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Letters to the Editor

From time to time, a commentary on the world will bubble up inside of me to the extent that I'm forced to write a letter to my local, metropolitan, daily newspaper, The Age. This is where I blow of some steam. Feel like venting too? Add your own comment or visit my homepage.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Salvos vs St Michaels Grammar School

People don't cocoon their kids in privilege at private schools just to have a homeless shelter built next door. The Salvos should get a heart.



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Blogger kylie vented ...

Hi Greg
I read your letter in The Age today and I thank you and Simon Clegg in Bendigo and Liv Winograd in East Bentleigh for expressing all your feelings. I hadn't heard about this disgusting state of affairs til I read your letters and I am so saddened and maddened to learn that its happened, it ruined my day and I just feel like, blaaaaaaa. This from a "Christian" school? That isn't what’s at the seat of all this, what is, is the fact that this country, but particularly St. Kilda and Port Philip at large is THE most pretentious, vacuous, pitiless and uncompassionate suburb in Melbourne. These football wives with their facelifts and trophy children double parking to drop their perfect-skinned kids off at school don't want to be seen in the same street as a homeless person let alone the same suburb. By proximity alone, they feel they will be tainted and worst of all their property values might fall! Never underestimate the power of wank, people, it has more powerful than interest rates and petrol prices and these kinds of people care about that even more than they do their accessories, oops sorry, I meant beloved children.
P.S. abit of history; I used to live on Acland street and Father Minchin at the local church there wanted to open a shelter for battered wives, when the "cool" new Acland st residents learnt of this they circulated a leaflet opposing it, only they didn't have the guts to put theirs names to it, it all came out in the end, look it up.

Just so sad.
(Pardon the spelling mistakes, shaking with rage)
Kylie T

Monday, September 26, 2005 3:52:00 pm  
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Blogger Greg vented ...

Hi Kylie,

Thanks for your message of support.

What adds to the wrongness of St Michaels is the way they portrayed their objections as to do with "safety". Ie people in transitional housing are a danger to kids because ... what, they're poor? It's disgusting.

I wrote my sarcastic remark to highlight St Michaels' moral failings, hoping to shame them. But, on reflection, their actions in this will only increase the demand for their services. Why? Because the school is sending out a signal of "we'll do whatever it takes, tell any lies, run down disadvantaged people - anything at all - to win your dollar". The kind of parents the school is chasing love that type of desperation because that's the world they live in.

So, sadly, I doubt the school will have the humility to respond to such shame, since its core market is itself immune.

I just hope some of their kids make it out with their moral compass intact.


Monday, September 26, 2005 4:12:00 pm  
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Anonymous Anonymous vented ...

The Age cut the best bits out of my letter.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 1:30:00 am  
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Blogger Greg vented ...

Yeah, they'll do that. Usually they ring you up to check first, but ultimately it's their newspaper and they can run what they want.

Anyway, as sent to me via email, here is the full unedited text of Simon Clegg's letter[*]:

I am writing this letter because I believe schools should be, (and by and large are) inclusive of their social environment. It is therefore most disappointing to read in the Age (22/09) of objections raised by complainants at St. Michael’s school in St. Kilda to the development of a Salvation Army Crisis centre nearby to them. The complainant’s rhetoric voicing concerns for the welfare and well-being of their students is both cynical and empty. Indeed, one might have had some respect for St. Michael’s if they had just come right out and said the truth, which I believe, is that they are concerned with their image and future enrolments. Surely a positive approach would have been to welcome the Salvos and see the facility as an opportunity to work with the Salvos and develop some literacy and numeracy teaching and learning programmes for the people who will be moving in, many of whom will have become disengaged from mainstream education. Such an inclusive proposal would be more in keeping with the ‘progressive’ image that St. Michael’s currently enjoys and indeed markets itself on. Or is that all it is, just an image?

Simon Clegg

[*] NB: someone claiming to be Simon Clegg sent this in. I'm not about to certify his credentials, so readers are advised to make their own judgements. (This is the internet after all.)


Tuesday, September 27, 2005 1:58:00 am  
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Anonymous Anonymous vented ...

Yes. I am me. Thanks Greg.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 11:13:00 pm  
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Anonymous Anonymous vented ...

Just thought I'd like to add a bit to the discussion considering I've actually had an interview with the head of St. Michael's, Mr Simon Gipson, since that article was published.

I was in 100% accordance with your views, and still am, however I feel as if the position of the school was grossly misrepresented.

The school had numerous meetings with the Salvation Army, to talk about the new facility which actually shares three sides of it's property with the design center of the school, but none of that was in the article.

St. Michael's objection is not based on the facility existing, in fact the school has quite a good relationsip with the Salvos, both through regular donations and many students actually give up their time to help out where possible for the mission.

St Michael's simply wants the Salvo's to come up with a management plan for the center, without a suitable plan for the running of the center, not only will the Salvo's be unable to respond quickly should an incident occur with one of it's residents, but the school will be held liable should a student be somehow affected.

I also wish to point out that the school's kindergarden (for 3 and 4 year olds) is extremely close to the Salvo's facility.

The school has a duty of care, and in my mind should be asking questions about how the Savlo's plan to run the center and deal with potential conflict.

If they didn't, and the center did open, and an incident did occur, we all would be vilifying the school right now for not making sure such barriers of protection were in place.

I also which to point out that the school simply wants a plan, and once the Salvo's deliver will be revocking it's objection. Whilst over 30 residents located further from the center than St. Michael's is, currently object to the center being built at all.

Yet we didn't hear an outcry about that did we? It's very easy to turn this into an excuse to beatup on private schools, but I think we are all more mature than that here, right?

Saturday, October 15, 2005 2:21:00 pm  
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Blogger Greg vented ...

Thanks for your feedback, Nick.

You're a student at St Michael's, right, not a PR flak engaging in some astroturfing?

Well, in any case, the reason for the widespread public dissatisfaction with St Michael's Grammar School stems from the NIMBY-ism. (That is, Not In My BackYard).

We expect it from residents, that's why the media ignores it. It's hardly news: "Rich tossers resent presence of poor people in their field of view". But it is news when a school with supposedly Christian values engages in it.

So the school argues that there is an elevated risk to its students in having a centre for transitional housing nearby (not even adjacent!).

Risk of what? What exactly are these "incidents" and "conflicts" to which you refer? C'mon, step up and spell it out for us, rather than relying on innuendo and playing to people's biases, fears and ignorance.

Can the school provide any evidence to support the notion that the Salvo's service will endanger children?

Where is the legal advice that St Michael's will be held liable if it does not object to setting up such a service in the same suburb?

Sadly, I think it boils down to money: property prices in the longer-term, and enrollments in the medium-term.

In order to convince me that this really is a spooky-bad danger that the Salvos, local and state governments can't manage, St Michael's needs to produce:

* a credible report that says something like "Incidents of child-stealing and export to Dubai as camel-jockeys will rise by 17% if any homeless shelter is built within 3km of a school";
* a signed and dated legal opinion from a QC/SC (who is NOT an old-boy!) setting out the liability of the school with regard to this matter.

In the absence of this, I'll put it down to another business engaging in media hysteria to protect its interests (and brand) at the expense of the wider community.



Saturday, October 15, 2005 2:57:00 pm  
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Anonymous Anonymous vented ...

Yes Nick, I agree, we must protect the children in all of this.
Only if they are rich though.

Forget about the little homeless tots whose families don't have anywhere safe to live.
Its much better to protect the rich kiddies from proximity to a 'homeless' person than it is to protect the children of the homeless families. I am sure they are perfectly safe live in a car or a cramped dodgy room in a hotel with no cooking facilities, having to share a disgusting stinky bathroom with blood/dirt and used syringes from other tenants. (For which the family have no choice but to pay $350 a week - forget food or books or clothing or God forbid it toys.)
Shame Salvos shame!!

Sunday, October 16, 2005 10:29:00 am  
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Blogger egocentre vented ...

Katy, seriously, don't take it out on the "rich little kiddies" at the school, the vast majority are now enlightened as to the various hypocrisies. We're just trying to make it out of there to distance ourselves from their operation. The administration and the 'school community' are now essentially disconnected from one another anyway.

Sunday, October 16, 2005 11:00:00 pm  
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Anonymous Anonymous vented ...

Hi, and sure - I don't mean to take it out ont the 'rich little kiddies' they need support and safety as much as the little kiddies whose families are homeless. I was just highlighting the issue that the school and possibly some of its students were concerned about 'their' little ones and not showing consideration to the needs of less fortunate and essentially voiceless children of homeless parents. Lets face it these kids are at an extrememly high risk of some sort of trauma.
The other thing that was bugging me is what actually is the 'risk' we are discussing and trying to 'manage' in having a homeless service near by. Is it 'exposure'?Do 'homeless people' - surely they are homegenous - are diseased or running around with machete's or something? Its true that many homeless people have significant health issues. There is also the age old chicken and egg question. Did the health issue lead to homelessness or is it a consequence of a the harshness of not having a safe place? (a bit simplistic but you know what i mean).
Lets not buy into american sterotypes of "the homeless", lets be open to exploring homelessness in all its diversity and complexity. Lets not push it further under the carpet.

Monday, October 17, 2005 9:55:00 am  
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Anonymous Anonymous vented ...

I am a student at St. Michael’s Grammar school and like other writers on this blog disagreed with the schools board of directors when protesting on grounds of image. After learning of Nick’s discussion with the head however I can understand the fear of an ‘incident’ being brought up.
Many of you have asked the risk to be identified. I am not sure what the schools answer is but if anyone knows of St. Kilda’s notorious reputation as the suburb of drug and alcohol abuse and as a red light district, I am sure you can use your imagination. I for one can claim to have been threatened with a syringe whilst traveling home in school uniform. Of course I understand that this risk will always be there weather the centre goes ahead or not.
What we must remember is that its not the Head that is at risk, nor the board of directors, nor the readers of this page, it is the children of the junior school who are at risk and it is our responsibility no matter from what walk of life, to protect innocent and naive.
I would just like to finish by saying that the school board and the student body are becoming ever more estranged and out of touch with each others view and values but as a representative of the student body I still believe the student’s connection with the Salvation Army is still a strong, positive and empowering one.

Thursday, October 27, 2005 11:00:00 pm  
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Blogger Greg vented ...

Thanks for participating in the debate. I disagree with you when you state that all of society has as its primary duty of care protecting a few dozen kids at a toffy school from druggies.

A more nuanced view is that all sorts of people - including kids - need to be protected from a range of threats, and the challenge is weighing up competing rights.

For example, the kids of these same syringe-wielding druggies have no less a claim to protection than the rich kids. Similarly, the druggies themselves have a right to be protected from being victimised and used as scapegoats by media-savvy "CEO principals" with one eye on property values and the other on enrolements.

Why shouldn't the "burden" of risk posed by these dangerous druggies not be shared evenly around the suburbs - you know, a couple in South Yarra, a couple of Footscray, a couple in Camberwell. Spreads the risk, don't it? More to the point - doesn't it make sense putting these services in such a drug and alcohol soaked suburb as St Kilda? Or should the (cashless, carless) clients just bugger off and move to Geelong?

Maybe you need to challenge your views about which kids are worth protecting, and which kids are not worthy of your consideration. (Here's a clue to get you started: just because they don't wear the same blazer as you doesn't mean they don't count.)

It's also worth considering why a school was built in such a "dangerous red-light district" (yes, it was a red-light district long before your school was built) and why people spend millions to buy property there, hundreds to dine out and drink there, and tens of thousands to send their kids to school there.

Lastly, more of an aside: in what capacity do you represent the student body, and why do you not publish under your name?

I hope you eventually leave St Michaels with your sense of duty tuned into society's interests, rather than just your school's. Sadly, it seems like St Michaels is not a place where that can happen, so I hope you can get that from other life experiences.



Friday, November 04, 2005 2:52:00 am  
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Anonymous Anonymous vented ...

Honestly, what risk? Seriously, i really mean it, what is the actual risk people are concerned about by having people who are experiencing homeless living nearby? Let's not assume to know what we are each talking about, rather let's name it and own our perceptions and fears we, as a society, have of "the homeless".

Friday, November 04, 2005 2:19:00 pm  
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Anonymous Anonymous vented ...

This is absolutely stupid. I am a student at the school and from being here since Year 7 I think I know enough about the school and school community to realize that there is no way possible that St. Michael's would ever do anything to disadvantage the services of the Salvation Army.
The school simply wanted to gain information on the plans to what was going to happen next to the school, and possibly raise some concerns and get answers.
The only way to do this (and the people who have tried to gain renovation/house permits would know) is to actually put in a complaint to receive answers.
This has been completely taken out of context. We take so much pride in our school and we are constantly raising money for charities and offering our services, it is quite insulting to think that the public- or the idiotic people writing this blog would think any different of us, the school and the students.

Monday, November 07, 2005 6:09:00 pm  
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Anonymous Anonymous vented ...

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Gipson for some interesting one-lingers.

Saturday, November 12, 2005 11:47:00 am  
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Anonymous Anonymous vented ...

how ridiculous you people all write this without knowing what goes on! the anonymous year 7 student got it right. i personally have done community service at the salvo's which was organized by the school! people get your facts right. we are not against the salvo's and their work. we are curious about it.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 11:32:00 pm  
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Blogger Greg vented ...


No one is suggesting that St Michael's is "against" the Salvos and secretly plotting to bring them down or anything.

And yes, the school may support some elements of the Salvos. I would characterise the relationship as more like "Hey, we need to look good in the brochure. Here's some kids to help you out but ... can you like, not do it here? Parent's might drop in. So, can you guys do it over there? Yeah. Further. Further. OK, just a bit ... keep going. Yeah. Right there. Now, just sort of duck down. Super."

And what's with all the "I do volunteer work therefore I can complain about homeless people near me" attitude? This is the what, the third one making that argument?

I do volunteer work for disadvantaged youth too - doesn't mean I get to kick a beggar in the nuts once a week and call it even.

Thanks for playing.


Thursday, March 23, 2006 1:51:00 am  

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