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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mount Druitt is Struggle Street

Helen Kellie

Helen Kellie, the person responsible for last night's Struggle Street on SBS, has a chemistry degree from Oxford University and used to work for the BBC.  So we can assume that she's not very familiar with the western suburbs of Sydney like Mount Druitt and after making the documentary, it's very unlikely she will ever venture there again.

Ms Kellie saw a similar program in the UK called "Skint" which featured the unemployed living in Britain's poorest suburbs.  It was controversial and rated very well so Ms Kellie suggested it would also rate well here in Australia and because of the publicity, it did.

SBS don't have a large advertising budget because they don't attract the large audience of the commercial channels or the ABC and better ratings will allow them to increase advertising minutes. And this programme was probably made with this in mind.

Struggle Street was made in the Sydney suburb of Mount Druitt and the Mayor of Blacktown is furious that the programme is not a true picture of the people who live there.  He went to the SBS offices in Sydney yesterday, even before the show went to air, and arranged for council garbage trucks to form a blockade.  He said the programme contained "engineered" and "completely false" scenes.

So did they cherry pick certain people to get a sensational reaction like Billie Joe Wilkie?  Billie was born addicted to methadone and her parents are both drug addicts.  She already has three children and narrowly escaped jail time yesterday when she appeared in Blacktown Court charged with theft and driving while disqualified.

The central couple featured, Ashley and his wife Peta support their 10 children and 18 grandkids. Ashley was a truck driver  until a head injury and health problems stopped him from working.

Ashley and Peta's sense of hopelessness has rendered them incapable of taking control of their lives and they allow their drug-addicted son to come and go, stealing the family's meagre possessions to maintain his ice habit.

Unless a miracle happens, these 18 grandchildren born into this family have no hope, they will be trapped in the welfare cycle of poverty for the rest of their lives.  I will never understand how some people still think that welfare is a preferred way of life.

Struggle Street will undoubtedly boost ratings for SBS but I have sympathy for the Blacktown Mayor because he knows that this programme is not a true representation of the people who live in Mt Druitt.  And it's just not fair to them.