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Drop gangs campaign, bishop urges Liberals

Bishop Philip Huggins says campaign negatively stereotypes innocent youth

PHOTO: Chris Shearer

By Barney Zwartz

July 16 2018A Melbourne Anglican bishop has urged the State Liberal Party to drop their anti-gang campaign, saying it makes Melbourne youths sound like dangerous wild animals.

Bishop Philip Huggins, who works extensively with Sudanese and other refugee communities, said the Liberal election campaign headed “Only Liberals will STOP GANGS HUNTING IN PACKS” risked negatively stereotyping many innocent young people.

“They then get abused in the streets and on public transport; they see how the amplified fear causes others to shrink away from them. All this is grossly unfair,” Bishop Huggins said.

“The chosen language that they are, whenever together, “gangs hunting in packs” intentionally makes them sound like dangerous wild animals. This is so unfair to the vast majority of kids who just want to belong and contribute in positive ways.

“Nor is it true, as the adverts suggest, that there is some massive problem which the police are currently incapable of addressing.”

Bishop Huggins said the latest data from the Crime Statistics Agency showed that Sudanese offenders comprised only 1% of alleged Victorian offenders, and that senior police were already collaborating with community leaders.

 “The only purpose of this campaign is to amplify fears in order to harvest votes for an election victory,” he said.

“But if the basis of the campaign is neither fair nor true, what kind of moral legitimacy would this give a Government so elected? Already there are questions, given how the State Opposition Leader has recently appeared to legitimate lying as a political tactic.”

Bishop Huggins said he had written to Mr Guy, asking him to meet a deputation of Sudanese and South Sudanese church leaders and commit himself to promoting social cohesion through multicultural harmony. “I hope he will agree to listen as they convey to him the unfair and untrue nature of this current destructive campaign.”