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Jesuit postcode explanation for Sydney suburban violence

Jesuit Social Services Policy Director Fr Peter Norden yesterday used the conclusions of his organisation's "postcodes" Disadvantage Survey, to shed light on the root causes of four successive nights of youth clashes with police on the streets of Macquarie Fields in Sydney's south-west.

The Sydney Morning Herald report that police last night made 19 arrests after rioters hurled rocks, bottles, firecrackers and chemical bombs at police in another night of violence in the suburb.

The Macquarie Fields riots represent the second major incident between young people and the NSW Police since the beginning of last year. Just over a year ago, 17-year-old Thomas Hickey died after falling from his bicycle and being impaled on a fence post in Redfern.

The Melbourne-based Jesuit Social Services completed a survey last year looking at the correlation between where people live and how they behave. And as a result of that study, Fr Norden was able to tell the ABC's The World Today of the link between factors such as early school leaving, low job skills, long-term unemployment, criminal convictions and imprisonment.

He said: "All these are so highly correlated it's obvious that unless we actually improve the social conditions and actually have some proactive rather than reactive policing, you'll have this sort of confrontation occur in the future."

Speaking of the loss of morale in some communities, Fr Norden pointed to the need to build community leadership,

"We, in Australia, are living in a prosperous society and mostů the majority of Australians have increased their prosperity in the last 10 years, but that wealth definitely hasn't been shared throughout the community, and those communities that haven't shared in that prosperity coming out of globalisation, they know that and they can see that and they're falling behind."

He stressed that in a context of national prosperity, there are "pockets of intense disadvantage and long term unemployment" that he says can be called "'black holes of poverty" that "have never been seen in Australian society before outside of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities".

Survey finds poor communities need social improvement, not more policing (ABC Radio The World Today 28/2/05)

Jesuit Social Services | 'Community adversity and resilience' - study overview | Order Form

Priest says poverty increasing in rural and regional Australia (CathNews 21/10/04)
Jesuit study confirms postcode influence on social divide (CathNews 9/3/04)
[Fr Joe Caddy] laments election campaign poverty bypass (CathNews 19/10/04)

Fourth night of riots: nine charged (Sydney Morning Herald 1/3/05)
Cardinal calls on Britain's leaders to embrace 'prosperty with a purpose' (Independent Catholic News 28/2/05)

29 Mar 2005