A letter of apology from a baby boomer to generations X and Y

A retired Canberra school teacher has written a letter of ‘apology’ to Australia’s youth, saying he is sorry for the situation they
Shot of a senior couple talking their son on the sofa at home

A retired Canberra school teacher has written a letter of ‘apology’ to Australia’s youth, saying he is sorry for the situation they face today.

In his letter, baby boomer Frank O’Shea addresses the price of housing, the state of politics and shares a message of hope for the future.

The letter was published on Eureka Street and has garnered the attention of many baby boomers who feel the same way.

Read Frank’s letter below and tell us: do you agree with him?

There is an emerging pattern in the political landscape of Western countries.

Cartoon representing generationsIn Britain, the Labour party has elected Jeremy Corbyn as its leader. The undisguised amusement of the commentariat only barely covers their red-faced fury at such impudence.

Some days ago, Corbyn was criticised by the Prime Minister, a former Eton boy, for wearing shirts and trousers that were less than a perfect fit. There were a few squeals, but Cameron got away with it.

In America, the Democratic party has been caught sleeping by the sudden rise of Bernie Sanders. Just to remind you: Sanders is the son of Jewish emigrants from postwar Poland, he is in his 75th year and is a veteran of the civil rights campaigns of the mid-century.

You might remember those happy times — long-haired hippies on pot, marches on Washington, sit-ins, the whole shebang. Do you ever wonder what happened to those troublemakers? Most of them joined me to become the boomer generation. And now they — we — run things.

Part of the problem is that the generations that came after us, our children, can’t work out the rules that we boomers have developed for running the country. Take taxation for example.

At present, there is an argument between the two sides of politics about negative gearing. According to one side, changing the rules would reduce the cost of housing — and this is their strongest argument against such a change.

A member of Gen X or Gen Y — someone in their 20s or 30s, not long out of education and in a first or second job, saving in the hope of one day being able to afford a home of their own — might not read it the same way.

They read that the median price of houses in Sydney is over one million dollars and because they paid attention in their maths classes, they understand what this means: more than half the houses in Sydney cost in excess of one million dollars.

It actually doesn’t matter which side of politics we are talking about, because if these young people have learned anything since leaving school it is that the two sides of Australian politics are interchangeable. They are two sides of the same coin.

More than 30 years ago, when this writer bought a house, the cost was a little over three times his gross wage. It wasn’t Sydney, but imagine a teacher or a nurse or a policeman trying to buy a house there today, with a multiplying factor of close to ten times gross income.

Is it any wonder that most voters, especially young ones, are disillusioned with politicians? They are looking for a Messiah, and would be happy with an Englishman with ill-fitting trousers or a 75-year old American ex-hippie. Indeed, America has gone further and seems to be embracing a maverick Republican who is prepared to take on Wall Street.

Last week, the Irish people, unable to see any difference between the major political parties, elected a parliament in which almost one quarter are independents or members of micro-parties, people who can only ever occupy opposition benches.

How long, you wonder, before something similar happens in this country? How long before independents take the obstructive role in the Australian lower house that they so effectively fulfil in the Senate?

Just in case, however, there is a bill through parliament at the moment to ensure that the major parties will always have the running of the place. One side called heads and had to put up the bill which the other side, having called tails, had to oppose.

You are a 28-year old teacher, your wife works long hours in a casualty ward, no hope of a first home, and you are paying the salaries and expenses of these people.

On behalf of the baby boomers, I offer our insincere apologies and hope that the whole thing does not make you cynical.

Perhaps you could find an Australian Corbyn or Sanders to do something about it.

This letter originally appeared on Eureka Street.

Do you agree with Frank’s letter? Do you think today’s youth face a more difficult financial situation than you did?

  1. In many cases Gen X & Y expect to move straight into a mansion-like house and then wonder why it’s unaffordable. Well educated and savvy X’s and Y’s are doing very well for themselves.

    • Judy Chappell  

      Yes they want everything now,I was born in 39 little before baby boomers but not much,we took years to accumulate what we have today with a lot of hard work,was very hard back then too to pay a mortgage on one way most men had two jobs some women also worked like I did but between babiesthat,takes too long for x & y..but the earn a lot more money than we did so it all pans out in the end & trips overseas were unheard off then..

  2. Valerie Farfalla  

    Today’s youth (whether formerly Year 10 educated or tertiary educated) often can’t get full-time permanent jobs enabling them to buy any sort of property and this is unlikely to change in the near future. The Coalition Government is also making it harder for them to get welfare benefits, with plans to empower private job providers to impose fines for misdemeanours. This is discriminatory and demeaning, further eroding self esteem. Grass roots protests through the union movement may be a solution to get changes in the Australian Parliament where both major parties have thrown in their lot with corporate globalisation.

    • Carol Samata  

      The problem with that is that, on the whole,gen X and Y don’t support the union movement and think joining or paying fees is a waste of time and money

  3. roy bridges  

    Don’t agree, they expect to much! The more hand outs ,they more we all expect people need to learn how to life within their mental.

  4. facebook_elda.quinton  

    Don’t know where the writer got the figures of the price of a house being just over 3 times his/her gross salary. In 1974 it cost us $21,000 to buy a 2 bedroom unit which, at the time, was 4 times my husband’s gross salary. As someone already mentioned, the young people today seem to want to start out where their parents ended up. Not possible without having a huge mortgage. We started off in a 2 bedroom unit.

  5. Peter Hancock  

    We had to work for everything. No hand outs. No golden spoon. Just recently over heard the following comment. “when I get my/our inheritance which cannot come quick enough!! will travel to the end of the world and not stop travelling wont need to work. And these are the people (not all) that want us to pay more . Cannot print what I want to say but this explains my feelings…

    • Frank  

      yep – we offered young adult students a first job paying $60k + company car – and no-one accepted it – ‘too far’, ‘not interested’ – most seem to want to start as CEO – as their first job – yeah – I’m still holding out for that CEO job – after 50 years in the workforce.

      When I lived in Germany in 1982 I asked local friends there whether they planned to buy a house – ‘never – only rich people can afford to buy houses !’ – the typical German I met expected to rent their entire life – of course, they had long leases with security – but as for prices – I’m just saying – most Germans expected to be never able to afford to buy a house – in 1982 – at least that’s what I heard there then.

  6. Murray Korff  

    Say sorry?? Get a grip! Every generation has its own unique problems. Why should X and Y be any different?

  7. Why should we say sorry??? We did the best we could with what we had. We are the generation who did it tough… We grew up with nothing, we barely had enough to eat, and we worked bloody hard to make ends meet. We were very simple people, who knew how to work, who had manners and who never expected anything from anyone ( which was just as well cause we got nothing from anyone). We came to Australia with one child and another on the way, 4 suitcases…and a few hundred dollars in our pocket. We had to pay for our private health insurance, before we left UK, we had to deposit X amount in the bank before we came here.. We were told we would not be entitled to anything, and we accepted that. The day I was married I was told that ” you don’t live in this house any more, so don’t come here every time you have a fight with your husband”” That was accepted also. We worked for everything we have, and we still are willing to help our kids.. I appreciate that things are different now but I don’t feel a need to apologise to a generation who had it really easy in comparison… What is wrong with you people, and why do you feel you need to apologise?? I get the feeling that this word” apologise” is trending today… Get a grip people…and get off your knees…

    • Fran Coyle  

      Well said and I wholeheartedly agree with you…….I came out from Italy age 4 Mum and Dad worked hard and we their children have followed in their footsteps. I have done everything possible to make it easy for my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, all I ask is that they do the same for their own when the time comes……….

  8. Bruce campbell  

    From an English teacher’s point of view, the content of the apology is obscured by sloppy writing, especially in the first few paragraphs. Get someone to write a decent letter with the same sentiments and I will happily support it.

  9. Anne Polkinghorne  

    Australia needs someone like Nigel Farage who will talk sense. These two political parties have a strangle hold and this needs to be broken until then nothing will change.

  10. Rosemary Waters  

    My first house in England(2up 2down) cost $3200.00, my mortgage was $7.00 per week our joint wage was $16.00 per week. I was 25 and saved the 20% deposit. The only rental we could get was $9.00 per week. There are more people today trying to live in the same place -its called supply and demand. Say Sorry – Why?

  11. Csongi Biacsi  

    Oh great lets go down the path of minorities ruling …not. Let’s go like Greece and Italy etc….. No aplolgy from me …A house now has everything in it , they have two cars, 4 Tv ,iPhone ,laptops ,pay tv, takeaway several times a week etc… Give us a break.They have super from day one , childcare subsidised even if one partner is at home…. Times are tough…

  12. Csongi Biacsi  

    Oh great lets go down the path of minorities ruling …not. Let’s go like Greece and Italy etc….. No aplolgy from me …A house now has everything in it , they have two cars, 4 Tv ,iPhone ,laptops ,pay tv, takeaway several times a week etc… Give us a break.They have super from day one , childcare subsidised even if one partner is at home…. Times are tough…

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