2UE DRIVE WITH BRIAN CARLTON
THURSDAY 14 MAY 2015
SUBJECT/S: Struggle Street, Budget 2015.
BRIAN CARLTON: We’re sort of dealing with the wash up, if you’d like, from ‘Struggle Street’, which concluded last night on SBS, as I’m sure you’re aware. I’m sure there is any number of questions about whether this was a valuable thing for us to see or was it shameless exploitation. How representative was it of people in those parts of the world were featured in the show? What do we, as a broader community, do about it, if anything? How do we break the multigenerational dependence on welfare? How do we do that? Is there an answer or a simple set of answers here? Do we provide caseworkers for each individual or each family? Do we plug them into various government departments? How do we do it? A guy that might have a bit of a clue, or at least have some decent questions to ask would be Ed Husic, Federal Labor Member for Chifley. Good day, Ed. How are you going?
ED HUSIC, SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE SHADOW TREASURER: Hi, Brian. Good.
CARLTON: What did you make of it, Ed? Was it valuable or was it exploitation?
HUSIC: Well, there are two reactions in our local area. There is deep anger to the show for a range of reasons we’ll go through in a moment. Outside of the area, people are saying ‘now we have a spotlight on these problems.’ I guess there are number of answers. First, we’re not seeing this as a part of a two week expose on SBS; we live this every day. We’ve had ample problem definition. The issue is getting the solution. And people know those issues exist; there’s always something that you like in your neighbourhood and things you’d like to change in your neighbourhood, and that’ll happen in every suburb in the country. We know that.
The thing I regularly get is, particularly from young people in the area, is when they want to go and better themselves and take themselves off of Struggle Street, they find it hard going because they feel that they’re subject to post code bias because the views of outside of the area impact on their ability to do what they want with their lives.
CARLTON: When they submit a job application with their name, address, and suburb, and their suburb is Mt Druitt or one of the suburbs in the vicinity with that postcode, that’s all a prospective employer needs to scratch that person from the list?
HUSIC: I’ve had young people and students say to me that’s exactly the type of thing that: one, they’re anxious about; and two, their solution is to not include their address on their resume.
CARLTON: I’ve seen that a few times on Twitter, Ed. And as we go through the process of following this story and the various feedback that comes in off the back of it, that has been one of the things I’ve seen four, five, six times – just don’t put your address on the application. That’s sad.
HUSIC: That’s terrible, especially in this day and age. And as a country, we basically say ‘it doesn’t matter how rich you are, or what family you come from, or whatever; if you’ve got skills, talent, ideas, you’re going to get ahead in Australia because we don’t operate like other countries.
CARLTON: But here’s the thing, Ed. Can I just stop you there, because you’re right, of course, but even just today, I’ve taken phone calls from people who live in the area, and they say ‘I did manage to do something with myself. I am a success.’ The people we’re talking about here represent only a very small proportion of the people that live within the area we’re talking about. There are success stories; this is possible. So how do we reconcile these two things?
HUSIC: Absolutely. And again, I’ve celebrated a lot of those success stories in the past –
CARLTON: Damn straight! You’re one of them! I know.
HUSIC: I talk about the good things that people in our area have been able to achieve. Two things: one is recognizing that the area isn’t all the same and that there are people that have been able to, against the odds, do really well. But the type of people we back all the time – we love backing the underdogs and seeing them achieve. So we’ve got that, but at the same time too, realising that there are some hard-core issues that we have to deal with; and deal with them we must and we will. But we don’t want, as I’ve said, when this show comes and goes – the credits will roll on and people will move on to their next big project. We need to deal with this, and I don’t want people in our area to feel the weight and stigma of that stereotype anymore. I want us to get real and serious about dedicating what is required to be done in terms of support and resources to help people in need; but again, recognize that – can I say again Brian – people don’t want to be pitied or stigmatized. They just want a fair chance.
CARLTON: Ok. Why don’t they have a fair chance up to now, Ed?
HUSIC: There are a number of things. There were things I was really looking forward to, particularly as a Federal Member, see happen in our area especially because I think if you give people the broad range of skills they need to get ahead, they can do it. I’ve seen people who are very determined to get ahead – people break out of families that have suffered from intergenerational unemployment, not only get training and a get a job, but also go back to their families and say ‘you know, if I can do it, you can do it too,’ and push them to embrace change.
CARLTON: So it’s often a lack of an example, a lack of a working example of someone that has taken a pretty poor start in life and turned it into something good.
HUSIC: I can absolutely give you an example. Through Marist Youth Care, training up Aboriginal youth workers – people that had been in families that had struggled to find employment and change their lives. I have seen young people out of that program operating, not only out of the headquarters in Blacktown, but also operating in other suburbs in my area from Bidwell to Blackett. I’ve seen them in the local community getting back to work and changing neighborhoods. There are those types of programs, Brian. But also making sure we’ve got the money for education systems to change and target resources, as we were planning to do when Julie Gillard and Barry O’Farrell signed a deal with Gonski funding. They would target areas like these to make sure we could helps kids in need and really bring the skills that we know exist within them to the fore; but that stuff has been basically –
CARLTON: Yeah, Gonski is basically ‘gone-ski’ as of two years from now, isn’t is?
HUSIC: Yeah, and that’s an issue. Like I said, ‘Struggle Street’ the show will come and go, but ramifications of that decision not to support educational funding – that stays and that should get people hopping mad.
CARLTON: Just two things quickly. Did SBS make a tactical error in attributing the sorts of behaviors we’ve seen over the past week or so on the show to a specific geographic location that can be replicated in just about every major city in the country? There are areas where people live like that. I mean if you’ve been to Werribee in Melbourne, for example, then you know what I’m talking about. Did they make a mistake in labeling it a Mt Druitt thing?
HUSIC: I think they made a number of crucial errors.
CARLTON: What are they? What are those errors?
HUSIC: There was the outrageous promotion –
CARLTON: Yeah, everyone agrees the promo was way over the top. But I’ll tell you what, Ed – it got everyone’s attention!
HUSIC: Yeah, I know. But the problem was, Brian that the people featured in that promo – they have to live with the consequences.
CALRTON: Yeah, true.
HUSIC: The taunts and the jeers that go on, that are amplified through social media; they have to cop that, and I think it’s wrong that their reputations are beleaguered for the sake of boosting ratings.
CARLTON: Ok, so the promo you have issues with. What’s the second thing?
HUSIC: The second is what comes to the heart of your question you raised with me, that is absolutely correct, which is these types of issues exist in a range of suburbs in our nation, and if we are fair dinkum about changing our situation, then lets make sure we’ve got the support there for education, for generating jobs, getting infrastructure to support those jobs, and the support services that can free monkeys off the backs of people who are finding in tough to be able to get ahead in life.
CARLTON: Here’s one of the problems, it seems to me, Ed. It’s almost the way we structure our government services. The people we’re talking about, they need help from housing, from health and mental health, from education, and various drug and alcohol services. That requires those individuals to plug into four, five, six, or seven different government departments in order to get them the help they need. Would it be a better way to assign them a caseworker that can deal with each of those governments, be it federal or state or indeed local, to get the sort of outcomes we’re after here? Is that the only way we can do this? Because it just seems to me that these people struggle just to organize getting up, having a shower, and going to work. They’re not going to be able to access the sort of services that are already there. How are we going to do that?
HUSIC: I’m all for any model – if we can change models that do things differently – as long as they’re successful and make a difference, we should be prepared to do those things. I don’t care about the politics. I’ve been equally critical of my side of politics as I have of the other side of politics.
CARLTON: That’s one of the reasons I like talking to you, Ed, because you call it straight. I do like that.
HUSIC: It’s because I just want to see people that I know have the ability to change their own lives, give them a bit of support, and they take initiative themselves and see what happens. Learning Ground in Bidwill is losing funding as a result of NSW Government decisions that will see the work that it does with kids that can’t remain in school and have issues with the type of things you’re talking about with caseworkers; they’re doing exactly that. They’re working out ‘what do we need to do to get you support, but what can we do for you while you’re in our facility to help you.’ And I’ve seen, for example, a young woman who said to me, ‘I didn’t think school was for me. I wasn’t interested in training. I was just going to end up on drugs or doing something else terrible, but these guys – and the biggest thing – was that they actually believed in me and made me stick to the program.’ This woman that I’ve spoken to has gone on to have a successful career in childcare, and says if it weren’t for Learning Ground, her life would be completely different. These are the type of things, coming back to your question; if you have someone there that can connect you up with those different support services, then great. But the biggest thing is having the belief that the people you are working with, that the people you are helping have self worth, and if you give them the resources, they will get ahead.
CARLTON: Good to talk with you, Ed, as ever.
HUSIC: Thanks, Brian.
CARLTON: Thanks mate. Ed Husic, Federal Member for Chifley, which covers part of the area we’re talking about with ‘Struggle Street.’ The thing I like about Ed, apart from being a straight shooter, is that he genuinely cares. Like he actually does care, and that is always a good thing in a politician.
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