Note: This profile on Gawler-born film-maker Justin Kurzel is one of a series commissioned by Adelaide’s Sunday Mail for its centenary year, and has been republished here.
Type the words “Davoren Park” into Google and the first hit you get is a newspaper article headlined “Streets of Fear and Loathing” published in The Advertiser on July 31, 2009. It begins: “Davoren Park residents are arming themselves with knives and not letting their children play in front yards following a series of violent incidents. Their fears come after an alleged murder and police siege in the embattled northern suburb that has a growing reputation as a no-go zone for all but those who live there. A mother of four, who has lived there for two years, told The Advertiser she will not let her children play in her front yard and drives them to school most days even though the school is less than 100m away. Most residents interviewed by The Advertiser spoke only on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal.”
Not long after that article was written, a young and unknown film-maker named Justin Kurzel spent several weeks in Davoren Park looking for cast members for a film. He didn’t want to use actors. He wanted people from the area. He saw a woman with her dog at the local IGA. She got into a screaming match with an old lady who chastised the woman for not having her dog on a leash.
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If South Australia had just arrived in the world, red and wrinkled and mewling, what would we call it?
Something to reflect our pride – FreeSettlerVille, perhaps? Or our aspirations – New Melbourne might suit. Or something that highlights the diverse range of South Australian attributes, from bogan frenzies to Old Adelaide Family pretensions – Taylyah Ashton-Smith, maybe?
Back in 1999 advertising ‘guru’ John Singleton declared the name South Australia “boring” and suggested ‘Bradman’ instead. It may be that having six or seven wives gives one a rather low threshold for boredom – although his enthusiasm for cricket shows he is not entirely averse to the concept.
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Some years ago in the most excellent Sydney suburb of Marrickville I had an accidental and unusual encounter with a sex worker.
It was late on a Friday afternoon and I was queuing up an ATM so I could buy a mountain of Greek takeaway from the Corinthian Tavern. There was a woman in front of me who looked like she’d been around the block a few times. She was stick-thin, wearing black heels, a sequined skirt, a boob tube, and long black gloves which went up to her elbows.
She tried repeatedly to withdraw money from her account, inserting and re-inserting her card. She started sobbing and cursing. I asked her if she needed cash for a cab or something. No, she said, but asked if she could borrow my mobile.
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When the Snowtown murder trial concluded in 2003 a prominent criminologist scandalised the good people of Adelaide by saying there was nothing surprising or remarkable about the case.
New Yorker Allan Perry, a lecturer in criminal law at the University of Adelaide, blamed what he called a subculture of degeneracy in the city’s most depressed and dysfunctional suburbs, defined by inter-generational welfare dependency, the daily abuse of alcohol and drugs, shocking levels of child abuse, child neglect and family violence.
Dr Perry said the only thing which shocked him about Snowtown was that people were shocked by it. And he really cut loose in his description of my hometown, sending talkback and the letters pages into meltdown, and prompting the then Attorney General Mick Atkinson to tell him to move back to Brooklyn.
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If you thought young Australians were only ecstatic while listening to LMFAO at Stereosonic while chugging overpriced bottled water, think again.
A News.com.au survey has found that more than half of Australians under 35 are happy or ecstatic that Obama is here. Ecstatic!
Well, that may be true on Sydney’s glittering beaches, in the delicatessen queue at Prahan Market or on the broad and leafy streets of Burnside, but you know where it’s not true? At the Occupy Adelaide protest.
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In the name of God, why should anyone be force-fed the word of the Lord while they’re shopping?
That swarthy dude with his dulcet tones outside Roger David in Rundle Mall? He can convert me to men’s suits any day. But these sanctimonious sermonisers and their 100-decibel rantings? No way, Jesu.
Myer is My Sunday place of worship, thank you very much, and Adelaide City Council can have My Vote for ridding our secular shopping strip of these screechy preachers who are apparently just as deafening as chain saws, jackhammers and farm tractors.
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We South Australians have some harebrained ideas sometimes. This week, Adelaide City Council decided to push ahead with multi-million dollar plans to revitalise the dreary and deserted Victoria Square into a major CBD hub.
That’s despite the fact that the State Government is already pushing ahead with its own multi-BILLION dollar plans to revitalise the nearby Riverbank precinct as the new city’s heart and soul.
After lengthy debate on Tuesday night, Adelaide City Council voted to invest $11.5 million on Victoria Square – despite the fact that there’s no commitment from the state or federal government to cough up the $100 million needed to complete the project.
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In the exciting world of statistics and public policy, one set of findings often begets another diametrically opposed set of findings. For example, there appears to be a direct link between worrying about multiculturalism and living in those parts of Australia untouched by multiculturalism.
Take a trip up the Queensland coast to Caloundra or go to a hinterland town such as Gympie. Aside from lemon chicken at the local Chinese, there is no discernible non-Anglo influence in these communities. Most of their residents wouldn’t know a burqa from a beer mat. Yet these were the same places which elected One Nation MPs in bid to protect their gloriously monocultural lifestyle, despite that lifestyle being under siege from absolutely nothing.
Over the past 12 months there have been three different surveys which have all identified Adelaide as the most liveable city in Australia.
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Good health is fundamental to our lives, so in assessing whether a government decision is good, bad or just acceptable it is useful to apply the health criterion. If this was applied to every decision, no doubt government would improve. I am going to apply this criterion to the Adelaide Oval.
Our health has two fundamental needs. Easy to understand is the need for hospitals, emergency services, life support systems (intensive care) and family doctors. Waiting lists and hospital closures are rightly big news.
Even more fundamental to health are the natural life support systems, the natural resources, water, availability of productive, non-degraded land, biodiversity and stable climate. These are deteriorating, and scientists have used the words global environmental change to describe them. This change is accelerating.
What is wrong with Adelaide? We call ourselves the ‘Festival State’, but far from being overrun by action we appear to be operating as a surrogate nursery for the rest of the country’s sporting events; they are born here, we suckle them, and then they unceremoniously move elsewhere. And they never call!
We lost another of our great sporting events last week, The Rugby Sevens carnival. I was lucky enough to attend two weeks ago for the carnival’s last Adelaide showcase with my son, but had I realised it was a rugby funeral I would have worn black.
The Deputy Treasurer and Minister for Tourism John Rau was unconcerned, however, by the loss of yet another great sporting event. He shrugged his shoulders and said ‘the fact is we can’t win everything’. Well, yes Minister, but why are we losing so many?
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Another day brings another Defence scandal, prompting a colleague of mine to quip that the people of Inverbrackie and Woodside are probably grateful now there are refugees in the housing estate rather than military personnel.
He said it with a smile, but serious intent.
The Adelaide Hills’ Inverbrackie Detention Centre has not been without its own scandals since it became home to families from Sri Lanka, Iran and Iraq.
First there was the Fruit Picking Incident. About six young asylum seekers scaled a fence - an internal fence, mind, they never got as far as the outside world - to pick fruit. They spent at least ten minutes picking cherry plums.
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Can a football team change a town? Can sport become a symbol of renewal, and give a community a sense of optimism and purpose?
Elitists who regard sport as a mindless pursuit would scoff at the suggestion. They would probably hold that the only change a football team can make to a town is to pollute people’s brains with useless trivia, distract them from pressing social realities, and eat into valuable self-improvement and family time.
The 20-year history of the Adelaide Crows – sorry, the mighty Adelaide Crows – provides a compelling counterpoint to those who would dismiss sport as frivolous or meaningless.
The Property Council of Australia - in one of those surveys aimed at getting their name on every news service - has named Adelaide Australia’s most liveable city.
‘Liveable’ is such a beige term. Talk about damned with faint praise.
They used a bunch of different characteristics such as traffic congestion and housing affordability to judge each capital city.
The fact that Canberra came in second goes to show that having a rockin’ good time wasn’t a criterion. (Oh come on, the Holy Grail doesn’t count).
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Like the rhythm of the turning pedal, the professional cycling season has followed an annual pattern for a century.
As the European winter evolves into early spring, riders take their bikes from garages and leave the velodromes to venture back onto the roads in preparation for another season. Riding at first in the slush and ice of melting snow, their thoughts turn to the warmth of the Mediterranean Sea.
Known as the ‘Race to the Sun’, the professional season traditionally commenced with Paris to Nice, a weeklong race from the French capital to the southern holiday resort.
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Adelaide. It’s orderly, clean and quiet.
Maybe too quiet.
Because somewhere behind the odd mix of plummy accents and mullet haircuts, some seriously nasty stuff happens.
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If Australian cities could be defined by an aroma, you might pick jasmine for Sydney, tropical rain for Brisbane, coffee for Melbourne. While Adelaide would probably stump for an earthy shiraz or a fragrant bunch of Ross roses, the sad reality is that for many Adelaide households the defining aroma is the sickly stench of bong water.
The do-nothing culture of Adelaide’s sizeable unemployed underclass has been defined in large part by one of Australia’s greatest public policy failures – the liberalised cannabis laws which normalised the daily use of marijuana. Equally, the explosion in the size and reach of biker gangs in the City of Churches was fuelled by those laws, which for a long time enabled a virtual franchising of backyard dope production through hydroponics.
Even today, now that the laws have been tightened, there are more hydroponic shops in Adelaide per capita than any other city in the land. One website says there are more shops here per capita than any other city in the world, including Vancouver, where cannabis is decriminalised. According to one pro-cannabis website I read this week, there’s about 40 of these stores in the metropolitan area alone.
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It’s not often in politics that a single sentence can guarantee you victory in four vital seats which have historically been among the most volatile and closely-fought in the Federal Parliament.
But Adelaide’s own ex-pat Melburnian Prime Minister Julia Gillard may have done just that with one inspired and clearly-enunciated line in her debut press conference as Labor Party Leader.
“I grew up in the great state of South Australia…”
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Adelaide is no longer the city of churches or the arts capital of Australia. It’s not even Yass with poofs, as famously dubbed by Doug Mulray shortly before he was mercifully removed from national television by Kerry Packer.
According to the people who run the Sydney Fish Markets, Adelaide is now the mullet capital of Australia, a bogan backwater which is ripe for ridicule by the pony-tailed pseuds who run Sydney’s advertising industry.
The Fish Market’s new marketing slogan - “More Mullets Than Adelaide” - says more about Sydney smugness than Adelaide’s earthiness.
The people shuffled in, pair by pair. They clutched hands, and their eyes shimmered with excitement.
As they got within sight of the object of their worship, cameras snapped frantically. One woman, in the middle of a crowd of people on a sunny summer day, started crying. Overwhelmed and transported, she smiled through her tears.
Mary MacKillop’s tomb? Nup, panda enclosure. Adelaide Zoo.
Cities have personalities, they have a tone to their collective voice, and my former home town of Adelaide has a voice which can generally be described as courteous, civil, thoughtful, prepared to make a point, but also willing to listen.
My adoptive town of the past decade often finds itself at the other end of the register. Sydney is often so boisterous as to be uncouth. It can be pig-headed, abusive and rude. In its political and social discourse, Sydney’s general modus operandi is to start with a full-blown argument and work your way backwards towards civility from there.
But in the NSW school holiday fortnight just gone, which we passed happily back in SA, there was a very different edge to Adelaide’s voice. The normally sedate city sounded depressingly like Sydney at its unthinking and aggressive worst as its leaders and citizens dealt with a genuinely terrifying spate of crimes linked to the so-called Gang of 49.
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In Adelaide we worry a lot. A mall, trams, grandstands, hospitals even roundabouts cause hours of debate. However, nothing winds us up more than someone criticising our city. We’re so defensive.
Sometimes I think we get so outraged because secretly we worry that Adelaide may actually be a backwater.
Often the “solution” that is put forward is to build an iconic building such as a tower or a fantastic or unusual museum. These are all great ideas – we should build more unusual and more controversial buildings. Interesting buildings give a city character. I like buildings that have gardens down the side and on the roof. It would be great to see some of them.
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