Kaz Therese felt completely gutted three weeks ago when SBS television ran its promo for Struggle Street, set in the western Sydney suburbs of Mount Druitt (photo – SBS – Peta and Ashley Kennedy). Creative director of the highly successful FUNPARK, part of Sydney Festival 2014, Kaz shared a deep sense of personal betrayal with local people who worked with her on the project.
On May 4, she posted on Facebook – “Not long after FUNPARK 2014 finished two film makers came to Bidwill and told everyone they are looking to create a positive series about people from the area. In the light of the positivity created by FUNPARK they gained people’s trust and then produced this Struggle Street a completely negative and defamatory series. The release of promotional material has left many of the participants shocked, with a documentary they were told would take a positive look at their struggles instead appearing to mock, degrade, insult and exaggerate their hardships. Because of the promo material there are people in the area who are getting slandered on social media and being shamed and abused.” Above, the Kennedy family described their distress to Channel 9’s A Current Affair. On the same program, they have since given a positive response to the show. Struggle Street attracted record audiences for SBS.
“The film makers from KEO FILMs should be boycotted. They lied to the individuals and the community. Shame on you KEO Films. . . . Please sign this petition and support the shut down of Struggle Street.” The protest, supported by Blacktown Council, was so strong that SBS pulled the promo, though they didn’t cancel the series. They merely brought forward the third episode and showed it with the second.
Local anger was galvanised not merely by Struggle Street, but by the fact that it was yet another in a long line of media forays that consistently portray Mount Druitt in an endlessly negative light. In fact Kaz’s inspiration for FUNPARK had been her childhood experience of the “Bidwill riots” in 1981, when a TV helicopter descended on a fight between two school girls watched by a bunch of other students, and heard her street described on television that night as “the worst in Sydney.” One of the central performances of FUNPARK was a highly entertaining musical parody of the event, which still resonates in community memory. Kaz Therese, above.
One response came on ABC’s Q&A with Tony Jones, on Monday, May 11, Struggle Street on Budget Eve. Among the panellists was Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander playwright and actor Nakkiah Lui, who grew up in Mount Druitt. In the audience were local high school students, community workers and the Mayor of Blacktown Stephen Bali. Defying the stereotype and without artifice, they were all highly articulate, dignified and well informed.
By May 15, Kaz was announcing the return of FUNPARK to Mount Druitt and the launch of a Pozible campaign to fund it. FUNPARK was re-ignited. Kaz says, “FUNPARK is about positive action and activism and we want the Mt Druitt community and FUNPARK community to feel like FUNPARK is there when its most needed. We are inviting everyone back to an adventure to Mount Druitt.
“FUNPARK 2015 – July 19th 2015!
“Today I am launching a Pozible campaign to raise $5,000 to create a significant event that re-ignites the positivity created in January 2014. The FUNPARK Pozible campaign accepts any donations from $5 up to a zillion dollars. It’s just about everyone coming together offering what you can to support it. In light of recent events FUNPARK is working to reaffirm the pride and potential of this great community. Sydney and broader Western Sydney audiences are welcome to attend. If you didn’t catch FUNPARK in 2014 this is your chance to come and see what all the excitement is about!
“FUNPARK specifically targets young people who live in Mt Druitt. The project actively involves participants in creative dialogue around the social, civic and imagined spaces of Mt Druitt. Through a program involving community engagement and skills sharing, the FUNPARK initiative will transform the small suburb of Bidwill in Mt Druitt into a funpark on Sunday, July 19. FUNPARK will present original works from 2014; Cuppa tea with Therese, The Occult of Bidwill, presentations of video work The Underpass and a screening of the acclaimed performance work; Mt Druitt Press Conference, presented by the Social Revolutionaries.
Blacktown Council is stepping in to help and artists have already rallied to ensure FUNPARK’s success. Put July 19 into your diary and make a donation by clicking here. Use the search tool on this blog to find more information about FUNPARK 2014, Bidwill, Mount Druitt, and Kaz Therese.