Brighton – Its What a Community Used to Be?…

It has been interesting watching a suburb develop and struggle to cope with the growing population and the inevitable social problems that accompany it.

There are 2700 homes in Brighton and around 5000 people, 2 primary schools, (one with 700 kids) and no high schools. The community facilities are currently limited to two small rooms by the sales office and the ex -cafe converted into a community centre by the local AOG church. The shops were completed earlier this year much to the joy of many residents, but for various reasons the suburb seems to be experiencing growing pains.

I am not sure all of what is happening, so please don’t read this as decisive social comment, but do read it as the concerned musings of a resident.

I am more ‘wondering’ what has shifted in the social landscape though, as we no longer seem to be as warm as we were previously. Perhaps we are entering the ‘reality’ stage of our development where the glossy newness of the suburb has worn off and we are now discovering that we have the same social problems as anywhere else – maybe even moreso.

Being the last suburb in the sprawl means we are a long way from anywhere and we are certainly not well resourced with facilities or people.

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In recent months we have seen:

– a huge increase in the amount of graffiti – I am told by predominantly 11-12 year olds often seeking peer approval.

– an increase in break and enters – there have been at least 2 young offenders released back into the ‘wild’ in Butler and they have become big fish in a small pond. When one moved back home last year there were 17 B & E’s in his own street the following week… a coincidence? The park opposite his home has become a war zone with regular fights there on Friday nights and brken bottles strewn around at other times.

– an increase in the number of gangs and violence – the AOG guys closed down their Friday night youth program after 2 violent and dangerous incidents where people were injured and property damaged by a gang of teenage boys. There was little choice as it was just plain dangerous. Last weekend a good friend of ours was beaten up by 6 teenagers, and that is a common occurence.

The local intranet regularly has people complaining about what is happening, but no one really has a solution. How do you work with teenagers whose only real desire is to run wild and create havoc. Youth groups aren’t the answer – they don’t come – or if they do they only come to destroy. Anyone who has done street work would know it is highly time intensive with low rewards in terms of people changing.

Your average suburbanite is either too busy, too afraid or too disinterested to get involved. Everyone wants peace in the backyard, but no one really knows how to achieve it, so for some its a case of being perplexed by the problems and not knowing where to start.

My youth work days are behind me now and I don’t really know quite how to work with the gangs and kids who are out of control. A recent community meeting did what so many have done in the past – identified a problem, discussed a problem and then we all went home.

As a small church community we really don’t have the resources to assist in this situation, but we are seeing our suburb change and it is concerning.

I don’t feel afraid, and I don’t fear for my kids as they are still too young to be affected by most of this, but I feel some responsibility for how this place develops. I get irate at those who carp and bitch about the problems but never get off their arse to do anything. But even for those of us who want to the question of ‘where to start’ is perplexing.

I would predict that things will continue to go downhill for quite a while unless something changes.

I imagine the developers would be concerned because the way the place is now is not going to sell land! At very least the economic concerns should motivate them to become more involved, but then again… what can they do?…

14 thoughts on “Brighton – Its What a Community Used to Be?…

  1. I think for too long we’ve been crossing the road and now it’s getting harder to get back to the side we should be on.

    It’s not just Christians, it’s reasonable every-day type people. You start by being too afraid to ask a teenager who has dropped litter to pick it up. The teenager starts to think that they can do anything without being challenged. The teenager grows and becomes a parent, not having learnt the responsibility people have in a community. They don’t pass it onto their children and the cycle repeats and grows worse. Before long you end up with teenagers carrying guns and shooting children.

    Just my opinion.

  2. Hamo,

    I think it might bemuse you partly because this was not the suburb you moved into in the first place i.e., “who moved the goal posts”?

    what i think you have inadvertently done is move to a suburb that was successfully masked by initial rapid growth. The developers did their job and painted it perfectly as a “paradise”. People came in their droves, built homes and wondered if life could get any better.

    however, in reality, Brighton is as you say – on the fringe of urban sprawl, and that very fact comes with its own set of baggage. the fringe, is always the place of greatest change because it is the place of greatest upheaval and chaos. And unfortunately, there is very little real gains, even economic, to be made for many organisations to do anything about it.

    I think, as this economic boom continues to slide and all the clever investors who have built homes for the armies or renters to fill, we will see Brighton (only the east side of marmion ave) may simply have its dye cast already, and continue to become one of our dirty little outer suburbs, just like its high rental, highly transient predecessors: Kinross, Clarkson, Merriwa and Ridgewood. Or if you want to go further back… Padbury (my old stomping ground), Craigie, Beldon and Heathridge. The liklihood that Brighton may become the odd one out (like Connolly) is pretty small odds.

    But look on the bright side – you may not have to move to a slum in Bangkok like Ash Barker, the slum may move to you 😉

  3. Hi matt

    Funnily enough it doesn’t surprise me as I was never fooled by the marketing – more hopeful that the power of marketing might help people actually try harder!

    I reckon its a great place to be and in many ways welcome the challenges.

    That said when you see the violence that is so rampant you wonder about the wisdom of allowing your kids to live amongst it.

  4. Hi mate – the “slum” comment was of course tongue in cheek;

    Having grown up in Padbury, and often hearing people go, “oh, Padbury” insert “cringe”, it makes you realise you never know any different unless you have something to compare it to – kind of like the old 70’s orange kitchen we had 😉

    As kids however, we loved it and couldn’t think of anywhere better to grow up, hence I have made a choice to continue to live in a similar situation for most of my life.

    I do think Brighton as a fringe suburb is going to have its fair share of problems because of the way our society is structure, not because it is necessarily any different to any other suburb in a similar situation. But most people moving into the area in the next 5 years won’t have the perspective you have as they won’t have the “other” Brighton to compare it with.

    Either way, for you and your household, the journey will be yours and you will discover God’s footprints and fingerprints all around you I’m sure.

    peace for the road, matt

  5. Oh I dunno, Emu Bitter has quite a track record there too. I add beer snobbery to my other list of snobberies. I figure at the rate of 1 beer a month I can afford to be a bit snobbish on that front.

  6. Sounds like growing a new suburb is a lot like growing a new church. It starts off full of hope and and a fresh canvas if you like. Then people come along and spoil it:)

  7. Grendel, Grendel, Grendel….stick to coffee 🙂

    An ice cold Emu Bitter, along with a plate of salt and pepper squid at “The Left Bank” is one of life’s great pleasures.

  8. I remain convinced that Emu Bitter would be the beer served in Hell.

    If there was a Hell.

    As it is, Emu Bitter best represents a facsimile of hell on which an entire revival movement could be based.


  9. If beer is ‘proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy’ then Emu Bitter is definitely not ‘beer’!

    Mark you’d do well in the blue collar burbs 🙂

    I don’t drink much beer but when I do its a crowny or similar (said with nose in air)

  10. I took a slab of EB up north with me one year on a camping trip. Not only was it disgusting, there was plenty of it!

  11. BTW Hamo – the problem for me becomes when the level of violence is accepted with a shrug.

    Jill and I were reading in the paper about a young man who was punched to death for challenging some hoodies who threw a half-eaten chocolate bar into his sister’s car. It was obscene, senseless and disturbing. That very day we were in London visiting my brother who lives 100 metres from where the incident took place. There were flowers strewn around. I asked him about it and he shrugged “It happens everywhere, you just notice it more in a city.”

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