Many African-Australians have been complaining for years about media misrepresentations that negatively affect their communities. They believe that there is a correlation between the negative images of their community that is often circulated in the media and some of the issues that they are confronted with in their everyday life, such as limited access to employment, housing, education and other opportunities.
A recent article published on the Age in Melbourne has documented a number of issues related to the difficulties that African-Australians are increasingly facing the housing market.
Dr Berhan Ahmed who works with many African-Australian youths and families was reported saying that his organisations receives several requests from people who are desperate to find rental properties in Melbourne.
The issue is quite widespread throughout Melbourne. A community leader in the Wyndham area who did not want to be named has advised AMA that he knows a lot of families in the Werribee area alone who have been looking for a rental property for a very long time without success.
“Some of these families have been forced to live with friends and relatives when they are evicted from their rental properties and cannot find new properties to rent. This situation increases promiscuity in many families, contributing to some of the issues that affect some young African-Australians and they end up being in contact with the justice system as offenders”, he stated.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that increasingly more African families are seeing their rental property applications turn down, even where they have a very good income, good rental references and they can afford to pay the rent comfortably.
For many such individuals and families, they believe that their applications are being turned down even where they can comfortably afford to pay the rent. They think that they are being rejected because either the property managers or the property owners look down on them and turn their applications down simply because they don’t want to deal with Africans.
There is no doubt that the rental market in Melbourne is quite tight and African families may not be the only ones facing difficulty to find rental property, but it is easy to see the link between the frequent misrepresentations of these families in the media and the perceptions that they generate in the minds of non-Africans who don’t get much chance to interact with African-Australians in their every day life.
In such a context, it becomes easy to understand why some property managers or owners may be biased, consciously or unconsciously when processing applications from African-Australians. When people see nothing Africans in the media but images of offending youth and other similar issues, they build a certain perception about all people from African background.
Negative media reporting is a contributes to limiting housing opportunities for many deserving African-Australians individuals and families. This is a structural problem that deserves more attention from the government, African-community leaders and the real estate industry.