The uncomfortable truth that none of us have the courage to tackle head on

As our community once again reels in the aftermath of another wanton, murderous act, it’s time we ripped off the band-aid protecting juvenile criminals, writes Madonna King

Feb 08, 2024, updated Feb 08, 2024
Grandmother Vyleen White. (Image: Supplied)

Grandmother Vyleen White. (Image: Supplied)

A gargantuan elephant is sitting in our lounge room, and we dare not mention it.

And that needs to change.

This week the price of a life in Redbank Plains was set at between $2050 and $5050 – the price of a 2009 Hyundai Getz.

We cannot allow that to rest.

Around the periphery, there’s frenzied energy: the premier Steven Miles has flagged changes to how the children’s court might operate, bail laws are set for their umpteenth review, and Redbank Plains shopping centre is a sad reminder of how evil doesn’t discriminate.

In our homes, we’re talking to our children about safety, and many of us are lighting an extra candle, bearing the name of a wonderful mother and grandmother Vyleen White.

All of us have her young granddaughter, a witness to something too ignoble to contemplate, in our thoughts and prayers.

A group of young men have been apprehended and charged over various offences, including murder.

The place for that to be tried is a court of law, and not in public discourse. But that doesn’t mean this case shouldn’t be the impetus for an almighty big look at what crimes are committed by whom in the city we all love.

Increasingly, it seems, we are hearing of young African men allegedly involved in gangs or vicious reprisals or violent crimes.

I say ‘it seems’ because it’s a perception; Queensland police do not keep accurate figures on the ethnicity of perpetrators.

That’s largely understandable because a police officer might declare a suspect African; that person might call themselves Sudanese or Nigerian or from another African country. Those charged are not always found guilty either.

It’s tricky space to be accurate – but that doesn’t mean we should not try. Starting today.

Who is committing what types of crimes in our city? Are gangs made up of caucasian homeless children? American homeboys? Elite private school boys?

What is the proportion of girls who are now involved in crimes? What type – are they vicious and personal or night-time break and enters?

What is the average age of those stealing cars?

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And yes, what is the ethnicity of the perpetrator in all crimes – violent or not? If they are African, what is their country of origin?

I’ve cleared my email box in anticipation of the response. But we have to talk about this to move forward. And we are talking about it, but in hushed whispers behind closed doors, on the phone to our friends, and on tuck shop duty.

We need to rip the band-aid off this and discuss it publicly – on the basis of cold, hard facts.

Every African immigrant I’ve met in Brisbane has been attached to a volunteer or community network or a charity; every single one of them.

This is not about any group of countries, but about looking at what needs to be done – in a policy sense – to ensure we don’t end up like parts of America, where children take the long way to school to escape a likely assault.

Perhaps we’ll find that the proportion of crime committed by those who were not born in Australia is far less than those who were were. That would be information, today, that would really help our strong vibrant African community.

Or perhaps we’ll find out that young men from African countries – or insert whatever nationalities the figures show – are finding it hard to adjust or make friends or gain employment. And knowledge of that might mould our policy responses.

Talking about magistrates and bail laws and shopping centre safety are all vitally important.

But we do ourselves a massive injustice if we don’t take a whole view of what happened this week.

In headline terms, a woman who only appeared to think of others, died in a pool of blood with her granddaughter watching. And a group of young men – which police say are African in appearance – have now been charged.

Let’s let the court do its job. But that shouldn’t be where this starts and ends.

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