As Australian’s most of us are pretty lucky. We are often dubbed the “lucky country” by ourselves, even though we are lagging behind other countries in many areas.
SBS’s newest TV program called Struggle Street details residents of Western Sydney in an area called Mt. Druitt, which has a pretty notorious reputation for being a rough area because of the public housing it contains.
The show before it even aired its first episode drummed up a heap of controversy, all solely based on the limited glimpse we had through the promos. After watching the first episode I have come to the conclusion that the media and those opposing the program were overreacting.
Rather than being a comical parody of the downtrodden part of society, the program is an accurate depiction of Mt. Druitt life for many. It is a bleak and unfiltered look into public housing families struggling to make ends meet and substance abuse. It is raw and at times, emotional.
While highlighting the cracks in a broken system Struggle Street also highlights something else: the truth hurts. The government and Blacktown mayor are in denial, anyone who tells you this show was exploiting anyone obviously hasn’t seen the show at all, just the promos which I think didn’t paint an accurate picture of what the show is really about.
We’ve been conditioned to write off people on Centrelink as bludgers, people who don’t want to change and happy living off the taxpayer. This show on one hand highlights this point-of-view perfectly, there are indeed those who waste their lives away and there are those who want to try and do better, but feel trapped.
Sadly what we see on Struggle Street is not just limited to Mt. Druitt. There are countless suburbs right across Australia with the same issues. You only have to go out to areas like Caboolture on the Brisbane Northside, or areas like Park Ridge over on the Southside of Brisbane to see similar suburbs filled with people in similar situations.
Given the outraged over Struggle Street, I had expectations of it being a comedy-riddled look at the lower class of Australian society, instead I think we got an honest and unedited view at just how far from the “lucky country” of our residents are. No exploitation, just brutal honesty and I think many are taken aback by how honest the show was (even I was a little).
The mayor of Blacktown Stephen Bali has painted the program as “publicly funded poverty porn” which is easy to say when you’re paid a decent salary and aren’t struggling yourself. He even arranged for 10 garbage trucks to head to SBS’ North Sydney headquarters over the airing of the show in protest. The irony is these garbage trucks are funded by taxpayers as well.
Instead of protesting using publicly funded garbage trucks, Bali could have spun it in a positive light and announced support for people in areas of Blacktown like Mt. Druitt. Most of the characters in the show seemed legitimately decent, but dealt a bad hand (especially couple Ashley and Peta).
I am looking forward to the conclusion of the series and I congratulate SBS for going ahead with it despite the media, the mayor of Blacktown and others trying to stop it from being shown. We need more programs like this, less editing and more honesty. If you want positively filtered entitlement reality TV, watch My Kitchen Rules or The Block.