The project will use Africans who have successfully integrated into the community as mentors and role models, to assist in raising the self esteem and boosting the confidence of African youth in the Victorian community.
The objectives of AYMP are to:
- use African mentors and role models to influence the behaviour of African youth in the community;
- assist and support African youth in their career choices;
- become a vehicle for facilitating employment opportunities for African youth; and
- assist African youth to make meaningful contributions to the Victorian community.
African migration into Australia has increased substantially in the recent past, fuelled by major conflicts on the African continent including the following the:
- war in Somalia;
- genocide in Rwanda;
- Eritrean war of self-determination;
- Sudanese conflict; and
- wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone
Although accurate statistics are not available on the population of “black” Africans in Australia, estimates put this figure at between 30 and 50,000, comprising both first- and second-generation families. Anecdotal evidence suggests that NSW (Sydney) has the largest concentration of “black” Africans followed by the State of Victoria (Melbourne). Indeed, Melbourne appears to have the largest concentrations of Sudanese, Ethiopian and Eritrean communities. This is evidenced by their relative prominence in the taxi industry in Melbourne.
In most cases, families have migrated to Australia with children who were born in their countries of origin, and have therefore grown up with the values of the communities from which they have been brought up.
When families settle in Australia with teenagers, conflict often arises within families due to the desire of parents for their children to live by the norms and values which reflect those of the societies in Africa from which they themselves have grown up.
In a new society, teenagers make friends and quickly become familiar with the values and norms of their new communities, which may be different from those their parents expect them to live by. While not limited to only Moslem communities, there is anecdotal evidence that such conflicts are now a major problem for black African communities in Victoria whose main religion is Islam.
Such apparent “clash of cultures” has resulted in significant numbers of African youth becoming alienated from their families. Outside the purvey of family control, several African youths have become victims of drug and alcohol abuse, and in extreme cases, have become involved in crime.
This situation is the more alarming given the current situation where religious extremism is becoming a magnet for attracting easily influenced youth who may feel alienated from mainstream society.
The objective of the AYMP is to address this problem by reaching out to African youth through a mentoring and role modeling program by using Africans who have successfully integrated into the Victorian community and doing well in their chosen professions and careers. It is expected that through one on one consultations, it would be possible to assist African youth at the crossroads of career or development in the society to make decisions and choices which will assist them become useful members of the Victorian community. The AYMP is the first of its kind in Australia for African youth, and as such is seen as a pilot, which could then be rolled out nationally if successful in Victoria.
Although there are youth counseling services already in existence in the community which could achieve similar outcomes to the AYMP, it is considered that providing this service with African role models who would be familiar with the cultural context of the target groups would be more effective.
The value of mentoring in assisting individuals become successful in their chosen fields is undisputed. In Western societies, mentoring and role modeling is used extensively to develop future leaders and assist them to be successful in society. The potential for this approach to work with African youth is therefore very high, particularly if the mentors and the role models are drawn from the African community.