Brisbane church downplays Islander-African tension | Pacific Beat

Brisbane church downplays Islander-African tension

Brisbane church downplays Islander-African tension

Updated 5 December 2012, 18:32 AEDT

Ethnic community leaders in the Brisbane suburb of Logan have called for calm after the tragic death of a 17-year-old during a brawl at a party on Saturday.

Jordan Matehaere Tukaki, died after being hit by a car outside the party.

Police, African and Pacific Islander community leaders have denied allegations the teen's death was the result of tensions between rival gangs.

Church and youth leaders say the incident is a one-off, and relations between ethnic groups in Logan are generally good.

Wayne Alcorn is the senior pastor at Brisbane's City Church, a large religious organisation with many members from the city's ethnic communities. He says the tragic incident at the weekend is something the church is taking seriously.

Presenter: Bruce Hill.

Speaker: Wayne Alcorn, senior pastor of Brisbane's City Church, Renandi Stanley, who was born in Samoa, is the city church's multi-cultural liaison officer

ALCORN: Well I believe the role of the church is firstly to be a community and with the tragic events of the past few days, I think a lot of what the church has been doing and the value of what the church has been doing is not just what we've done in response, but what we were doing prior to any of this.

The church itself has got an incredible multicultural dimension to it and in fact, in the life of the church, be it through the programs we're reaching teens and young adults, there is tremendous harmony between the different people groups we've got, particularly if we're focusing on Logan City, the young Africans, the young indigenous Australians, the islanders, they just get on famously.

Then when a situation such as what happened on the weekend happens, we've got credibility, we've got personnel and we've also got an example of how things really should work.

HILL: Obviously, some sections of the African and Pacific Island communities aren't getting along famously?

ALCORN: Well, I've just spoken to my people who are on the ground down in Logan. They met with the police on Monday and they've said that really this is more of a one off event than an ongoing problem in the life of the community. We've had a few issues in Logan, but there's issues that happen in all the community and even in Logan, we've had situations that haven't involved different ethnic groups, rather than just the average Australians, there's challenges and domestic challenges and violence issues down there as well and we are not seeing what happened last weekend as necessarily something between the African community and the Islander community.

HILL: Renandi Stanley, who was born in Samoa, is the city church's multi-cultural liaison officer. She agrees with Pastor Alcorn, that what happened at the weekend is not representative of relations between Pacific Island youths and their African counterparts.

STANLEY: It's just a one-off thing, just a party that got out of control and being teenagers, everyone I don't know, I wasn't there, but people, they do get angry and that's probably one of those things. But there's definitely no tension or anything between the two or the three communities at all.

HILL: So tell us about the work you're doing with young Pacific Islanders in Logan?

STANLEY: Our program is called Work Ready and the goal or the focus of the program is to re-engage young people back into either training or find employment. so with the program, we do mentoring as well as part of the training we have barista training as well, so the young people get to make coffee and do hospitality as well.

HILL: There are quite a few young Pacific Islanders, mainly from Samoa and Tonga and some other places in the Pacific living in Australia. From your perspective as a church youth worker in Brisbane, how well are younger Pacific Islanders fitting into Australian society? Is it smooth and easy or are there some problems?

STANLEY: Generally speaking, the majority of young people that we've come across. They do settle in well, but sometimes having that culture that's different culture, it does have an impact on decisionmaking and what happens at school and what home is like. But overall, the majority of young people that we've seen, they've accepted the Australian culture as well and they do fit in really well.

HILL: Pastor Alcorn says the sort of Youth Outreach work being done by Renandi Stanley. is a good way of helping young people from ethnic backgrounds integrate into Australia and be successful.

ALCORN: Renandi and teams like the one she leds are doing a fabulous job with mentoring young islanders, with helping them particularly find work. I think regardless of what ethnic group you're from, if you're bored, you're going to get into trouble. And what the church has been doing helping people with skills for work, helping mentor them, getting them ready to enter the workforce and therefore being gainfully employed and contributing back to society. I think when we can do that more with people, regardless of their ethnic background, I think the better community is and I've been thrilled to watch the church, not just do church services where people gather, but actually doing those things Monday to Friday and I think that's making quite a difference.

HILL: Is the church helping different ethnic groups merge into Australian society?

ALCORN: Absolutely, through all sorts of different levels of engagement, through obviously services that relate to the peoples cultural background, but also in bringing people together and learning to work together in a harmonious arrangement. I think there's been some tremendous fruit out of that.


Bruce Hill

Bruce Hill


Bruce is one of the Pacific’s most experienced journalists with nearly 20 years covering the region and has won several international awards.

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