A University of New England (UNE) criminologist is set to take his career development to the next level when he undertakes a three-month fellowship at the University of Cambridge in the UK early next year.
Dr Oluwagbenga “Michael” Akinlabi hopes to use the prestigious Endeavour Executive Fellowship at Cambridge’s Violence Research Centre to learn new methodologies that will help his research into violence in Australia, and specifically, the youth gangs in Melbourne.
The fellowship is highly competitive and attracts high achieving applicants in the Australian education and business sectors, and Dr Akinlabi is looking forward to make the most of the opportunity.
“Cambridge is one of the top universities in the world, so this fellowship means a great deal to me,” he said.
“I will have the opportunity to be mentored by two renowned academics, Dr Justice Tankebe and Professor Manuel Eisner, within the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge, and I hope to learn new ways of conducting research there.”
Dr Akinlabi’s research interests focuses on the factors that influence violence, whether it be street violence, domestic violence or police violence.
“I’m currently researching the police and why people cooperate, or don’t, with police,” he said.
“I’m very keen to go to Melbourne and talk to members of the Apex gang.
“I am an African and think this will be an advantage for me to try and gain gang members’ trust.
“I want to try and understand what motivates them and in so doing, help prevent violence before it gets out of hand.”
Dr Akinlabi believes Australia is at a crossroads when it comes to serious offences such gun violence, and preventative measures and early intervention is crucial to prevent it escalating out of control.
“I have lived in many different countries, including the US and UK, and we have it better here in Australia compared to most when it comes to violence,” he said.
“But violence is rising, especially among migrants and anti-immigration groups.
“Some of the migrants become violent out of anger or frustration. This is not just an issue in Melbourne, but across Australia and the developed West.
“We should be very grateful we live in Australia because it is generally much safer than other countries, but we can’t take it for granted.
“We need to start looking at ways of preventing crime as a matter of urgency, as we are starting to see signs that it is going to get out of hand.
“I hope my research will help with this by providing guidance to policy makers on how to go about preventing violent crime in Australia.”