Struggle Street: How reality TV should be? 112



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If you’ve given up on reality TV shows, you might want to make an exception for Struggle Street. The fly-on-the-wall documentary has been marketed aggressively and was labelled “poverty porn” by the Mayor of Blacktown, but reviews of the first episode have been surprising.

Entertainment writer Paul Kalina from the Sydney Morning Herald described the show as “unfiltered” and “occasionally difficult to watch” but found it “gave a voice to people who are rarely heard”.

Struggle Street follows the lives of five people living in Mount Druitt, in the outer west of Sydney. There’s a disability pensioner with ten children including one with an ice habit, his wife, who cares for them all, a 16-year-old victim of domestic abuse who barely has a roof over her head and a homeless indigenous man who shoots cats to feed his dogs.

The show had the potential to be truly awful and the promotional video did nothing to assuage those fears. If you watched nothing but the promo, you would find Struggle Street to be trite, condescending, staged and everything that makes us turn away from reality shows with disgust.

It was deliberately provocative but the strategy worked. Around Australia, 1.3 million people tuned in to watch the first episode last night.


The show itself delivered a sensitive, although raw, picture of people who have truly been dealt a bad hand in life. The next two episodes, which have been fast-tracked and will be aired together next Wednesday night, will reportedly show the hope, community spirit and small joys that keep the protagonists going.

The Guardian describes Struggle Street as must-see TV. “Viewers, both the forgotten people of the outer-west and the self-absorbed middle-class of the inner-city suburbs, need to see the stories of Struggle Street,” writes Steve Dow.

So why the shock-and-awe strategy? Is that what it takes to get Australians to engage with unsightly aspects of our society? Have we become so desensitised that it takes a fat guy farting and someone sucking on a bong to get our attention?


Did you watch Struggle Street? If not, catch the first episode here and tell us what you think! 

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I watched this show, I don’t know how you break the cycle the people were in, very sad to watch this in Australia. Maybe educating the young ones?

  2. The protesters have been made to look like fools,SBS did a good job in episode one.
    The people of Mt Druit should be grateful.

  3. I watched it and expected the worst after the add, but I found the people likeable but very poor. It is very sad that we have so many poor in this country and I hope all politicians watched it..they could make a difference

    6 REPLY
    • Nola that is where advantage and education comes in, these people have not the same advantages in life that you have and they in many cases try to numb life. The Government need to invest in the poor to get them right out of the rut they are in

    • If they didnt smoke and drink (like one guy didnt the older guy and his wife) they would have more dispoable money. I can say that being an ex smoker my self… Also their families enable them a lot…. I do feel sorry for them, have been on struggle street, but a different one, finanacial one for a long long time… and I feel its educating the parents that makes the difference in some cases too.. This country needs more jobs, thats the problem too. Pleople lose their self worth.

    • instead of worrying about smoking and drugs and alcohol..where is a the worry for a 13 year old child living alone on the streets of Sydney and how many more are there? she is 16 years old and already been people are callous

    • Unless you understand the mindset of people living in their situation, you’ll never understand. It’s not something that they consciously do. It’s just how life is for them. They are doing the best they can, with what they’ve got. Services, education and understanding is needed.

  4. I didn’t see anything bad about the people in this show, quite the opposite really. They are obviously struggling but still cheerful and still keep the family together. You have to feel for some of them though. All in all a great show. I wonder what all the problem with it was.

  5. Turned off after 10 mins, the people may have come across as very poor, but add up the Centrelink benefits.

    3 REPLY
    • I didn’t understand why the guy said a couple of times that they lived on $200/wk. However he said he looked after umpteen kids and grandkids.

    • some people are worry about Government money.. you need to look harder and worry more about the people themselves

    • Christine doesn’t mean he’s getting paid for them. Just trying to do the best they can. Before he got sick he was a truck driver and his wife worked as well. They are also a blended family. They didn’t have 10 children

  6. Jobs are the answer,youth unemployment is a major problem Australia wide.
    Mechanisation,457 visas and an unwillingness to give permanent work is a big part of the problem.

  7. I thought it well filmed mostly..a few gaps with the bong moments…otherwise showed everyone to be as human as each of us..only wanting family connection and love..I felt good at the end of this episode…without judgement at all and empathy and compassion in my human heart. Well done SBS.

  8. I watched it,I lived in the Penrith Area and even back then 32 years ago you did not go to Mount Druitt,it has always had a bad name,always a very rough area,the show was very real.

    1 REPLY
  9. Haven’t watched it yet. But I have recorded it. Will watch it sometime over the next couple of days.

    2 REPLY
    • Ruth if you have a heart ( and you do ) you will find this very sad. People here are going drugs and alcohol and centerlink money..where is the concern for a little girl 16 years old who is living on the streets since 13 years old and was raped?

  10. i liked it. A reminder to all how ‘shit can happen’. The father a truck driver, injured and unable to work, his wife having to give up her job to care for him.

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