Michele Grant

Mandy Sayer’s article (‘The Wild Frontier’, March) provides no practical solutions for the problems facing Tweed Heads. Instead, the article reinforces negative stereotypes, vilifying young ‘gangsters’ and welfare-dependent families, inciting fear and loathing by divisively pitching elderly ‘self-funded’ retirees against long-term welfare recipients living in public housing.

It’s a one-sided view. Sayer ventured into the local pub to find archetypal welfare recipients affected by alcohol, drugs and gambling problems. She interviews the obligatory grandstanding politician and troublesome Aboriginal youth, but no one from the welfare sector or local community involved with young people.

Sayer suggests that older residents are “terrorised” innocent victims, intimidated and frightened of young people; we get several detailed accounts of violent assaults on people and property. The article suggests it’s all random and unprovoked. The adult ‘victims’ wave guns around and keep cricket bats by the front door, but their violent, antisocial behaviour goes unquestioned and is depicted as a reasonable or necessary response. Sayer aligns herself with the ‘lock ’em up’ brigade by blaming the police for failing to solve Tweed’s social problems with the punitive law-and-order iron fist.

As Sayer eventually discovers, the ‘child gangsters’ live in a neat, tidy, innocuous suburban home. The villains appear to be ordinary, healthy kids, with a stay-at-home mother and a dad who works night shifts: a fairly typical ‘working family’, so beloved by Howard and Rudd, struggling to manage unruly teenagers.

Perhaps Sayer can now appreciate that raising kids on welfare may be tough, but doing the job successfully is a struggle all families face.

Michele Grant

Ocean Shores, NSW