I Once Was A HousoThe funny thing about the affluent Eastern Suburbs is the preconceived notion that the price of rent is correlated to a resident’s level of worth. The paradox is that on any given street we may find a row of mansions directly opposite a sardine-stacked collection of government housing apartments.
With the kind of inquisitive disgust we reserve for animal porn, people watch the politically incorrect and highly offensive show called Housos. Some think it is not only about real life residents of government housing, but that it is directed to an audience much like the kind of people it represents. Unfortunately this has created a common misconception that someone from Bronte is better than someone from Lexo… actually, that most people are better than someone from Lexo.
I grew up in a grubby little suburb between Kingsford and Pagewood known as Daceyville. The fact that this was an area of housing commission dwellings was not what made it grubby. I remember it being grubby because I was grubby. I was a kid who liked to fall asleep in my dirt backyard with my dog, who never liked wearing shoes, and who got in trouble for digging up holes with my bare hands because I was looking for dinosaur bones.
Admittedly, the local hooligans – known as the ‘Daceyvillains’ – shaved their heads and wore identical tracksuit pants in order to be less identifiable to the police. In retrospect, they were more akin to the stereotype: smoking bongs and stealing cars. The unfortunate truth is that a man can walk out of prison, threaten to recommit because he can’t afford rent, and thus be eligible for a cheap government-subsidised home near the water. The kind of system that lets this happen is a bit of a joke.
Then there are the people who run away. I had a friend from another housing commission area who was given a birthday card with a cigarette inside (how sweet) by a young ‘Lexo Lad’ professing his love for her. She did what most intelligent girls would do: she beat him with her shoe and then ran away as fast as she could. Ten years later and she is among my more educated friends, some of whom now have double degrees and successful careers.
The beautiful thing about being Australian is that success is not exclusively an aspiration of the privileged. Determination is often a seed planted in a dirt backyard and watered with tears of difficulty. From a stereotypical ‘Houso’ environment we find the battlers: the ones who strive for something better; kids who saw their parents struggle to pay bills and decided they never wanted to wait for a government cheque to survive; the ones who studied hard, worked harder and moved away as soon as they could.
I had been living out of home only a year in Malabar, that beautiful bit of land right between the sewage plant and the jail, when I stopped in Kingsford and ran into a Daceyville girl a few years younger than me at a bus stop. Her bloodshot eyes and limp posture said it all as she looked up at me and asked how I managed to ‘get out’. All I said was, “I just moved.”