Publication Details

Cunningham, T., Ivory, B., Chenhall, R., McMahon, R. & Senior, K. (2013). Youth gangs in a remote Indigenous community: Importance of cultural authority and family support. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, (457), 1-6.


The Indigenous community of Wadeye in the Northern Territory, Australia has been described as a community 'under siege from continual gang violence' (Rioting flares again at Wadeye. The Australian 7 August; Gang violence plagues Wadeye. ABC News 1 December; Wadeye worst in 50 years. NT News 2 November). The gangs appear to have emerged in the early 1980s and are generally defined through youth aligning themselves along cultural, clan and family affiliations into groups with contemporary Americanised gang characteristics, symbolic links with heavy metal music and clearly defined turf boundaries. Although they do engage in some relatively minor drug (predominately cannabis) distribution for profit, the rationale for these groups appears to be either as a provocative and offensive structure, or at other times as a defence mechanism. Despite the portrayal of gangs as the focus of criminal activity in the community, there has been little research to explore the relationship between the gangs and the criminal profile of the community. Nor has there been research that examines gang activity from the perspective of the members or within a broader community context. Without this level of understanding, it is very difficult to design interventions that meet the needs of youth in the community. This paper presents data from a survey of young people who were involved in gangs in Wadeye and interviews with gang members who were incarcerated in Darwin Correctional Centre.