Are we really young and free?

Australians with a South Sudanese background are entitled to the “freedom” promised in the Australian anthem.

The Australian national anthem is a fraud when it says: “For we are young and free”.

As I pass people on the streets of Melbourne, many grab their bags, dogs, kids, anything valuable, as I pass, simply because people — especially young adolescents — with a South Sudanese background are perceived as criminals. What if they greeted us with “g’day”, as they do to every other Australian, instead of being fearful of us?

What if we were all treated equally? For example, when traveling on public transport the ticket inspectors always seems to skip checking the white people sitting right next to me, but instead come straight to me and ask to check my ticket. What does this say about my freedom?

When a group of teenagers with a South Sudanese background walk about, even in groups of only two or three, they are automatically classified as a “gang” or a “cult”.

Even in social institutions such as schools, where our children are supposed to learn about becoming contributors to society, our kids are victimised because of their background. Our kids are treated like second-class citizens. How are we supposed to “fit in” when we are controlled and treated unfairly?

In some Melbourne schools, students with a South Sudanese background are not allowed to socialise during play time in a group of three or more with other African kids because the school claims the “other” students feel intimidated by them. It is appalling to think my younger siblings cannot communicate with their African friends because people judge others based on stereotypes.

Whatever happened to belonging? Do we see this as a breach of human rights? If so, are we, as citizens of this country, going to stand by and let this divide us as a nation? Or are we going to stand up together and fight for equality?

Not all of us are refugees, but those who are did not come to the “land of the free” to be victimised. We simply came here because we sought refuge, to achieve a better future and for our children’s safety.

Judging by the racist comments on every news outlet and social media, it seems people have forgotten the definition of “refugee”. Channel 7 is the worst in terms of racial profiling, victimisation and racial discrimination against people with a South Sudanese background.

“For those who’ve come across the seas/ we’ve boundless plains to share/ with courage let us all combine/ to advance Australia fair”. If only this statement were true.

An article in The Age discussing a survey conducted by Monash University, quoted Professor Andrew Markus on how the experiences and traumatic events that may have been faced by South Sudanese young people may be a factor in why they are committing crimes.

Statements such as this is what leads people to make generalisations about people with a South Sudanese background as “Apex gang members”.

Most people involved in criminal activity were born in Australia. Since these kids of South Sudanese background who are committing crimes were born in Australia, how does their criminal behaviour have any correlation to the traumatic life experiences that exist in South Sudan? 

There are many factors that may contribute to the criminal actions of young people with a South Sudanese background and I am not condoning their behaviour. However, one factor that seems to stand out is Australian society’s stereotyping of individuals with a South Sudanese background.

Australians with a South Sudanese background are entitled to the “freedom” promised in the Australian anthem, which claimed all Australians to be “young and free”. Or should we rewrite the national anthem?

I see the issue of crime in our society as a sociological issue. Shouldn’t we then as a nation come together to address this sociological issue? 

[Abuk Akol is a 20-year-old university student from Melbourne.]

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