Can’t pretend no Sudanese gangs: PM
MELBOURNE can't pretend "Sudanese gangs" don't exist and authorities need to be fair dinkum about dealing with them, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says.
Victoria Police has downplayed concerns about alleged "gangs" of African Australian youths, but has also acknowledged there was a small group of core offenders causing trouble.
A recent Seven Network report about Melbourne's alleged gang crisis in 2016 and 2017 has sparked more commentary on the issue.
"The fact is there is a gang issue here and you are not going to make it go away by pretending it doesn't exist," Mr Turnbull told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
"At some point you have to be fair dinkum and you have to acknowledge that there is a concern, people are concerned about it."
Community leaders have said comments about "gangs" have led to racism and harassment against African Australians in Melbourne.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton sparked ridicule in January when he said people were scared to go out for dinner in Melbourne due to "African gang violence".
Mr Turnbull said he wasn't scared to go out to dinner in Melbourne, but he had heard the concerns from his political colleagues.
"You have to be honest, there are Sudanese gangs in Melbourne," he said.
"No one is making any reflections about Sudanese migrants. I have spoken about the enormous achievements of Sudanese migrants to Australia, in every respect."
Mr Turnbull rejected suggestions his party is stoking racism by commenting on the issue.
In January, Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville said there was a problem with a small group of repeat offenders.
Victoria Police has been given state funding for a gang task force, and hundreds of youth offenders have been arrested since early 2016.
"You don't fund a gang task force if you refuse to acknowledge a gang problem," Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said in February.
A community advisory body has also been set up to ensure the state government is engaged with Sudanese Australian youth.