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Campaign to stop bullying of Sudanese children

A video campaign rolled out onto social media on Wednesday aims to curb bullying of South Sudanese children.
A video campaign rolled out onto social media on Wednesday aims to curb bullying of South Sudanese children. Photo: Richard Keddie
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South Sudanese children returning to schoolyard bullies are the forgotten victims of the so-called African youth crime wave, according to a new social media campaign.

A short video was launched on Wednesday to remind outer-Melbourne residents that negative media hype could have flow-on effects for children in the community.

Bishop Philip Huggins, from the Brotherhood of St Lawrence, and director Richard Keddie got together to give the community a voice.

They enlisted Helen Kapalos, chairperson of the Victorian Multicultural Commission and a former newsreader for Seven Network’s Today Tonight.

“These kids start school this week, and their parents are really scared for them,” Ms Kapalos says.

“Hundreds of these Australian families have survived a dreadful war and seen millions killed.

“But they’re just as frightened now. Why? Because some people in our community are spreading hate and fear.

“And it’s these innocent kids who are copping it.”

Mr Keddie said the video aimed to give the community a voice following rampant negative media reports.

“It’s been a very one-sided voice about a few terrible acts, they’re terrible acts, indefensible acts,” Mr Keddie told The New Daily.

“We’ve spoken to the police and the police are really focussing on these kids who are getting up to trouble, it’s terrible stuff. But that’s spreading to the broader South Sudanese community, that anger and prejudice is suddenly being translated to that broader community.”

He said the eldest child in the advertisement, “a really bright kid”, was starting high school.

“Imagine if he is kind of picked on and marginalised, his whole life can be destroyed if he’s not looked after and nurtured the way every kid should be,” Mr Keddie said.

Surely, if a kid can’t feel safe going to school in Melbourne, then what’s going on?

He said the broader community and families he’d spoken to were “all terribly conscious” of the media reports.

“They’ve all experienced racism, they’re used to it. It’s part of the framework of their lives.

“Every new wave of immigration has had cultural issues that Australia comes to terms with, and once we do we’re all the better for it and all the richer for it. But there’s work to do on that stuff.”

Politics and media hype spur racist threats

Hype over youth gangs reached a crescendo last month as the election year began. Federal politicians, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton in particular, kept the issue in the public sphere.

Mr Dutton sensationally claimed some residents were scared going out to dinner, and accused the state government of failing to tackle youth crime.

Premier Daniel Andrew responded by inviting Mr Dutton out to dinner in Victoria, adding he thought his comments were “designed to be as controversial as possible”.

As the debate snowballed, Victoria Police later privately warned Melbourne media against “inflaming” the situation earlier this month.

Similarly, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission said incessant media reports had “already spurred race-based hate and threats towards African Victorians”.

Sudanese people represent 1 per cent of alleged offenders in Victoria, according to the state’s Crime Statistics Agency (CSA).

The New Daily has contacted the New Hope Foundation and Victoria Police for comment.

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