Apex (gang)

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Founding location Melbourne,Sydney, Dandenong, Victoria, Australia
Ethnicity South Sudanese, Australian [1]
Criminal activities Burglary, carjacking, assault, home invasions, armed robbery, kidnapping, people smuggling
Rivals Islander 23

Apex, although lacking any leadership or structure, is a group that has been loosely termed a street gang in Melbourne, Australia. The founding members were part of Victoria's South Sudanese community centered around Apex St. in Dandenong North.[2] The 'gang' became associated with a series of high-profile violent carjackings and burglaries in Melbourne's eastern and southeastern suburbs between 2015 and 2016, but the police have called the presence of this so-called gang to be "utter garbage".[3]

The origins of the stories of this alleged gang were from reports in the national media after a brawl in Melbourne's Central Business District between it and the rival Islander 23 gang in March 2016[4] after the Moomba parade. This prompted a crackdown by Victoria Police.[5][6] Even if the gang exists, there is little to identify them, since they have little structure, no official colours and are declared a ’non-entity’ by Victorian Police as of April 2017.[7][8]


The South Sudanese community in Victoria are a refugee community fleeing from the civil war in their homeland, their community of about 20,000 arrived mostly between 2003-2006. The community has faced difficulties in adjusting to Australia, including facing casual racism and the difficulties faced in adjusting to a new community.[9]

The community faces its challenges with an over-representation in the crime statistics. The Sudanese community is about 0.14% of the population and responsible for about 1.4% of the total crime. This situation also seems to be localised around Melbourne and has not infiltrated regional Sudanese communities.[10] The statistics are listing alleged offences, but not those charged with a crime.[11] Part of the over representation is connected to the deliberate targeting and racial profiling of Sudanese Australians under the assumption that they are part of the gang according to members of the South Sudanese community.[12][13]


Conflict with YCW[edit]

In January 2015 police became aware of Apex after a fight between the gang and another group named "Young Crucified Warriors" (YCW) in Hampton Park. Two months later YCW was absorbed into Apex.[14]


Apex gang members have been connected with car-jackings since at least 2015.[15] Two 18-year old suspected gang members were arrested in March 2016 for a series of car-jackings in southeastern Melbourne.[16] A violent carjacking of a Mercedes in April 2016, where the vehicle was later used in a burglary, was blamed on Apex by police.[17][18]

Threats against police[edit]

In March 2016 it was reported that a young member of the gang had threatened to shoot a female police officer at a police station in Dandenong. The officer in question took leave after being traumatised by the threats.[19][20]

Moomba brawl[edit]

After the Moomba festival fireworks on the night of Saturday 13 March 2016, starting at around 8pm, there was a brawl in and around Federation Square in Melbourne's Central Business District, largely between members of Apex and Islander 23.[21] Around 200 mostly young men participated in the brawl, which had been posted about on social media beforehand.[4]

The police had been notified prior to the riot by a triple 0 emergency call from a Channel 7 reporter, but the warning was dismissed by senior police as "shit".[5][22] There was widespread fear and panic in the city as onlookers ran for cover, trams stopped running, and Swanston Street was closed down.[23] Four people were arrested on the night, two for drunkenness, one for carrying a taser, and another for knocking a police officer's phone or radio into their face.[5] There was a large amount of media coverage due to the public nature of the brawl.[2][4][5][6][21]

Police crackdown[edit]

After the Moomba brawl, a 17-year-old boy linked to Apex was arrested for a series of home invasions and thefts.[24] As of 14 April 2016 more than 33 suspected gang members had been arrested.[25] 34 people were charged over the Moomba brawl, including some with links to Apex.[6]

Claims of racism[edit]

There have been varying claims of racism in relation to Apex, the Moomba brawl, and related crimes. An Apex member speaking under the assumed name of "James" claimed to have been present at the Moomba brawl but not involved stated that media reports were exaggerated, that he "wouldn't call Apex a gang", and that he didn't know of organised criminal activity within Apex. He stated it was racist that police were only targeting Apex, and not the other group involved.[26][27] After Border Force chief Roman Quaedvlieg stated that Apex members could be deported under legislation previously used to deport outlaw motorcycle club members, there were claims by Anthony Kelly, head of the Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre that this was would be inherently racist, and akin to apartheid.[28]

There have also been claims that there was police inaction against Apex due to political correctness and fears of being accused of racism.[29][30][31]


In April 2016 an associate of the Apex gang was deported to New Zealand after his visa was revoked. In November 2016 two people associated with the gang had their visas revoked, and will be deported to their place of birth. One of the men, a 20-year-old born in New Zealand, was sentenced to 27 months in January 2016. His offences included armed robbery, theft, kidnapping and arson.[32][33]

Alt-right response[edit]

A number of far right groups have been reported patrolling the streets of Melbourne to stop the violence, although it has emerged that they have harassed innocent people based on their appearance, and even followed one individual home and to harass them at home.[34] These gangs include the Soldiers of Odin.[35]

Community response[edit]

In response to the negative press, and especially Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying that Victoria was in the grips of gang violence,[36] many members of the Sudanese community took pictures of themselves making a positive contribution to the community with the hashtag #AfricanGangs, while others posted pictures of their children under this hashtag.[37] Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews said that the Turnbull had not contacted him before making those comments,[38] and the police responded by saying that Victoria was one of the safest places in the world to live.[39]

Home Affairs minister, Peter Dutton, claimed that Victorians were afraid to go out at night to dinner,[40] a stance for which he was ridiculed by some Victorians on social media using the hashtag #melbournebitesback, where Melbournians took at picture while out at a restaurant at night.[41][42][43] Premier Andrews hit out at the fearmongering that Dutton was initiating, and invited Dutton out for dinner in Melbourne.[44][45]

Gang makeup[edit]

The gang was originally claimed to be primarily composed of young Sudanese men and boys[31], but Victoria Police has since stated that the gang is a “non-entity”, is "no longer and never was predominantly African” and that "a large cohort of that gang was in fact Australian-born offenders”.[46] It was never made up of one or two ethnicities, but from a range of backgrounds, reportedly from Somali and Pacific Islander backgrounds, as well as minority numbers of members from Caucasian, Pakistani, and Afghan descent.[4][47]

There have been claims, and mounting evidence that the gang does not really exist[48] and is an invention of the press, and push by politicians with an agenda.[49]

Police response[edit]

In November 2015 Taskforce Tense was created in response to an increase in young people committing serious and violent crime. The taskforce was later renamed Operation Cosmas and expanded across Victoria.[50]


  1. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-12/victoria-police-declare-apex-crime-gang-non-entity/8440312
  2. ^ a b Ashton, Graham (March 16, 2016) Police do not tiptoe around gangs because of skin colour The Age Retrieved March 17, 2016
  3. ^ "APEX GANG: 'We're not trying to cover this up'". Sunshine Coast Daily. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  4. ^ a b c d Melbourne CBD brawl: Who are the Apex gang? March 14, 2016. The Age Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d Police ignored 's--t' Triple-0 warning just hours before CBD rampage they now say was 'surprise' March 14, 2016. The Age Retrieved May 18, 2016
  6. ^ a b c Cowie, Tom (April 29, 2016) Police charge 34, some with links to Apex, over Moomba riots The Age Retrieved May 3, 2016
  7. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-12/victoria-police-declare-apex-crime-gang-non-entity/8440312
  8. ^ "Melbourne CBD brawl" from The Age
  9. ^ "Who are Australia's South Sudanese?". SBS News. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  10. ^ "South Sudanese young people defend their reputations". ABC News. 2018-01-08. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  11. ^ "South Sudanese young people defend their reputations". ABC News. 2018-01-08. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  12. ^ "South Sudan community leader accuses government of 'racial stereotyping' over youth crime". SBS News. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  13. ^ "In defense of the "Apex gang" — Kieran's Review". Kieran's Review. 2016-11-07. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  14. ^ Dowling, James & Buttler, Mark (March 14, 2016) Heavily armed police swoop on Apex suspects in Dandenong arrest Herald Sun Retrieved March 23, 2016
  15. ^ Hurley, David Police fear gangs have joined forces for Victorian carjacking crime spree November 6, 2015 Herald Sun Retrieved May 13, 2015
  16. ^ Cowie, Tom (March 14, 2016) Suspected Apex gang members arrested over carjackings in Melbourne's south-east The Age Retrieved May 13, 2016
  17. ^ Cowie, Tom Police blame Apex after men with baseball bats bash driver, steal his Mercedes April 26, 2016 The Age Retrieved May 13, 2016
  18. ^ Buttler, Mark & Gillett, Chris Man claims he was bashed and his car stolen in South Yarra in attack linked to Apex gang April 26, 2016 Herald Sun Retrieved May 13, 2016
  19. ^ Hosking, Wes (March 11, 2016) Apex gang member reportedly threatens to shoot police officer at Dandenong station Herald Sun Retrieved March 16, 2016
  20. ^ Cowie, Tom (March 11, 2016) Violent car thief threatens to shoot officer investigating Apex gang The Age Retrieved March 15, 2016
  21. ^ a b Melbourne street brawl blamed on Apex gang after Moomba festival Sunday March 13, 2016. The Guardian Retrieved May 18, 2016
  22. ^ Lillebuen, Steve (March 14, 2016) Federation Square rioters in Melbourne's CBD will be caught: police The Age Retrieved May 19, 2016
  23. ^ Melbourne street brawl an 'escalation in violence' from Apex gang, police say March 14, 2016. ABC Australia Retrieved May 19, 2016
  24. ^ Dobbin, Marika (March 16, 2016) Boy with links to violent Apex gang arrested over armed burglaries The Age Retrieved May 3, 2016
  25. ^ Calligeros, Marissa Suspected Apex gang members arrested in Noble Park, Dandenong raids April 14, 2016. The Age Retrieved May 3, 2016
  26. ^ Apex gang member explains why tough talk from police, premier made them angry March 16, 2016 ABC Australia Retrieved May 25, 2016
  27. ^ Morris, Madeleine (March 17, 2016) Melbourne brawl blown out of proportion, says Apex gang member ABC Retrieved May 19, 2016
  28. ^ Deporting Apex gang members 'inherently racist', legal groups say April 28, 2016 The Age Retrieved May 16, 2016
  29. ^ Franklin, Roger (March 14, 2016) Politically Correct Policing Quadrant Retrieved May 19, 2016
  30. ^ Iddles, Ron (March 16, 2016) Police must stop being so politically correct The Age Retrieved May 19, 2016
  31. ^ a b Silvester, John (March 14, 2016) Melbourne riot: Gang violence calls for 'carrot and stick' response The Age Retrieved March 16, 2016
  32. ^ Smethurst, Annika (6 November 2016). "173 Criminals, including two from the Apex gang, set for deportation under tough new migration laws". www.heraldsun.com.au. News Corp. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
  33. ^ Calligeros, Marissa (14 April 2016). "Suspected Apex gang members arrested in Noble Park, Dandenong raids". The Age. Retrieved 28 March 2017.
  34. ^ Butler, Josh (2018-01-15). "An 'African Gang Crisis' In Melbourne Is Roiling Australian Politics". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  35. ^ "Vigilante-style group Soldiers of Odin patrolling Melbourne CBD", The Age 10 October 2016
  36. ^ Dafedjaiye, Helen (2018). "Just what do #AfricanGangs look like?". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  37. ^ Wahlquist, Calla (2018-01-10). "#AfricanGangs: social media responds to Melbourne's 'crisis'". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  38. ^ "South Sudanese community find their voice by reclaiming #AfricanGang". SBS News. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  39. ^ "'One of the safest places in the world'". NewsComAu. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  40. ^ Karp, Paul (2018-01-03). "Peter Dutton says Victorians scared to go out because of 'African gang violence'". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  41. ^ "Peter Dutton Thinks Victorians Don't Eat Out Because They're Scared Of "African Gangs"". Junkee. 2018-01-03. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  42. ^ "Dutton ridiculed for saying Melburnians were 'scared to go out'". NewsComAu. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  43. ^ "Melbourne Hits Back At Dutton's Absurd Claim They're Afraid To Leave The House". Pedestrian TV. 2018-01-03. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  44. ^ Preiss, Ben (2018-01-11). "Daniel Andrews hits back at Peter Dutton comments, then invites him to dinner". The Age. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  45. ^ Wahlquist, Calla (2018-01-11). "Daniel Andrews accuses Dutton of trying to 'get rise out of people' over gang comments". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  46. ^ Farnsworth, Sarah (April 12, 2017) Apex crime gang declared a 'non-entity' by Victoria Police ABC News Retrieved Jan 3, 2018
  47. ^ Gordon, Josh (March 17, 2016) Dan Andrews was right to take a sledgehammer to a delicate problem The Age Retrieved March 17, 2016
  48. ^ Wahlquist, Calla (2018-01-02). "Is Melbourne in the grip of African crime gangs? The facts behind the lurid headlines". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  49. ^ "Did the Herald Sun invent the Sudanese youth Apex gang?". Crikey. 2017-04-21. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  50. ^ Woods, Emily (28 May 2016). "Taskforce set up to tackle Apex gang investigating series of violent Dandenong robberies". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 9 November 2016.