Dear Inner Circle,

A young bloke from Melbourne arrived at my office fifteen years ago, asking if I could show him around the toughest places in Sydney. He made it clear that he wanted to settle in the place where he found the most need. His plan was to bring his wife and two little kids to Sydney and simply improve the lives of people by building community. He was determined to live on the same amount of money as someone who relied upon the dole to exist. On the one hand, I was inspired by this fellow and on the other, I wondered if he wasn’t a bit crazy. He was a qualified social worker and his wife had a PhD in pharmacology. They could have made lots of life choices that would be fulfilling and more comfortable.

In a previous life, I’d spent most of my time in Mount Druitt, Penrith, Blacktown and parts of Campbelltown. I showed him streets where most windows were broken, every fence was tagged and where domestic violence was often heard from the footpath. I showed him the worst and I think my motive was to talk him out of his silly project. The next time I saw him he was back with his wife and I conducted a similar tour for them both. I repeatedly tried to make the point that to choose to live in any of these streets would demand a high cost, especially on their young kids. My warnings seemed to encourage them which left me feeling wise, much older and not nearly as brave.

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