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Sudanese Australians and crime: Police and community perspectives


Foreword | Migration and refugee resettlement has been and continues to be, an important element of population growth for Australia. In recent times, more than 35,000 refugees escaping the Sudan civil war have settled in Australia—with approximately 6,500 people now living in Queensland.

With each wave of immigration, the capacity of new citizens to adapt and succeed in their new home has been a key societal concern. Often, there has been some focus on how law-abiding the new immigrant communities will be and their perceived level of involvement with the criminal justice system. In this paper, a summary is provided of the findings from four interdependent studies designed to explore Sudanese Australian experiences with the Queensland criminal justice system and to challenge some misconceptions. The studies provide an analysis of media representations of Sudanese Australians, views of the Queensland police regarding the relative level of offending by Sudanese people, and a survey and focus groups conducted with Sudanese Australians. Ensuring that Sudanese Australians are given a voice and a way of communicating their experiences and concerns in dealing with Australian criminal justice and civil systems, is an important dimension of the research.

Adam Tomison

With more than 35,000 refugees from Sudan having settled in various local communities over the past decade, it would be reasonable for the average Australian to be nonplussed as to whether they present a real crime and justice problem in Australia. Addressing this confusion is not simply a matter of obtaining objective facts about crime and (less prominently) victimisation rates among Sudanese refugees resettled in Australia and/or different perceptions of these matters. The issues cut across different policy domains including refugee resettlement and immigration intake policies, tensions between the different tiers of government and the level of supporting resources, questions regarding potential racial discrimination and more broadly, the cultural politics of Australian identities.

These issues gathered some traction as Sudanese refugee resettlement gathered pace in the mid-2000s, with growing media reports about apparent community concerns relating to Sudanese refugees and the problems they encountered while settling into Australian society (Coventry et al. 2010). Some of these reports suggested that Sudanese were inherently more criminogenic and possessed a lower IQ than other Australians (Coventry & Dawes 2006). Jim Saleam claimed that refugee migration into Australia was a recipe for widespread social upheaval because these people came from ‘utterly fractured societies where the use of the gun and the knife is the common way to settle disputes’ (Police clear Sudanese refugees of crime wave. ABC News 20 Jan 2005. www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2005/01/20/1285299.htm). Within this context, Sudanese Australians were demonised and represented as a fundamental threat to law and order in Australian society (Colic-Peisker & Tilbury 2008).

Such matters coalesced and dramatically escalated around a particular case. In 2007, a young Sudanese refugee named Leip Goney was murdered in suburban Melbourne, immediately leading to the misattribution of cause and responsibility to a clash between rival Sudanese gangs (two Caucasian Australians were subsequently convicted).The Australian Communications and Media Authority found that major television networks had no evidence that Sudanese young people were involved in this event and accordingly, rebuked these networks for misleading news reports (Webb 2009).

While this study is focused on Queensland communities, it was found that Sudanese Australians’ broader understandings of crime and justice issues are shaped by events that have occurred across Australia, particularly at the Commonwealth and Victorian jurisdictional levels. The current research indicates that these communities are acutely aware of what is going on with respect to their counterparts outside of Queensland. It is important, therefore, to consider a number of major contextual issues when assessing the association between crime and Sudanese Australians. These include the comments in reference to the abovementioned case and earlier concerns about Sudanese crime due to their perceived inability to integrate into Australian society as expressed by then Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews who stated:

We know, for example, that their levels of education, on average, are much lower than other groups of refugees that have come to Australia. We know they’ve been in war-torn situations, many of these people are much younger than any other group of refugees. So a combination of a lower level of education, up to a decade or so in refugee camps and in conflicted situations. These are all issues that are providing us with challenges and that’s why (cited in Martin 2007: 1).

There was also a response from senior Victoria Police personnel who indicated Sudanese refugees were not a crime problem, rather it was a problem of feeling alienated within the suburbs following some clashes between Sudanese Australians and police. This led to suggestions of the need for refugees to be relocated to a rural idyll away from the criminogenic environments of inner-city living in cities like Melbourne.

There were also reports by Victorian Police command, as well as the Victorian Police Association, about alleged Sudanese gangs and violence. More recently, a racial discrimination action was launched in the Federal Court alleging Victoria Police used strategies of street policing that specifically targeted Sudanese Australians. This case was settled (on 18 February 2013) prior to the hearing commencing, with various agreements from Victoria Police to review their operational procedures and general training of police officers (Seidel & Hopkins 2013).

The experiences of Sudanese Australians with the criminal justice systems were assessed using media content analysis and a detailed examination of crime and justice issues in Queensland (based on field research undertaken in Brisbane, Logan City, Toowoomba and Townsville). These cities represent the four largest Queensland communities accepting humanitarian refugee intakes under the refugee intake program and account for the majority of the approximately 6,500 refugees from Sudan over the past decade.

Relations between police and minority groups

Relations between police and minority groups are a ‘universal, pervasive and continuing problem’ (Neyroud & Beckley 2001: 159). Most Australian studies on the criminal justice system and minority groups have focused on the intersections between police and Indigenous Australians (eg Cunneen 2001). By comparison, there is limited research analysing how immigrant minority groups interact with the Australian criminal justice system (Bull 2010; Campbell & Julian 2009; Chan 1997; Collins at al. 2000; Cunneen 1995; Poynting 2002).

Policing and criminal justice practices and the way they relate to both groups (Indigenous and other minority groups) has also been a staple of various inquiries dating back to the early colonial period (Finnane 1997). More recent reports (eg DIAC 2007) have identified concerns about problems encountered by African refugees, such as variations in how police interact with these communities across regions, perceptions that police discriminate against black Africans and the limited attention paid by governments to combating racism in society. This has led for calls for a reassessment of the justice system and ways of promoting good policing practices when dealing with African refugees.

It is considered that African Australians may possess a high visibility due to their physical appearance (Hage 1998) and some research has shown that they have found it difficult to integrate into Australian society (Martinez 2007; Weitzer & Tuch 2005). Problems such as difficulty in learning English, attaching to education, finding employment and also finding suitable housing have impeded these peoples’ attempts at gaining social inclusion in Australia (Martinez 2007; Weitzer & Tuch 2005). In addition, Colic-Peisker and Tilbury (2008) argue that African immigrants are often signalled out for police attention due to their stature, skin colour and kinship-based social practices. For example, young Africans in particular are more prone to congregating in large numbers in public places, which may render them more vulnerable to being targeted by standard police operational practices (see Cunneen 1995; White 1996). Interactions between African refugees and the police, therefore, are an important consideration with regard to their resettlement into Australian communities.

The research project

While there are documented anecdotal case studies about some of the problems encountered by people of African backgrounds in various locations across Australia, there are few studies that have attempted to focus on the experiences of African refugees with the Australian criminal justice system from multiple perspectives. For example, existing studies point to the need to consider broad social factors such as poverty and neighbourhood disadvantage when analysing the relationships between ethnic minority groups and police (Sampson & Bartusch 1998). The work of Pickering (2008) indicates the need for a more systematic analysis regarding the criminalisation and demonisation of refugees in Australia through media reporting. Her analysis points to the interplay between media depictions of race and anxieties about the ‘other’ (particularly post-9/11). Anthony and Cunneen (2008: 3) concur by stating that refugees are often socially constructed as ‘new and undeserving’ criminals by institutions such as the media. Finally, Poynting (2008) identifies that more research is required with regards to the statistical connection between ethnic crime figures and the public perception that Africans are more criminogenic than other Australians.

This research attempted to address some of these concerns as they apply to Sudanese Australians and how they interact with the criminal justice system (as well as the family court system) in Queensland. The overall research project is unique in that it focused attention on four Queensland communities (Brisbane, Logan City, Toowoomba and Townsville), accessing data from a number of sources in a series of four interrelated studies, to produce a systematic understanding of Sudanese Australian peoples’ interactions with, and perceptions of, the criminal justice system and associated practices.

This paper presents a summary of only some of the findings of the studies and a complete outline is contained in the CRG report Sudanese Refugees’ Experiences with the Queensland Criminal Justice System (Coventry et al. 2010). For ease of reporting the findings of this project, summaries of the four inter-related studies are presented.

Study 1: Media representations of Sudanese Australians

At the outset of the research, some key parameters were set. First, a time period had to be chosen (2000–09). This was determined by the relevance of the period in terms of the increase in the intake of Sudanese refugees and by the availability of newspaper archives for that period. In this study, the selected sample was drawn from three major newspapers—The Australian and The Age (for their national coverage), as well as The Courier Mail for its coverage of Queensland. These papers were also chosen because they represent the two major newsprint organisations in Australia—News Limited and Fairfax.

For each newspaper, a series of systematic database searches were conducted. Next, a data coding protocol, based on schema used by Desmarais, Price and Read (2008) was developed to identify newspaper articles containing references to Sudanese refugees/immigrants in Australia. The final data coding sheet contained items identifying the source and general content of the story, items about crime themes (eg offences and racial/ethnic identities of offenders and victims), items regarding racial stereotyping, criminogenic references to Sudanese Australians, slurs and calls for social exclusion, items that might pinpoint significant changes in the nature of reporting about Sudanese Australians and alleged crime waves, and finally, positive reflections about Sudanese community members.

The data search identified a total of 756 separate articles. Of these, relevant content was identified in 222 articles, which constituted the final sample. The year with the most articles was 2007 (94 articles, or 42.3% of the sample) and the years with the least were 2000 and 2001 (both with only one article each, or 0.5% of the sample). It should be noted that 2007 was the year in which Minister Andrews made the comments about this refugee group as mentioned earlier.

The frequency with which articles contained references to the criminality of Sudanese people (whether stated either explicitly or implicitly) was also examined. This included the use of crime statistics (eg data showing rates of imprisonment of Sudanese people), the labelling of Sudanese people as more likely to commit crimes relative to other groups (noting that these first two themes often co-occur) and also to the existence of Sudanese gangs.

There were 71 articles in which crime statistics were cited and in 67 articles Sudanese Australians were described as more criminogenic than other groups (most common comparisons included either ‘other’ African refugees or ‘all refugees’). There were 48 articles containing references to Sudanese gangs. All of these descriptors are suggestive of a crime wave representing a threat to social order; a theme that peaked in 2007.

In the period 2000–09, three distinct phases or foci in media reports were identified and these are discussed below.

A humanitarian focus

Up until approximately 2005, the Australian press tended to convey messages about refugee intakes of Sudanese people, mainly from Southern Sudan areas, in a humanitarian manner. There was noticeable emphasis on the plight of Sudanese entering Australia from a war-torn country. The essence of the public message, although not great in terms of volume in press reports, was that these peoples should be afforded safe settlement within Australian borders, with the protection of UN refugee and humanitarian-related conventions.

The beginnings of a crime focus and the shift to demonisation

The tide soon turned away from humanitarian messages, which coincided with a significant increase in Sudanese refugees and some political and police voices. As indicated above, it was during this period when some referred to Sudanese Australians as possessing low intelligence and being prone to crime (Coventry & Dawes 2006). Thus, at the height of the refugee intake, Sudanese peoples were being derided, at first relatively gently, as ‘lucky to be in Australia’ (Coventry et al. 2010: 42), but this sentiment subsequently shifted to an increasingly punitive tone. At first, this was subtle but became more overt with orientation towards a socially exclusive way of reporting crime-related news about Sudanese communities. Behind the labelling and stereotyping, there was often an underlying assumption that portrayed Africans as being more prone to violence than other cultural groups. For example, Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Paul Evans was quoted as saying ‘…it is a cultural thing. A lot of these people are brought up as warriors in their own culture’ (Mitchell 2007: 25). It was not long before allegations of young Sudanese gangs were featured in the headlines, particularly in Victoria; an observation not shared by Queensland politicians and senior police (Coventry et al. 2010; Heywood 2007; Stolz 2007). In fact, the then Premier Anna Bligh, senior police and others went on the record as saying Sudanese Australians were essentially law-abiding and did not represent a threat to communities (Coventry et al. 2010; Heywood 2007; O’Loan 2007; Stolz 2007).

Cultural focus

More recently, media reports in the post-2007 period have centred on topics such as secondary school educational scholarships for Sudanese Australians, the marketing of distinctly Sudanese (African) spices, stories about Sudanese fashion and the introduction of Sudanese young people into the music industry and their involvement in professional sport, such as Australian Rules Football, across Australia (see Coventry et al. 2010).

In an analysis of the Courier Mail for the period 2000–09, it was noted that there was some swing back to more balanced media reporting of lifestyles in sampled communities, with less emphasis on any trouble (Coventry et al. 2010). Community members interviewed as part of this study expressed hope that this marks a shift toward a more tolerant attitude, even if not welcoming of aspects of Sudanese culture that may enrich Queensland communities.

Study 2: Views of the Queensland Police Service

Available quantitative data regarding offending and victimisation of Sudanese Australians is so limited that it is imprudent to include in this analysis. This is a general problem for police agencies in Australia and elsewhere. It may be that longer standing concerns about racial profiling have limited the development of robust recording of such identifiers. It is considered that the need to have more accurate data on race and ethnicity is necessary for the development of fully informed public debate and policy development (Coventry et al. 2010), with protections against racial profiling built into operational policies of police and other relevant bodies.

To explore the police perspective on the problems of Sudanese Australian interactions with the criminal justice system, interviews and focus groups were conducted with members of the QPS, including sworn police (from Senior Constable to Inspector ranks) and a police liaison officer (total n=14). Some interviews were conducted with individuals, others as part of a focus group. The interviews were held during April–June 2010 using a semi-structured interview schedule developed in light of the existing literature on police and minority groups and refugees in Australia, preliminary findings arising from focus groups and interviews with members of the Sudanese communities and preliminary analysis of the limited QPS crime data.

In general, the QPS did not view Sudanese Australian people as posing a greater problem in relation to criminal activity than any other ethnic group; a finding consistent with media reports in Queensland (but not in media reports related to Victoria). While there was some focus group reference to problems when the initial cohort of Sudanese settled into Queensland the general and collective tenet of the police voice was that while this refugee group (and others) is not a significant problem, it might have been different if police had not adjusted their practices (police interviews). One paradox arising from the police interviews was that while police stated that there were few problems, they simultaneously identified a number of areas where the Sudanese community could be assisted such as increased knowledge of the legal system and particularly the road laws (Coventry et al. 2010). While evidence from elsewhere, such as Victoria (VEOHRC 2009), has indicated tensions between police and Sudanese Australians, these tensions were not evident among those interviewed from Queensland police, perhaps because of an early shift in practices to reduce the risk of tensions arising.

The police did express a belief that Sudanese Australians had previously experienced various forms of police malpractice prior to coming to Australia and that this is likely to have influenced their general attitudes towards police. For QPS personnel, it was a matter of proactively developing community engagement strategies to overcome this previous experience and some police explicitly discussed the importance of early proactive activities aimed at engaging with emerging communities rather than waiting for problems to arise.

One of the key developments within the QPS has been the expansion of the Police Liaison Officer initiative, which originally focused on Indigenous communities, but is now part of a broader process for engaging a range of different communities (Cherney & Chui 2010). Organisational barriers such as funding and concerns about the focus being shifted away from Indigenous people currently places limits on the potential expansion of Police Liaison Officer roles. However, in general terms, as one police interviewee commented:

…you don’t ignore the elephant in the room. We realised that when the Sudanese refugees were coming to [place name removed] we would have issues. There will be things that will come up. OK let’s not wait for them to happen and I think it is a lesson to be learnt by police services in relation to any group whatsoever…don’t wait for issues to start to build up because by the time that happens it is too late and you know years of good will can be broken down overnight by one bad experience and this is something I have really learnt and I will keep with me for the rest of my career wherever I go (Police interviewee 11).

Study 3: Survey of Sudanese Australians

The development of a survey instrument and data collection methodology for this project required extensive pilot testing, as well as public consultations with Sudanese Elders and other community members. Following the testing and consultation, surveys were conducted in Brisbane, Logan City, Toowoomba and Townsville.

Two delivery methods were employed. First, the researchers attended community meetings (eg community elders and youth group meetings, after church services, and community cultural gatherings and events). Second, two community leaders were recruited as paid research assistants. These individuals identified people and distributed the surveys throughout their local communities, often assisting with translations and survey completions.

A total of 390 surveys were completed; however, it is not possible to report on response rates due to the complexities of survey distribution and completion. It is accepted that this might lead to concerns about the generalisability of the findings but it is considered that the views of a good cross-section of Sudanese Australians have been obtained. Survey respondent demographics included:

  • 71 percent male and 28 percent female;
  • 92 percent came from south Sudan originally;
  • 55 percent were aged 1–17 years when they left Sudan;
  • 64 percent were students at the time of leaving Sudan;
  • 87 percent arrived in Australia as refugees; and
  • 16 percent did not speak English.

Sudanese Australians as victims of crime

Overall, less than one-quarter of respondents (22%, n=86) reported having been the victim of a crime. It appears that Sudanese Australians in Queensland are not overrepresented as victims of crime and if they were a victim, most offences were not reported to police.

Reasons given for not reporting a crime centred on a mistrust of police. For example, one respondent (Case 35, 27 year old male) indicated:

None of the police or other people working in public institutions will believe me, at most, I just choose to keep it all to myself now and never get police involved anymore because no one believes me anyway.

Perceptions of police treatment of Sudanese people in Australia

Just less than one in three (30%, n=117) respondents agreed that the police treated Sudanese people in a similar way to other migrants and refugees. More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents agreed with the statement that ‘Sudanese people are more likely to be suspected of committing a crime than other African migrants and refugees’. Qualitative data obtained in Study 4 (see below) indicate that relationships between the sampled communities and police in those communities have been shaped by comments that are perceived to be inflammatory and have been attributed to politicians and police from jurisdictions outside Queensland.

Study 4: Focus group discussions with Sudanese Australians

A total of eight focus group sessions were conducted across the research communities consisting of Elders, young people, and older men and women (n=88). The analysis of the data produced two broad themes focusing on the private and public lives of Sudanese Australians, in terms of the types of interactions they have with the criminal justice system and other elements of legal systems (particularly related to domestic disputes) in Queensland.

Interventions in the private sphere

The focus groups shared concerns about how state interventions into their private lives resulted in a weakening of the social bonds and structure of the way traditional Sudanese families function. For example, Elders observed that since coming to Australia, their traditional roles as parents were undermined in terms of how they should discipline their children. While cases of child maltreatment were noted (see below), it was clear that state intervention into the functioning of families is foreign territory to negotiate for many in these communities. Also, there was a perception that young people were more likely to challenge parental forms of authority due to their interactions with non-Sudanese young people, which threatened to undermine the traditional family unit.

Changes to the economic power structure within families (in which women had enhanced access to jobs, if not welfare payments since settlement in Australia) often produced conflict, culminating in cases of domestic violence against women and children. In turn, domestic violence resulted in increased forms of state intervention into Sudanese families, interpreted by some as being culturally inappropriate, particularly when children were removed and placed with non-Sudanese families. This issue has been acknowledged in a recent protocol between the government and the Sudanese community in Toowoomba, which stated that Sudanese Elders should be consulted if there is a child protection issue involving a child from that community (DOCS 2009).

Interventions in the public sphere

The other focus of the interviews and discussions concentrated on interactions between Sudanese Australian people and police, reflecting the general issue of interactions between police and ethnic minority groups as an ongoing problem (Neyroud & Beckley 2001). In this study, young people in particular identified a number of problems with police, specifically when groups of Sudanese Australian young people congregated in public spaces such as parks and shopping malls, leading to popular misconceptions that they belonged to ethnic gangs. It could be surmised that one factor for negative interactions between police and groups of ethnic youth relates to their high visibility in terms of their height, skin colour and collective kinship-based social practices. It makes it easier for them to be incorrectly labelled as gangs by patrolling police or private security and often results in tension between the two groups. Further, young people in this study argued that rather than being a threat when interacting in public spaces, they felt vulnerable due to over-policing and congregated in large groups as a means to enhance their personal safety.

Sudanese Elders and young people in this study also expressed concern about skewed public perceptions that labelled them as being the perpetrators of crime. They indicated a high level of awareness of media stories from across Australia. Earlier studies by Pickering (2008) and Poynting (2008) suggest that such media reports and comments by influential individuals promote moral panics within the mainstream community resulting in calls for increased surveillance and regulation of minority groups, as well as raising concerns about the numbers of Sudanese who enter the country.

A high number of focus group participants stated that they were the victims of police harassment when they congregated in public spaces. They also stated that police were more likely to assume they were the perpetrators of crime rather than see them as victims of verbal and/or physical abuse after their interactions with other youth groups. This shared perception among young Sudanese Australians that they are more likely to be victims rather than perpetrators of crime is supported by other research, such as the DIAC (2007) report, which identified concerns that police discriminate against black Africans and that too little is done to combat racism and harassment from the broader community. A commonly cited reason for negative interactions between police and Sudanese people is that they do not understand the law or the roles of police. This research supports the concerns outlined in the DIAC (2007) report, that the supposed lack of understanding is either baseless or overemphasised and instead serves as a justification for increased police intervention into African Australian communities. Furthermore, these misunderstandings serve to diminish the role that systematic racism and class disadvantage plays in social conflict and the ensuing discrimination faced by young Sudanese Australians.


A myriad of pressing matters were raised throughout the course of this project (for further detail see Coventry et al. 2010). What can be asserted is that the four study components point out the most significant problems encountered by Sudanese Australians in Queensland (and arguably across Australia) with regard to both criminal and social justice issues.

Study 1 indicates significant shifts in the nature of media reporting of this refugee group and their largely alleged, unproven involvement in criminal activity. Following a 10 year period of analysis, it is contended that shifts toward demonisation and alleged gang criminal activity are unwarranted and that more stringent media regulation of crime reporting is required.

The findings from Studies 2 and 3 indicate that views about policing matters, in particular, are not totally consistent within the Sudanese Australian communities and the QPS officers canvassed. Communities related stories that raised some questions about possible racial profiling by policing practices, however, of those QPS staff interviewed, the majority do not consider these communities to represent more of a threat compared with other ethnic groups. A larger sample would be needed to investigate this further.

It appears that further research and policy work is required regarding the frequency and the way in which police interact with Sudanese Australians especially in public spaces. Consideration may be given to introducing more official documentation of such contacts and the perceived need of further cross-cultural exchanges and training for police.

Study 4 opened up broader issues of concern from Sudanese Australian research participants. Addressing these issues is important for settlement-based policies for this refugee group and indeed, for other groups. Of particular concern to many Sudanese Australians is the nature of state interventions, which they consider to be unwelcome intrusions into their private lives and in public spaces. Child rearing practices, the erosion of parental authority, changes in access to jobs for women and their access to welfare monies and possible cases of police harassment featured quite prominently in focus group discussions. These kinds of findings raise challenges for government and agencies involved in settlement efforts. It would appear that education and enhanced interactions between these communities and authorities should play significant roles in these efforts.

A number of conclusions can be drawn from an analysis of these data. First, despite recent media reports from Victoria, which continue to focus on Sudanese Australians as a crime and justice problem, there is no tangible evidence from this research to suggest that Sudanese people are more criminogenic than any other group in Queensland. Essentially, the field research data are focused on Queensland, but Victorian media reports are referred to because of the links between Sudanese Australian communities across the country.

A second finding from this research highlights a clear disjuncture between the perceptions of police compared with the lived reality of Sudanese Australian people. The interviews with police indicated that they perceived Sudanese to be no more problematic than other ethnic groups, while at the same time acknowledging that Sudanese required more education due their lack of knowledge about the criminal justice system. If the voices of Sudanese people are listened to, however, it is clear that their views are at odds with the perceptions of operational police.

The analysis of how the media have portrayed Sudanese people since their arrival in Australia shows that the majority of stories, peaking around 2007, are focused on Sudanese Australians’ alleged involvement in criminal activity (Coventry et al. 2010). The reporting of the Leip Goney case is an example of unaccountable coverage, particularly by television news, that serves as a reminder of how media coverage impacts on the lives of Sudanese Australians. Current media regulators need to be far more proactive with regard to trying to change reporting practices. Of the three main phases of reporting identified in this research, the major and middle phase was primarily focused on stories describing Sudanese as criminogenic, if not actually forming criminal gangs. It can be argued that sustained negative reporting contributes to heightened concerns within the general community about the inability of Sudanese Australians to successfully integrate into society which socially excludes these people.

Despite ongoing concerns about Sudanese community members who come into contact with the criminal justice system, a broader analysis is required to highlight the feelings of exclusion encountered by these people in their integration attempts. To this end, a greater focus on the roles that systemic racism and class disadvantage play in producing social conflict both within and outside the Sudanese community is required. The current research examined such issues and it is argued that it is important to consider strategies that could result in greater inclusiveness of Sudanese Australians in Queensland communities. If Sudanese Australians view themselves as marginalised in Queensland communities, then current methods of integrating these people needs a re-evaluation.

To conclude is a quote from a young man outside a Toowoomba church in 2010. He said:

I know you cannot change my world with this research project. But, at least you have given me a chance to be heard…Our stories are different to those that [immigration] people and newspapers tell.

This research is one step toward providing a more balanced debate about Sudanese Australians and crime, as well as giving these communities a chance to be heard.


The term ’Sudanese Australian’ is used, although the authors acknowledge there is an ongoing debate about appropriate terminology including whether the words should be reversed or alternatively ‘Australians of Sudanese background’ or other terms.


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About the authors

Dr Garry Coventry and Associate Professor Glenn Dawes are at the School of Social Sciences, James Cook University; Associate Professor Stephen Moston is at the Centre for Applied Psychology, University of Canberra and Associate Professor Darren Palmer is at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University.


Funded CRC research grant 38/08–09. We wish to acknowledge the important contributions of JCU researchers Laura Swanson, Belle and Roger Wilkinson and in addition, three Sudanese Australians, Bona Duot, Abraham Aleer and Aleer Deng who provided important linkages into various Sudanese Australian communities in Queensland.

Cite article

Coventry G, Dawes G, Moston S & Palmer D. 2014. Sudanese Australians and crime: Police and community perspectives. Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice No. 477. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. https://aic.gov.au/publications/tandi/tandi477