Title: The Experiences of Young First-Generation Africans in Melbourne: A Qualitative Study of Psychological Sense of Community

Author(s): Albina Elly Alija

Affiliations: Victoria University, College of Health and Biomedicine, Melbourne, Australia

 Citation/publication/thesis details: Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Psychological (Honours) 

About the Project

Young people from the African diaspora are actively participating in multiple communities within the Western Suburbs of Melbourne. Several factors seemed to influence the participants’ overall Psychological Sense of Community (PSC), especially their sense of belonging to and identifying with the mainstream Australian ‘community’. The study suggests that a positive affective relationship with African communities based on the shared emotional meanings and feelings were central to their perceived PSC.

The study examined community experiences of seven female and two male young students from diverse African backgrounds living in Melbourne West. The McMillan and Chavis model of four dimensions of PSC theory comprising of membership; influence; integration and fulfilment of needs; and shared emotional connection was utilised. Thematic analysis constructed three main themes of stories: the white Australian ‘community’; navigating membership across multiple communities and multiple experiences of communities; and shared affective communities among African people.

Why is this Important?

Young African people in Melbourne are overwhelmingly faced with problems encountered due to negative stereotypes, prejudice, racism, negative media, social exclusion and unemployment. Mass media outlets are pathologizing African racial and ethnic identities as “criminals” or “gangs”. To understand the experiences of communities from the viewpoint of African Australians, this research invited the young people to tell their stories about their individual experiences of communities and the perceived PSC of these young people from the African diaspora living in Melbourne.

Methodological Approaches

Based on a social constructionist paradigm, semi structured qualitative interviews explored the experiences of communities from the viewpoint of African people. An inductive thematic analysis was driven by the data to identify themes of meaning, following the Braun & Clarke’s 6-step framework.

Key Findings

The white Australian ‘community’ theme captured the way participants spoke of shared experiences of racism, prejudice, and stereotypes to reinforce boundaries to mainstream white Australian community;

Participants reported navigating membership across multiple communities and multiple experiences of communities ranging from family to school and sports; these nested communities exist in the larger white Australian ‘community’ and made up the context of participants’ lives;

The shared affective communities theme captured stories where participants spoke of the shared emotional connection, shared history, significant events, and support among African people living in Melbourne.