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Young Muslims' self-perceptions examined

The authors of a study of identity and self-perception among young Muslims in Queensland suggest that comprehensive and long-term strategies are needed to reduce the potential for young Muslims to experience social exclusion.

Researchers from Central Queensland University and the Griffith Islamic Unit at Griffith University conducted the study, which examined the social, cultural, political and structural environments that affected young Muslims' identity and self-perception.

A group of 117 young Muslims aged 9–19 years took part in the study, which was conducted in Brisbane, Rockhampton and Mackay. Close to half of those who took part in the study (48%) had been born in Australia. The study involved participation in a group discussion and the completion of a short questionnaire. Results indicated that these young people had complex identities linked with their religion, nationality and ethnic backgrounds. While almost all of the young people surveyed (93%) said that they were proud to be a Muslim, just over half (58%) said that they were proud to be an Australian. Many of these young people reported experiencing discrimination, stereotyping and marginalisation at school, in playgrounds and in workplaces. Almost half reported having been verbally or physically abused in a public place because they were Muslims. Participants also reported a lack of understanding among some people about the role of prayer, dress and food in the life of a Muslim. They sought respect and understanding from members of the wider community, including school friends and neighbours.

Source:
Central Queensland University 2007, Strategies needed to avoid social exclusion of young Muslim people, media release, 12 September, Central Queensland University, [viewed 25/09/07].
Age, 13/09/07, p.4.

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Bullying, 2003

Kids Help Line identifies racial harassment, discrimination and prejudice as forms of bullying.

  • In 2003, the number of calls to Kids Help Line from CALD children in relation to bullying was 165. (Increase in these calls from previous year: 60%)
  • Proportion of all calls from CALD children, which are about bullying: 1 in 7
  • Proportion of all calls from Anglo-Australian children, which are about bullying: 1 in 10
  • Proportion of children calling KHL that report frequent and continual harassment:
    • 50% CALD,
    • 36% Anglo-Australian
  • Proportion of bullying calls that come from 15- to 18-year-olds:
    • 15% CALD,
    • 8% Anglo-Australian

Source: Kids Help Line, Newsletter November 2004.

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Ethnic Youth Gangs in Australia, 1998

Over the period 1996-1998, six studies were undertaken on 'ethnic youth gangs' in the Melbourne metropolitan area. The studies were based upon in-depth interviews with 120 young people from six different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. This first research formed the basis for a new national project known as 'Youth Gangs: The Australian Experience', which offers a national perspective on the issue of youth gangs and will be undertaken by the OzGang Research Network .

Some findings from the first research:

Table 1: Young People's Perceptions of Types of Gangs in the Area

Types of gangs Response to each category

Number Percent
(respondents)
Percent
(responses)
Troublemakers 24 31.2 27.0
Drug dealers 9 11.7 10.1
Just group of friends 22 28.6 24.7
Ethnic group 18 23.4 20.2
Don't know 12 15.6 13.5
Other 4 5.2 4.5
Total 89
100.0
N= 77
Missing Responses = 5 (4.2%)
Not Applicable = 38 (31.7%)




Table 2 presents data on the perceptions of the young people of the different groups that get involved in gang fights. There appears to be a strong link between ethnicity and group behaviour involving street and school-based conflicts.

Table 2: Young People's Perceptions of the Different Groups That Get Involved in Gang Fights
Types of groups Response to each category

Number Percent
(respondents)
Percent
(responses)
Anglo against other Ethnic 45 38.5 30.8
One ethnic against 'different' Ethnic 37 31.6 25.3
Ethnic amongst 'similar' Ethnic 9 7.7 6.2
No particular/many different combinations 23 19.7 15.8
Another specific combination 3 2.6 2.1
Not based on Ethnicity 13 11.1 8.9
Don't know 11 9.4 7.5
Other 1 0.9 0.7
Total 146
100.0
N=117
Missing Responses = 3(2.5%)



The studies found 'there was much confusion and ambiguity over the difference between 'gangs' and 'groups'. In each case, membership tended to revolve around similar interests (such as choice of music, sport, style of dress), similar appearance or ethnic identity (such as language, religion and culture), and the need for social belonging (such as friendship, support and protection). Group affiliation was sometimes perceived as the greatest reason why certain young people were singled out as being a 'gang', and why particular conflicts occurred between different groups of young people.

Source: Ethnic Youth Gangs in Australia: Do they exist?, by Rob White, Santina Perrone, Carmel Guerra and Rosario Lampugnani, 1999 [viewed 25/01/2007].

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Racial tolerance study 2004

According to a study on racial tolerance, soon to be released by the Australian Multicultural Foundation, older male teenagers and young men are more likely to hold and voice prejudiced views than other young people:
  • From 374 students from schools, universities and TAFEs in Victoria, boys aged 15 and 16 were those least accepting of differences.
Ages of tolerance:
  • Children (aged 11 and 12) more tolerant than other age groups – young adolescents (14 and 15) and young adults (16 to 22).
  • Females more tolerant overall. Males in older groups least tolerant. Boys aged 15 and 16 least tolerant of all.
  • The 14 and 15 age group (70%) most influenced by a sense of fairness.
  • Up to 10% of 11- and 12-year-olds used freedom of speech to justify intolerance, as did 25-30% of 15- and 16-year-olds and 49.4% of 18- to 22-year-olds.

Source: The Age, 2/9/2004, p.6.
Love Thy Neighbours: Racial tolerance among young Australians – a report by the Australian Multicultural Foundation

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Youth from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, WA, 1993

Percent of young people (12-25) in WA who were born overseas: 21% (72,300)
... from English speaking backgrounds: 57%

Percent of WA youth with at least 1 parent who was born overseas: 49%
...both parents born overseas: 25%

A series of online facts sheets produced by the Office of Youth Affairs in WA gives detailed statistical analysis of the youth population in that state.

Source: Western Australian Department for Community Development - Youth Affairs 1999, Youth Facts WA: A profile of young people.

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