Research Design

Research for this project was conducted among ‘migrant youth’ in Melbourne and Brisbane. We define ‘migrant youth’ as an age-specific category (15-23 years of age) comprising both local and overseas-born youth from both English- and Non-English-speaking Background (NESB). Such definition of migrant youth cuts across generational definitions of migrants (Skrbis et al. 2007) and meets practitioners’ requirements for a comprehensive and inclusive treatment of the category of youth. Late adolescence and early adulthood are significant periods psychologically because it is during this stage that individuals commence the process of shaping their identities into coherent wholes (Damon and Hart 1988) and developing a sense of the self


Participants’ profiles

A total of 587 young people participated in this project where 484 of them took part in the survey component and an additional 103 participated in focus groups and interviews across both states. Migrant youth were selected from three broadly clustered ethno-cultural groups: Arabic-speaking, Pacific Island and African groups. These groups were chosen for participation in this project as they are arguably the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in Australia. Their vulnerability was demonstrated through recent high profile cases linking them to the manifestations of prejudice, stigmatisation, racism, public disorder and inter-communal conflict. Research shows that Arabic-speaking youth, for example, have experienced a heightened sense of marginalisation since 9/11 (Mansouri 2005; Mansouri & Kemp 2007; Mansouri & Marotta 2012). African youth have been described recently as ‘problematic’, exhibiting very high levels of youth unemployment, unable to integrate and viewed as a major threat to social cohesion in Australia (Hobday 2007). Young people from a Pacific Island background account disproportionately for higher rates of crime and incarceration (White, Perrone, Guerra & Lampugnani 1999). Young people included in the project had varying lengths of Australian residency and migration pathways, spoke a variety of languages and had varying levels of inter- and intra- group social participation. This diverse mixture of young participants reflects the diversity of clientele of the industry partners involved in the project.

Research participants were recruited through various strategies. In Melbourne, participants were recruited mainly through high school education sectors (Department of Education, Catholic and Independent Sectors) and regional service providers (including Centre for Multicultural Youth). In Brisbane, participants were recruited through various service providers in the region, including but not limited to, the Multicultural Development Association, the Ethnic Communities Council Queensland and the Queensland Program of Assistance for Survivors of Torture and Trauma.

Research methods

Qualitative data were elicited through semi-structured interviews and six focus groups; one per migrant youth groups in each city (1 focus group x 3 groups x 2 cities). Several research assistants conducted the majority of the interviews over the course of the data collection phase. When possible and appropriate, interviews were conducted by research assistants of similar ethnic backgrounds. Focus groups were facilitated by the research assistants and chief investigators.

Interview and focus group schedules were designed to further investigate and expand upon the themes from quantitative surveys. Broadly stated, interviews and focus groups included questions and themes pertaining to: a type and extent of network involvement (both formal and informal), reasons for participation, impact of network participation on the sense of belonging, social and practical barriers to network participation, perceived and measurable outcomes of network engagement, intergeneration and intra-ethnic community issues, current issues facing refugee and migrant youth, and youth leadership initiatives.