Posted on February 20, 2018

‘Tribal Divisions’ Delay African Gang Taskforce

Pia Ackerman, The Australian, February 20, 2018

A taskforce of African community leaders set up to help Victoria Police deal with Melbourne’s youth crime problem is yet to choose its members because of tribal divisions, according to the chief commissioner.

The African-Australian Community Taskforce was announced by Victoria Police last month following a spate of crimes involving African youth. It has been charged with providing information to police on emerging issues and hot spots, allowing officers to act swiftly, and establishing a more efficient channel for police to engage with community leaders and receive advice on preventing youth crimes and antisocial behaviour.

Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton today said that although the taskforce had met a few times, it was yet to finalise its membership due to “internal political issues”.

He agreed there was concern growing within Victoria Police that tribal divisions between Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups had caused delays in formally establishing the taskforce.

“It’s been a number of weeks now, we want to try to get those issues settled as soon we can so we can get the maximum benefit out of it,” Mr Ashton told 3AW.

“We’ve got issues with African youth offenders, it’s been an ongoing problem for us for quite some time.

“We want community to be involved in trying to sort that issue out with us, so it’s not just the adversary of the police but the community working in the community, so we’ve asked them to sort out the (taskforce) membership and let us know what that membership is.

“It’s not my issue to get involved in their internal issues around politics as long as I can get assistance, as long as Vicpol can get assistance when we’re trying to settle down those elements in the community.”

Mr Ashton said members of the South Sudanese, Somali, Maori and Pacific Islander communities had been helpful in ensuring major events like White Night and New Year’s Eve ran smoothly.

The Australian today revealed two current members of the taskforce, Richard Deng and Kot Manoah, have shown support for Labor, but Mr Ashton said he was unaware of their political allegiances.

“I wouldn’t have a clue what their affiliations are,” he said.

“All I asked was that they provide people from the community that can help us with the issues we’ve had with African offending, because we’ve had significant issues with African-Australian kids blowing up.

“That’s the group that came and saw us.”