Cross cultural networks:
Participants from Pacific Island, African and Arabic-speaking groups in this research expressed a clear desire for cross-cultural engagement. The reasons for desire to engage varied considerably between the three groups. The African participants commonly understood cross-cultural engagement as a form of cultural experience and a desire to belong; the more multicultural their networks became the more they felt a sense of belonging. For the Pacific Island participants, the desire for cross-cultural engagement was a response to the perceived closed and homogenous nature of their networks. Yet, despite their desire to engage cross-culturally, Pacific Island participants often argued they had neither the time nor the ability to engage with people outside of their group given that they were so heavily involved in their community and their church. For the Arabic-speaking participants, cross-cultural engagement was viewed considerably as a way of countering stereotypes and changing negative attitudes about their religion and culture.
Belonging and Engagement:
African, Pacific Island and Arabic-speaking participants identified numerous reasons for engaging in formal and informal networks. Formal networks refer to government agencies (i.e. schools), social support services (i.e. community support services and organised sports) while informal networks refer to family, peer group and sub-cultural groups. Discussions about ‘community’ refer to specific groups identified by specific language, culture and/or cultural values which are commonly attached to a set of group identifications (religious, regional, those of extended family). The most striking was the complexity of negotiating a sense of belonging with family or community network responsibilities. Participants across all three groups expressed comfort and support through engagements with their ethnic groups. However, they also admitted, to varying degrees, that intra-group obligations placed certain hindrance on their ability to engage outwardly.
Social barriers to network engagement:
Participants in all three groups identified a variety of experiences that led them to disengage from certain networks. For African and Arabic-speaking young people, direct experience of racism was the greatest single factor for social withdrawal. For Pacific Island young people, self-exclusion was often related to various forms of collective stereotyping and discrimination.
The participants revealed that involvement in external volunteering activities was secondary to their involvement in religious, school-based or recreation groups. There were some important differences, however, between different age groups and between the Melbourne and Brisbane samples.
Leadership in this report is defined as a set of ‘relational practices’ that are similar to ‘mentoring’. According to the participants, the most sought after characteristics of a young leader are a capacity for being a ‘role model’ and for extending ‘respect for others’. Pacific Island young people most often discussed leadership by referring to the importance of being a ‘role model’, whereas African and Arabic-speaking youth viewed ‘respect for others’ as the key prism through which the questions of leadership were addressed. ‘Having a firm opinion’ is the least valued characteristics of a young leader across the three groups.
Access to Services and Service Providers:
Only a small number of respondents felt that their networks provided a specific service or referral assistance with the lowest level recorded among African young people. Time constraints, location and the lack of cultural sensitivity were reported as key barriers to accessing mainstream service providers across all groups. Not getting timely and accessible (in terms of language and culture) information about services was mentioned as a barrier especially among Arabic-speaking and Pacific Island youth.
Inter-generational conflicts also influence the ways young people are involved in networks and how they communicate and interact with service providers. African youth in both cities, and Arabic-speaking youth in Brisbane, expressed most concerns about inter-generational differences.