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Some people, when they see the show promoted, fear that it could be exploitative. Is that something you and the production team were aware of in preparing the show?
Absolutely. A lot of time and a lot of discussions were spent on that aspect of the show, because obviously these five people, as well as all the vulnerable homeless people that would interact with, are going to be filmed and they’re going to be put in situations that could possibly endanger them or put them under a lot of stress. So the hours and hours of risk management that went into how to keep them safe and protected throughout the whole series is quite extraordinary. That was what I saw before I agreed to be involved with the series, and I was so impressed with how much thought had gone into making sure everyone stayed safe and were well briefed and prepared, and that there were support systems around if anything looked as if it could get a bit dodgy. That was a priority of the show’s producers.

Having worked with the homeless with the Wayside Chapel, and now doing the show, do you think a TV show can actually make a positive difference in the real world?
The thing I noticed right from the first series was how it changed behaviour. I was surprised by the impact it had – I remember the very next day after the last episode of the first series, I was out on the street going to Woolworths, and I saw someone come out of Woolworths, and there’s a homeless man who sits there, has done for a number of years. I saw someone come out and give him a fifty dollar note. Just like that, without any questions asked. I was seeing that nearly everywhere I went around the inner city in those first few weeks, people stopping and talking to people they saw on the street.

That’s one of the things I think the series is very good at doing: breaking down that fear that people have to approach someone who’s homeless. They don’t know: are they going to threaten me? There are so many misunderstandings about what someone who is homeless is, what they’re going through, and how to approach them, and the series I think is really good at … maybe not finding all the solutions, but at least helping people say, I’m going to go up to that person and ask them how they are, what their name is, can I help you? I think too, while we’ve been doing the series, the problem with homelessness has broadened to include so many people who traditionally wouldn’t be pulled into the net of homelessness. We’re going to see middle-class families who couldn’t keep up mortgage payments, we saw during the series single mothers, older women, they started to become larger parts of the homeless group.

At the level of government policy, do you think the government’s attitude to homelessness is on the improve?
Well, things are changing in the last couple of months – we’ve seen things that I never would’ve imagined seeing, where suddenly governments have said, we want to take every rough sleeper off the street. And that’s been a health priority that has done that, because they don’t want people being exposed to the COVID virus. But the side-effect has been that in Sydney, for example, we’ve had every rough sleeper now being housed. Governments have told us for years that that’s not possible, it’s too expensive, people wouldn’t want to go and live somewhere, they prefer to live on the street. There’s been a whole lot of excuses, and it’s extraordinary to see that we now have zero rough sleeping in Sydney – 700 people were housed by state and federal governments.
Filthy Rich and Homeless is on SBS, Tuesday-Thursday, 8.30pm.



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