Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Let me tell you a story.

It's about a twenty-two year old girl from Sydney, let's call her Mira, who wanted more than anything to make films for a living.

But Mira was from a middle class background, and her family very quickly talked her down from the career ledge called 'the arts'. So Mira went to university, to study something practical. Get a REAL job. Have some stability.

Graduation came and went. Mira put herself out into the world - well, her CV - to start building a career and pay off her student debts.

But the world wasn't interested.

Rejection letter after rejection letter arrived. Some employers, most actually, didn't even respond.

Months passed. Mira became increasingly disheartened. Wasn't a university degree supposed to help her get a job? Pragmatically, she lowered her expectations, and started applying for anything marked 'entry level', regardless of whether it matched her qualification.

Except now, Mira was 'over qualified'. A flight risk for this new group of employers, apparently.

Even more months passed, without success. Mira began to question herself, fundamentally. Was she totally worthless?

As the black clouds of self doubt started to roll in, a single light broke through the dim.

An interview.

Yes, it was for something totally outside her field of study. But it was a job.

Mira pressed her pants and blouse. She researched the company and who she was meeting. 45 minutes early to an interview has to be a new record.

Was it normal for a person to sweat this much? Should she take something so her swirling stomach wouldn't turn into something far worse?

Nerves. Fear. Doubt. All for a twenty minute interview.

Sitting at home, two weeks later, it would all be worth it. The phone rang. Mira's hands shook. She burst into tears as soon as the phone was back in its cradle.

So much work, just to get to the start line.

A few years later, Mira was still with the same company. She had progressed through the ranks, showing a natural aptitude for the work. It helps to be friendly and responsive, Mira had discovered.

Her partner thought Mira was settling for this job. That she should be chasing her dream of filmmaking. Then again, they wanted to buy an apartment together, so being a starving artist wouldn't really work. Admirable discipline, really.

"One day", Mira said, "I'll have some breathing room to pursue that. Not right now though."

They started saving and researching. Have apartments always been this expensive?

Between rent, bills and their entry-level wages, Mira and her partner were barely saving anything. They kept at it though.

A few more years passed.

They had saved everything they could. A car repair emergency took a significant toll at one point, but they persevered.

And still, the pair of them had barely made a dent on the deposit.

The relationship started to strain. 'All we do is work, and we're barely getting closer' became a familiar refrain.

'What's the point?' was the silver bullet.

Mira cried for three months.

Not that she wasn't angry too. But Mira was alone. There was no-one to be enraged towards. All she had were photos and questions.

The biggest of which was: "what now?"

Perhaps in leaving, her partner would provide the greatest service. Mira started Googling filmmaking.

Deeper and deeper into this rabbit hole, Mira searched. Cameras. Lenses. Editing programs. Script writing software.

She read the pain away.

Inspired now, like she never had been before, Mira started looking for resources that could help her make a film.

She looked up Screen Australia, and pored over their offerings for emerging filmmakers. What she found was a 'Talent Development' screen, with a very clear message:


Door closed. Slammed in fact.

So Mira looked up Screen NSW, where she found their 'Emerging Filmmakers Fund'. Far more promising.

But alas, she had missed the latest deadline. This opportunity would have to wait until next year.

The support avenues were starting to get very thin.

And then, Mira found Metro Screen. A not-for-profit organisation that provides equipment, advice, project funding, and training to someone exactly like her. This was it!

One extra click, however, and her fragile new hope was shattered.

Metro Screen was shutting down.

Drastic funding cuts from the Federal Government meant that the organisation, which had supported emerging filmmakers for 35 years, was now forced to close.

Mira stared at her screen a moment, stunned, then put her head in her hands, defeated.

Unfortunately, that's the end of the story.

But there is good news for you, lest you found that a bit of a downer.

Mira isn't real.

And the bad news? Everything else was utterly true.

This is the world we have created for young people and emerging career practitioners.

First, we threaten to deregulate university fees, so that Australian students could be charged whatever a University desires. Thankfully, this abhorrent decision has been delayed for a year, but it is far from extinct.

Then, should a young person finish their ultra expensive degree, laden with debt, they walk into a job market where 68% of them cannot find work. Oh, and our compassion for these newly qualified unemployed goes so far that a policy was actually put forward suggesting a person under 30 has to wait SIX MONTHS to receive unemployment benefits.

I suppose that would lower unemployment numbers, starving the young unemployed to death.

When they do get a job, young people then face the very real phenomenon of declining real wages; by which I mean inflation is increasing faster than the size of their weekly pay packet. Nothing like working harder for less spending power.

But at least they have a job. Spare a moment of quiet reflection for the 60% of students who are, allegedly, currently studying for jobs that won't exist in ten years. I own shoes older than that.

So, for those youth who survive the Hunger Games, reaching the brass ring of graduation, debt repayment and a job, the next obvious goal is home ownership.
Not. So. Fast.

'...on a person basis the rate of home ownership in the prime 25 – 34 year age group has slumped from 56% in 1982 to only 34% in 2011. Delayed entry into home ownership is a factor, but it turns out that these declines have set in across all but the post-retirement age group. The “Australian dream” of home ownership is under threat.'

With a median house price predicted to soon hit $1M in Sydney, it turns out the finish line in this rat race was a mirage all along.

And then we come to the arts. Where a 35 year old not-for-profit filmmaking institution like Metro Screen, which has literally given birth to the careers of hundreds (if not thousands) of Australian screen storytellers, can't even be granted basic funding to stay open.

Meanwhile, the Australian Federal Government gave over $20M to the Disney Corporation (worth $179.5 billion) to make 'Pirates of The Caribbean 5' in Australia.

I wish I were making that up.

There is an old cliche about a career ladder, where it's as simple as grabbing hold and climbing. For young people, the ladder was already elevated. Almost out of reach. It has always taken a little extra effort to create your first momentum.

But now, as if that wasn't hard enough, we have smashed out the first three rungs. It's absurd.

Actually, it's obscene.

Particularly when the data is in, and it shows unequivocally that shared prosperity is actually better for everyone in the economy. The more people thrive, they ripple out the benefits to others.

Despite that empirical fact, however, the negative trend against youth is happening around the world.

Does anyone honestly believe that you can only make a living if you step on the person who is climbing the ladder beneath you?

The truth is, for those that subscribe to this sadistic world view, there is a tipping point approaching.

Mira may not exist.

But her frustration certainly does.

How much longer do you expect the trodden on to remain quiet about it?

Or a better question.

If you disagree fundamentally with the disenfranchisement of youth that is being systematically created...

...what are you going to do about it?

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