Community leaders are accepting of the harsh realities that could be exposed should the Riverina be the next location for the controversial series Struggle Street.
The SBS documentary features Australians from diverse backgrounds facing a range of challenges, including unemployment, addiction and lack of housing.
Producers from Lune Media have contacted local organisations saying the third season of the series will be set in the Riverina and requested assistance with casting.
The Daily Advertiser contacted Lune Media and SBS for specific details on where in the Riverina the series will be set, however was told no final decision had been made.
Mayor Greg Conkey said if Wagga was chosen for the series, then it would highlight the fact that many people in the area are struggling.
“The show would certainly cast a poor light on the city, but as a city we have to accept reality,” Cr Conkey said.
“We live in a very diverse city, the largest in rural and regional NSW, and there’s lots of positive things happening here which I’m very proud of.
“There is, however, another side to Wagga where a large number of people are doing it tough.”
Cr Conkey said the issues behind disadvantaged people are not just confined to Wagga or the region.
“If they’re targeting the Riverina there’s some serious social issues and we’re working towards improving this situation,” he said.
“I’m fully aware of our situation but the disadvantaged aren’t just confined to Wagga.
“This is a big problem across regional Australia and countrywide where a number of agencies and not-for-profit organisations are supporting those in need.”
Australian Bureau of Statistics and Centrelink data revealed that Wagga’s unemployment rate in June 2018 was 6.05 per cent, higher than the national rate of 5.40 per cent.
St Vincent de Paul’s Wagga president Joanne Crowley said this show could be a “reality check” for the inner and wider communities.
“I don’t think many people want to expose their vulnerability,” she said.
“These people are homeless for a reason and we need to find out why and save them.
“We know drugs are hurting Wagga, but this show could be a reality check for the community, local council and governments that we need to inject more money to help these people.”
Ms Crowley said housing is a major issue for the disadvantaged.
“On our books, we’ve probably got 16 homeless people in the community, either living under a bridge, couch surfing or in a swag,” she said.
“These people can always get food or a lift to places, but they need a safe place to live at night.
“These people can’t pay four or two weeks rent, they live day-by-day and there’s not much else available.”
Ms Crowley questioned the number of people who would be willing to feature on the program, but urged for the entirety of people’s stories to be heard.
“We find out what they want, but they usually don’t want to open up to us,” she said.
“I think only about 50 per cent of disadvantaged people would like the limelight and not so much because of their social standing but because of why they’re homeless.
“The show needs to make sure they listen to all of people’s stories, not just take out snippets they think are important.”
Cut Above Production’s director Grant Higginson said it can be “difficult” when it comes to exposing sensitive content.
“The talent should be given an opportunity to view the segments before it is aired to eliminate the risk of them being portrayed in a way that is false or misleading,” he said.
“If you’re entering a private residence then you probably need written consent from the person being filmed or interviewed, but with very controversial content I assume the SBS would have to run it by their legal team first.”
Mr Higginson said he would be concerned if the series portrayed only one side of life in the Riverina.
“If it’s portraying Wagga as an area that’s prone to poverty and it’s only showing the poverty stricken areas without showing the rest of the town this could be problematic,” he said.
“Anyone watching the program who hasn’t been to Wagga could think that this is typical of the entire city, which obviously is not the case.”
Despite previously facing criticism, SBS said the series explores the current issues affecting disadvantaged Australians.
“The series shares stories of adversity and resilience and provides a voice to communities and individuals who are often unheard,” a spokesperson said.
“SBS takes the wellbeing of all contributors extremely seriously and provides ongoing support throughout filming, through to broadcast and beyond.
“The feedback from all potential contributors has been overwhelmingly positive as they want to have their voices heard.
“Through sharing their stories of adversity and resilience, the series will help to provide all Australians with a deeper understanding of the complex issues affecting people in Australia today.”