner. Views were also sought from workers in the wider community
including a youth worker at a local youth centre, staff working with youth at Centrelink, and staff at a
number of Job Network agencies.

The view of community workers echoed some of the concerns raised by teachers in the previous section
and because of their direct contact with families and some of the Turkish young people in crisis, they had a
broader range of concerns.

Turkish community workers
There were a range of views among Turkish community workers about the extent of the unemployment
problem and the main issues affecting unemployed youth in the Turkish community. Although there were
no Turkish community workers specifically funded to deal with the needs of unemployed youth, most
workers had regular contact with the community and felt that Turkish youth unemployment was an
important issue that needed to be addressed.

Some workers blamed the young people, saying that it was all their fault and said they had developed the
wrong attitude towards work. One worker felt that the community did not have a big problem, she only saw
a few Turkish youth who were unemployed and those that were unemployed were ‘no hopers’ and ‘they did
not want to work’ (Ozan 1998).

Others focussed on the problems young people were facing in finding work. These included inadequate
schooling, poor language skills, mixing with the wrong peer group, parental pressure, the use of illegal
drugs, and their overall economic and social disadvantage.

Turkish welfare workers
Yildiz Ozan, a social worker at the Turkish Welfare Association (TWA) saw only a few unemployed young
people in almost a year at the centre in Auburn, because most of her clients were older Turkish born
migrants (Ozan 1999).

During her two days at the Auburn office, Yildiz spent most of her time helping individual clients with
social security, housing and immigration problems. She also provided a range of information and referrals,
as well as helping people write letters and fill out forms. She felt these services were similar to those
provided by other Turkish community social workers located in other Turkish community associations.

The Association also worked with Granville TAFE to offer English language class for Turkish women and
provided support for the Turkish Youth Association. One initiative to help young people started in the
middle of 1998. The TWA linked up with a community based Job Network agency, Job Futures in
Burwood. This meant that an employment consultant from the agency visited the centre regularly to meet
with or make appointments with anyone who was unemployed, including young people. The agency also
ran a number of job seeking skills sessions at the TWA office for anyone who came along.

One of the associations, the Australian Turkish Social & Cultural Trust, focussed its attention on helping
Turkish women in the community. Although most of their work was with women aged over 24 years, the
social worker there Alev Guven said that among her cases she was regularly seeing a number of young
women (usually with children) suffering domestic violence. In some cases this resulted in the women
having to leave their homes, ending up in a refuge, unemployed and without any family support. (Guven

Guven also felt there were two distinct groups of unemployed Turkish young people in and around Auburn.
One was a group of young unemployed males who were out and about on the streets, while the other was

young unemployed women in their late teens, who had left school were living at home and were unable to
find work. The association was helping some of these young women, by offering short periods of work
experience in their office. In 1999 it was able to place a number of young women as part of a local
Multicultural Work for the Dole program run by Mission Employment in Auburn, and to link up with
students taking Outreach courses at Granville TAFE.

In the area around Toongabbie, Mr Druitt and St Mary’s unemployment was also seen as a big problem
among Turkish and Kurdish youth according to Dursen Guzel a social worker with the Australian Alievi
Cultural Centre. He said the problem was largely hidden. Most of the young people there were living at
home, many were doing part time, lowly paid, cash in hand jobs and were still being supported by their
family. The drug problem was emerging, with some young males getting involved with heroin and ending
up out of work. He also felt Turkish speaking youth from refugee families from Bosnia were finding it very
hard to adjust and find their way into work or study (Guzel 1999).

Many of the Turkish youth in the area were not doing well at school and if they did complete high school,
they received a low mark on completion. He felt they left school poorly prepared to find a way into the
labour market.

Guzel tried to help the young people who approached the association to move into work. In some cases he
was able to find work experience placements or access a course at a TAFE college. A major part of his
work involved making contact with employers, finding job opportunities and helping young people put
together resumes and references. He had built up good links with many local businesses and other
companies across Sydney, where he had managed to find places for some Turkish unemployed youth from
his area.

Alievi video night series

During 1996 the Alevi Association in Toongabbie ran a series of social evenings for their local Turkish
speaking youth. They started by showing videos on a Tuesday evening and after a few weeks found they
had more than 50 young people attending.

Guzel asked his daughter, who was finishing off a university course in social work, to help focus the
evenings on issues relating to unemployment. As a result she was able to work with the young people over
a number of weeks and help them with information, referrals, providing assistance with resumes and job
applications. Once she graduated and left for Melbourne this initiative ended (Guzel 1999).

Family counsellors and doctor
Another perspective was provided by Turkish family counsellors and a general practitioner. These
professionals were seeing many Turkish families going through crisis, family breakdown, and generational
conflict between young people and their parents.

The family support worker at the Australian Turkish and Kurdish Community Services Co-operative,
Sermin Oncu, said there were a lot of Turkish young people in the Auburn area who were unemployed. She
felt it was a result of not receiving a good education. She saw that many unemployed youth were living at
home and this was giving rise to ongoing conflict about behaviour.

She found the unemployed youth she saw lacked confidence in themselves and really needed assistance
with more information, more skills and training to enable them to get into the workforce. (Oncu 1999)

Generally Turkish families would not come forward themselves for counselling, but ended up being
referred from other agencies usually a local high school. An adolescent family counsellor and psychologist
at a Green Valley community centre, David Alpak was seeing a number of young Turkish males in his
practice, who were in danger of dropping out of school because of behavioural problems. He felt the
problems were the result of family pressure on the young males to succeed.

Alpak pointed to the ‘emotional manipulation by parents’. They were putting pressure on their children to
succeed at school, because they, the parents, were sacrificing everything for their children, giving them all
the opportunities they never had when they were young. Yet the young males were living in a culture that
was much more laid back and permissive and were finding it hard to live up to parental expectations.

Some young people were responding by rebelling, acting out their aggression and turning to drugs.
Although most were using marijuana, some were starting to use heroin and joining the youth gangs that had
moved into the Green Valley and Miller areas (Alpak 1999).

The drug issue was also emerging in Auburn where the most difficult group to reach in the community
were the young males who were unemployed, had left home and had got involved with drugs. Oncu was
seeing families who were trying to deal with their son’s drug addiction, by bringing them back home. She
felt this strategy was not working and found the families were not coping. She was starting to hear of
young Turkish people becoming homeless and living in the streets. At this stage, she said no one in the
community had any effective strategies to deal with the drug issue (Oncu 1999).

One of the few professionals to raise the issue of drug addiction among young Turkish people is a general
practitioner working at a clinic in Auburn. Dr Oner says that he has tried to raise the issue through Turkish
radio and the newspapers, but he felt nobody wants to know about it. He was finding increasing numbers of
young Turkish people were having problems with heroin and marijuana, because it had become a
fashionable thing to be involved in (Oner 1999).

View from the wider community

Youth worker

The local youth worker at the Auburn Youth Centre, Rocky Furlong, one of only three youth workers in the
local municipality, said that he was also seeing some young unemployed people in the area dropping out of
the system and falling into petty crime, car stealing and drugs. He saw that they were no longer on the dole,
were not counted in the unemployment statistics and generally were surviving through the support of their
families and petty crime.

He wasn’t sure how many of these young people were Turkish, but Turkish youth made up a part of the
young people in the Auburn area. The centre was seeing quite a few school aged Turkish young people
aged between 12 and 18, who attended the drop-in and vacation programs offered. But he said they saw
very few older unemployed Turkish youth attending the centre (Furlong 1999).


Among the government agencies in the Auburn and Granville area, Turkish young people were not seen as
a group that were different from the rest in the local community. According to one of the youth officers at
Centrelink Auburn, there was no obvious differences among the youth from non-English speaking
backgrounds. All of them faced the same major problems.

These included English language difficulties, a lack of work experience, no idea of how to get into the
workforce and what work to do, and a lack of self esteem and motivation. The problems were more severe
for those who had left school early, before completing their HSC. If these young people were to find work,
they needed to rely on their informal networks (Norman 1999).

Whereas the Youth Contact officer at Centrelink in Auburn, Kim Bastian, emphasised that one of the main
problems he saw was that many young people in the area, particularly NESB youth, were leaving school
without any idea about the labour market. He felt they needed a realistic idea of the world of work, with
good information about their options for work and study.

He was concerned about early school leavers in particular and wanted to reach them with information
before they left school. One of the strategies he was planning to introduce this year, involved arranging
school visits to better inform students about the labour market in the area.

He acknowledged that one of the difficulties of the new Job Network system is that some youth get lost
between Centrelink and the four Job Network agencies located in Auburn, because some agencies had a
huge case load to manage (Bastian 1999).

Job Network Agencies

The view from one of the main Job Network agencies in Auburn was slightly different and focussed more
on the attitudes of youth towards work. Stan Hurley, Manager of the Mission Employment in Auburn
agreed that Turkish youth shared the difficulties that all other non-English speaking background youth in
the area faced.

While he said that language difficulties, hidden cultural prejudice and negative attitudes towards young
people were factors affecting the young unemployed, he found that it was the apathy and lack of motivation
shown by young people that was a key factor.

Hurley said that there were jobs available for young people in the area, but that youth lacked the required
skills or had the wrong attitude towards work. He felt that young people had grown up in a culture of high
unemployment and were just not interested in working. Mission Employment had been operating in Auburn
for just over a year and had seen over 3,000 job seekers, registered over 500 employers, and filled 525 jobs
out of more than 1,000 vacancies they had registered (Hurley 1999).

He found that that some young people were alienated, while others were interested in girls, going to discos,
cars, drugs and gambling. For them work was not a high priority.

The agency employed two Turkish speaking staff and a number of Muslims but saw few ‘religious youth’,
because they managed to find their own jobs within the community.

The agency was operating five Work for the Dole schemes and was struggling to fill the places available.
One of these was a Multicultural Work experience program that was able to provide placements of up to 6
months in a number of Turkish community organisations.

A case manager at another of the main job agencies in Auburn, Nolan Emeli said they were not seeing any
Turkish young people, instead they saw many older Turkish unemployed people (Emeli 1999).

An employment consultant at Job Futures, Rosemary Chick, who regularly visited the Turkish Welfare
Association in Auburn said she had only come across a few Turkish young people in her visits. Those she
saw needed help in acquiring basic skills (including computer skills), job seeking skills, and study habits if
they were to go onto TAFE, college courses or find a job (Chick 1999).

The agency offered places in its Job Placement Employment Training (JPET) program which was funded
by DETYA to reach disadvantaged youth, especially youth at risk of homelessness, refugees, ex-offenders
or those facing multiple barriers to gaining employment, education or training.

Job Futures had worked with a few Turkish youth from Lidcombe and Homebush who had taken part in the
program after leaving school early. By offering JPET courses the agency had been able to help the young
people find a way back into further study and work (Lancuba 1998).


The findings of this study are based on an analysis of the data collected from a number of different
perspectives. They include information gathered from a literature review, demographic data, interviews or
focus group discussions with Turkish speaking high school students, Turkish young people aged 15-24,
Turkish teachers and community workers, as well as workers in both government and community

This enables a number of findings to be drawn about issues affecting Turkish young people as they move
from school into work and further study. They include issues related to high school, information and career
advice, pathways, further education, finding work, unemployment, family support, the importance of
Turkish culture and religion, and Turkish community organisations.

High school

With a significant number of younger Turkish speaking people, an estimated 3,000 school students aged 5-
15 years making their way through the school system in Sydney, there is growing concern about a
proportion of Turkish speaking youth and their progress through high school.

This is framed by the overall economic and social disadvantage facing some Turkish families, especially
those where parents have now become unemployment as a result of industry restructuring. And the pressure
of high expectations by parents of their children.

One aspect specific to Turkish speaking young people are the difficulties they face in mastering the English
language at school. Other aspects include student attitudes and motivation and the nature of support
received at home in doing homework and reading.

The impact for males is that increasing numbers of boys are facing discipline problems, being suspended or
expelled from high school and end up dropping out of school early. There is also an indication that only a
small proportion of boys are achieving good results at school, even if they do complete high school.

While for girls although a higher proportion are completing high school, many are obtaining relatively poor
results and making ill-informed subject choices at school.

Information and career advice

There is evidence that some Turkish young people are either not receiving appropriate advice or they are
unable to make use of the career advice they are receiving at school. This is affecting their ability to make
effective choices when they leave school.

Also Turkish speaking young people, like other NESB youth, find it difficult to obtain information about
the real state of the labour market when they enter it. They have little knowledge of the impact of structural
change on the youth labour market and its effect on their own job prospects in their area. Most appear to
lack an awareness of their current economic, social and political environment.

It is also evident that these Turkish young people are missing out on information and informal links into
other informal job networks outside their community that their parents could access, if they were working.


Among the estimated 2.500 Turkish young people in Sydney aged 15-24 years, there is evidence that they
are following various pathways once they leave school, but that their choices are limited. While some move
into further study or work, there is another group that move among a number of activities. They go through

short periods of work, unemployment, and study (usually short courses in TAFE or special programs like
JPET). All the time they are looking to find a way into a better job, a career, something more permanent.

While some are able to access either a Youth Allowance while they are studying or a Newstart allowance
when they are unemployed, most end up relying on their family for income support. There is little evidence
that Turkish youth have moved significantly into illegal activities, although a number of older Turkish
males are being incarcerated for engaging in criminal activities.

Further education

Turkish speaking young people demonstrate a strong commitment and desire to move into further
education and training when they leave school. Their main aspiration remains to complete a university
education. But a larger proportion is now choosing to study at a TAFE college, rather than attend a
university. The latest figures show that among 15-24 year olds in NSW, 832 enrolled in TAFE course and
only 285 in a university in Sydney in 1998.

Again there is evidence that males are finding it harder than females to continue their education after they
leave school, even though the males say they would like to do further study.

There is still little interest shown by the young people to take on an apprenticeship or traineeship. Although
one of the males interviewed did express an interest after he had tried a number of other options and found
himself unemployed.

Finding work

A proportion of Turkish young people is finding part-time work while they are still at school. Although
continuing to work becomes more difficult, once they leave school and turn 18 years old.

The most common ways Turkish young people do find work is through their family and friends. Some are
also relying on their own efforts. Young females seem to try harder and use a number of strategies
including going to Centrelink, job network agencies, private employment agencies, looking in the
newspapers, as well as making direct approaches to employers. Only a few young people, more females
than males, are seeking out assistance from Turkish community workers.


The work force data shows that in 1996, Turkish young people in Sydney had higher than average
unemployment rates among youth aged 15-24. While the current figures are not available, the view from
the community is that there are groups of Turkish young people who are continuing to face high relative
rates of unemployment. They are located in the areas where most Turkish people live – especially in
western and south-western Sydney.

The experiences of both young males and females, especially 15-19 year olds, suggest many encounter
unemployment for periods of time, as they make the transition from school.

Among males the groups most at risk of unemployment include early school leavers aged 15-19, youth with
disabilities and a growing number of drug users. While among females they include high school leavers
with low HSC marks, and women with children forced to move out of home as a result of domestic

Family support

There is growing evidence that the effect of government policies has been to remove some young people
from the employment and income support system, and push them back onto their own or their family’s

Only a small proportion of Turkish youth end up using income support from the government and most are
relying on support provided by their families. Some take on whatever part-time work they can find and this
may involve informal cash in hand work.

Although there are a proportion of families in crisis, for most Turkish young people there is a strong
connection to their immediate family. They also place great value on their extended family and friends in
the Turkish community. It is common for both males and females to be living at home into their youth and
to continue to receive support even if they marry and move out of home.

Turkish culture and religion

The strength of Turkish culture and religion within families is acknowledged by most of the young people.
Most seemed to be managing to deal with the pressure of parental expectations and the standards of
behaviour required of males and females. Although a proportion are in crisis and are being seen by Turkish
family counsellors.

The notion of gendered worlds and differing standards of behaviour and control applied to males and
females, while being modified over time, still remain major factors in the lives of younger Turkish youth,
especially 15-19 year olds.

Significantly the Turkish culture has not prevented many young women from completing school and
moving into further study and work. Instead it appears to have nurtured them more effectively.

But the effect of parental pressure emerges as a factor in some of the generational conflicts and struggle
being experienced by young males.

For some Turkish youth religion plays a major role in their lives and their commitment to Islam impacts on
their options for work. For devout young women who wear head scarves, it can be difficult to find work,
and can require them to work in Muslim run businesses, catering to Muslim customers.

Turkish community organisations

While Turkish community organisations are not funded to employ dedicated youth workers, a number are
trying to assist individual young unemployed people who approach their associations.

Valuable assistance is being provided by some community workers, who help with resumes, references and
referrals for work. Others have been able to provide work experience and Work for Dole placements to
help a number of young people gain valuable work experience.

Where an association establishes formal links with a Job Network agency, a small number of young people
are able to connect with targeted support programs, make links to further training, and sometimes move
into employment.

However the increase in numbers of alienated school aged youth, early school leavers and the emergence of
a drug problem is placing increased strains on already stretched Turkish community organisations.


The recommendations in this report include a proposal that seeks to address the structural economic and
political dimensions facing young people, as well as specific proposals that arise from particular aspects
highlighted from the research.

As indicated earlier in this report, many of the factors impacting on Turkish young people are similar to
those facing young people living in Sydney’s west and south western suburbs. There are also common
issues shared with other young people of non-English speaking backgrounds.

However the estimated 3,000 school students aged 5-15 and the 2,500 aged 15-24 Turkish speaking young
people in Sydney taken together make up a significant cultural group. The continuing strength and
relevance of the Turkish family and their culture to many of these Turkish speaking youth, combined with
evident higher relative rates of unemployment they face, provide sufficient reasons for proposing strategies
to assist and support Turkish young people as a particular group within the community.

The recommendations focus on a range of actions that can be taken to involve Turkish young people and
Turkish community workers with the wider community. It can assist them to link up with schools, TAFE,
universities, employment services, and other relevant community organisations. With the aim of working
with Turkish young people to make their transition from school into work or further study more effective.

Educational resources for youth workers and school teachers

Develop a set of educational resources that give voice to the broad range of experiences of Turkish
speaking youth in Sydney, place their experiences within a broader economic and political context, and
draw together information on the labour market, training and further study options.

The educational resources would enable youth workers and teachers to work more effectively with young
people and support experiential teaching and learning with Turkish young people. These resources would
be developed with a group of Turkish young people, working with an educator and relevant community
workers from both the Turkish community and the local community sector.

School students

Organise a series of career workshops aimed at Turkish speaking students still in high school to provide
information about the current state of the job market in their areas. The initiative could be arranged with
the assistance of Youth Contact officers at Centrelink and either the Turkish Teachers Association or the
Turkish Australian Social Workers Interagency.

Organise a school visits program by young Turkish graduates from TAFE colleges and university to visit
schools with high enrolments of Turkish speaking young people. The aim is to share real work and study
experiences with high school students to help shape future career and educational choices. The program
could be hosted by the Turkish Teachers Association and funded through the Department of Education and


Turkish welfare and community organisations approach the federal Department of Education Training and
Youth Affairs (DETYA) to fund a dedicated Turkish speaking youth employment officer in areas of high
youth unemployment in Sydney to assist Turkish youth to better access employment and training services.

Turkish welfare agencies establish a formal link with at least one community based job network agency in
their area that can work with unemployed youth to access a range of courses, training providers and
appropriate work placements.

The federal government’s Department of Employment Workplace Relations and Small Business
(DEWRSB) require Job Network providers to provide targeted support to NESB young people, including
Turkish speaking youth in areas of high youth unemployment.

Turkish welfare organisations seek funding through the Drug Summit to employ a street based youth
worker to reach drug taking Turkish youth in Auburn, Mt Druitt and Liverpool/Miller areas. This would
require the recruitment of a worker with demonstrated knowledge/experience of working with young drug

Turkish welfare organisations establish links with relevant disability services in their area to assist disabled
Turkish young people gain access to services.

Information campaign

The Turkish program on SBS radio arrange a number of Open youth forums on Turkish radio to raise
awareness and provide information about issues related to youth unemployment within the Turkish
community. Funding and input could be sought from relevant federal and state government agencies like
Centrelink and DEWRSB, as well as Job Network providers, Group Training Companies, and TAFE NSW.

Turkish community newspapers in Sydney assist with publicity for the Open youth forums, and run stories
and information collected through the youth forums as featured items in their publications.

Turkish welfare organisations seek funding to run a series of information sessions that bring together young
people, parents, drug counsellors and health professionals to address issues around drug abuse. This would
include outlining strategies to parents on how to help their drug dependent children.

Information - Web site project

Turkish Teachers association seek funding for the development of a specific Turkish youth web site, that
provides on-line access to a range of information on employment and further study. The site could include
information on local Job Network providers, TAFE and university course & campus contacts, and how to
access traineeships and apprenticeships. The project could be developed and supported in collaboration
with a western Sydney community based organisation such as Westir.

Further research

Further research be considered to document:

•   the impact of the Job Network providers on unemployed Turkish and NESB young people
•   the experiences of alienated drug using males, especially among 20-24 year old males in western
•   the experiences of young Muslim women as they move into the workforce after leaving school.


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David Alpak, Adolescent & Family Counsellor, The Valley Centre, Green Valley, 13/7/99
Sahin Arslan, Turkish Teachers Committee, 14/8/99
Kim Bastian, Youth Contact officer, Centrelink, Auburn, 12/8/99
Sevgi Cakir, Auburn Community Health Centre, 20/5/99
Rosemary Chick, Employment Consultant, Job Futures Burwood, 12/8 /99
Jeff Egan, Training and Placement Officer, Mission Employment, Granville, 3/6/99
Nolan Emeli, Case Manager, IPC, Auburn, 3/12/98
Hakan Ergun, Secretary, Turkish Youth Association, 12/11/98
Rocky Furlong, Youth Worker, Auburn Youth Centre, 13/8/99
Sherban Gunesh, Teacher, Auburn Girls High School, 15/6/99
Alev Guven, Social worker, Australian Turkish Social & Cultural Trust, 27/11/98 and 15/7/99
Dursen Guzel, Social worker, Australian Alievi Cultural Centre, 3/5/99
Rita Harb, Community Project Officer, Auburn Council, 13/11/98
Stan Hurley, Manager, Mission Employment, Auburn, 13/8/99
Angela Lancuba, Youth Services Co-ordinator, Job Futures Burwood, 9/11/98
Susan Norman, Youth Service, Centrelink, Auburn, 2/11/98
Sermin Oncu, Family support worker, Australian Turkish & Kurdish Community Services Co-operative, 19/8/99
Dr Yasar Oner, General Practitioner, Auburn, 20/8/99
Yildiz Ozan, Social worker, Turkish Welfare Association, 9/9/98 and 3/4/99
Raefat Soryal, HELP Co-ordinator, Granville Multicultural Centre, 31/5/99
Sandra Trevathan, Minda, Juvenile Justice Centre, 20/5/99
Irfan Yigit, Counsellor, Granville Boys High School, 3/6/99


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