One of the brilliant pieces written by students from The Monthly Masterclass
The high-rise estates in the City of Yarra house a diverse mix of cultures and ages, all living in very close confines, sharing laundries & stairwell with drug dealers. The 'old guard' are fearful of the young people - 'if there are two or more young people together, they must be up to no good'.
The image of the estates is so unbecoming to 'outsiders' - fences and signs symbolise the 'border gates'. Families from other countries, with many children, some who have their own children, but they won't leave. Why would you leave? These estates cover many hectares of prime real estate in inner city Melbourne, the City of Yarra, with trams running past their doors or only a couple blocks away, providing access to anywhere in Melbourne. And what magnificent views! Views across Melbourne, out to the Dandenong Ranges, the Yarra River, the MCG, the city lights. But they complain - about access, lack of access, maintenance, safety, car parking, drug dealers, the department of housing, the lifts, the laundries, the rubbish.
Many community supports are provided, although they are increasingly limited. Community development workers and Police Youth Resource Officers run soccer programs for the kids, Community Information Centres coordinate activities. There’s the mothers groups, the singing groups, the Safety groups, the Men’s Shed, Health and Wellbeing Groups, Community Gardens and much more.
Uniquely, the estates do provide a ‘village’ atmosphere where neighbours will become friends, carers, helpers, babysitters to each other’s children, regardless of background or culture. Residents have the opportunity to escape their boxes, into their local neighbourhood house or community garden. Residents can spend their time growing and tending their veges, flowers or fruit trees.
Residents have come from all backgrounds, many from war torn countries to fid a better life in Australia. They are trying to integrate into the Australian culture, learn the language, learn the law, learn about justice, from a very narrow view of the world – a box. With security, with swipe cards, and locked doors, with concierge staff, people tailgate, people don’t sign in, people get angry, and police are called.
What will become of the children and young people growing up on the estates, many left unsupervised, as their mothers are home in their boxes caring for their younger ones. Who is mentoring them, teaching them how to integrate, how to grow up in Australia, how to behave appropriately, how to behave respectfully to their parents, to authorities, to women, to each other.
And what of the broader Melbourne, Victorian, Australian community. What of the boxes that the broader community put the residents in? The stereotypes that create such a cultural divide, that residents who grew up on the estates carry with them into adulthood. These estate communities are great communities, rich and vibrant in culture and personalities. Currently there is a public housing shortage in Victoria. There is a government consultation, residents are scared of losing their housing. The information hasn't been translated, they don't fully understand what is happening. They are marching in the streets. This is their home, even if it is in a box.