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Redfern... It's a Riot! December 2005

Neil Whitfield, recently retired from the staff of Sydney Boys' High tells us: Julius Macefield and Sam Darcy, both of Year 7 at Sydney Boys High, were the joint winners (year 7/8 boys) of the Whitlam Institute's writing prize "What Matters?" in September 2005. This attracted over 1000 entries. Julius wrote on social issues in Redfern and Sam about poverty in South Africa. The competition required a short piece of prose describing what mattered to these students. As you will see from Julius's essay on Redfern, their highly articulate and intelligent responses reflect a level of - humanity and concern for the world we live in, which is inspiring.

Redfern... It's a Riot!

by Julius Macefield Class 7E, Sydney Boys' High from South Sydney Herald December 2005.

Boy, I bet that got your atten­tion, but I've lived in Redfern most of my life (I'm twelve) and it truly is a great place to live, yet time and time again the media portrays it as the scapegoat for all of Sydney's social problems and evils. Scarily, the public choose to believe this and this troubles me deeply because, if people are so easily misled without really checking the facts what position does that leave those about whom these stories affect? What are the real problems? Why have they come about?

Well, I've grown up with Abo­riginal neighbours, enjoyed great street parties, known shopkeepers who've given me free falafel and humus since I could first eat, had my best friend live around the cor­ner ... does it sound so different from other children's experiences? Maybe the only difference could be that I'm growing up in a really diverse and multicultural commu­nity that should really be a com­mon experience for most children but it's not. So far this has been something to celebrate not fear.

Another difference is that we have an aboriginal community of whom some are so displaced and ruined by a government that can't say 'sorry' and who do commit drug related crimes. The thing is, would there be this horror and lack of compassion if it were another group? It's really easy to fear something you don't know.

As I've got older I wonder if the lack of care our government shows towards indigenous people, refugees and minority groups is influencing the general public's opinion. Are Australians becom­ing heartless people who believe the spin doctoring of the media and a government that has an international reputation of intoler­ance? They must be because they are elected by the people. What about the media? I know that just by their reporting of Redfern they distort and misrepresent facts to create a good story. Yet as kids we are told not to lie, do the right thing, respect the- rules ... but we're not dumb, we read, we see, we live we discuss and we make our own opinions.

So, what's my point? Maybe we kids, with our opinions and experiences could help adults see the truth. We are meant to be risk takers in our learning, why don't adults do the same? Most people who fear Redfern should, hop on over and experience it the way I do or look for truth outside the media or the government. The truth is out there and if all Austral­ians have the courage to embrace this then I have the chance to grow up in a balanced and fair society. I know many of my friends fee] the same and the frustration I feel about Redfern is just a reflection of the bigger problem.

Julius Macefield is 12 years old