The Ghetto of the Bush: Local stigma toward public housing in regional Australia

Elise Rosser, Lileko Lishomwa

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Scholarly investigation into public housing in Australia is a broad field that requires further investigation from multiple disciplines. We seek to address this by using a social science perspective in considering the experiences of regional residents in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. Social science in this instance refers to a blend of historical and sociological viewpoints, where the cultural histories of a community are considered. This is done by interpreting social attitudes and local perceptions of public housing residents through the process of news making in a regional community. While there is research examining broad stigmatisation of public housing in the news media in Australia, and to a lesser extent the perceptions of tenants themselves, most of the research is urban-centric and takes a broad view of perceptions of public housing. This paper aims to examine perceptions of public housing in late modern regional Australia, focusing on the role of local news media and the community that makes up its readership. A key theme in media representations of public housing is stigmatisation of those who dwell within, which includes drug dealing and taking, violence, the welfare cycle, youth pregnancy and anti-social behaviour. Localised perceptions are revealed through reporting in The Daily Advertiser, Wagga Wagga's local newspaper. This paper argues that these social attitudes of local community perspectives show a hidden history of stigma. In the wake of a tragic event in Ashmont, the death of a child, the community and media response in Wagga Wagga revealed a hidden history of the suburb that was heavily reliant upon the existence of public housing and the disadvantage experienced by many residents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalFusion Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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